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Mays might give SCS, municipalities more time

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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

With the Shelby County Schools Board of Education now involved in settlement talks with the municipalities, nearly all the parties in the ongoing federal lawsuit agree progress is being made.

That's why federal Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays, Jr., is apparently willing to give the negotiations a little more time to decide if the case should come to an end.

It's common to marriages. A couple gets mad at each other, they stop talking. Then by the time they make up they can't remember what they were suppose to be arguing about to begin with.

MORE: SCS discusses school houses in suburbs

When it comes to the ongoing Memphis-Shelby County schools merger lawsuit, alas, if it were only that easy.

If the date evoked any sense of urgency in Judge Mays, he certainly didn't reflect it on his usual walk to lunch. But, on the day when all sides in years long city-county school merger were suppose to respond to a Mays request to determine if the multi-million dollar lawsuit should be dropped, the only agreement is that a settlement might not be that far off.

It just wasn't going to happen Tuesday.

"The last round has been far more civil," said Bartlett Mayor Keith MeDonald. "Most of them have been done lawyer to lawyer."

"I think the parties have made significant progress and will probably gets some results fairly soon," added Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

"There appears to be some clear solutions in place for at least four of the six municipal districts," said SCS board member David Pickler. "There still appears to be some issues outstanding for a couple, principally Germantown and Bartlett."

Trust me. For those of us who've been reporting on this story since the former Memphis City Schools board voted to extinguish its own flame in December 2010, these optimistic assessments of the secret negotiations is as close to a possible truce as we've ever heard.

But, don't pop the champagne corks quite yet. Three hardline issues stand out as possible deal derailers as lawyers for the Shelby County Commission, the six suburban mayors and the Shelby County Schools board get down to the proverbial "brass tacks."

"The threshold question is attendance zones, which children will be educated in which system?," Commissioner Mulroy said. "The municipalities need buildings. Which buildings will they get and on what terms? I think there's also the question of open enrollment policy. I think on all three of those fronts the parties have been making progress."

"We said all along, our scenario is we'd educate the children we're currently educating," Mayor McDonald said. "They've kind of turned around and said, "nah, you're not going to educate the children that we educate. You'll only educate your children in your city limits.'"

So, if the talks are going well, why not just agree to drop the lawsuit that has cost taxpayers $7 million in lawyers fees and still counting?

"Down the road, if somebody does do something that is wrong, then they should be sued," Mayor McDonald said. "But, nobody has done anything wrong at this point."

Which is probably why Judge Mays can continue to take his lunch stroll at such a leisurely pace.
 

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