It involves David Pickler, the former longtime chairman of the former Shelby County Schools board whose public zeal in late 2010 for a separate suburban school district is often cited by advocates of city/county school merger as the proximate cause of the decision by a Memphis City Schools majority to surrender the MCS charter, thereby forcing the current merger process.
It also involves Ken Hoover, a fellow Germantown resident who for the last several years has been a persistent critic of Pickler and who opposed the then SCS chairman in an intensely competitive down-to-the-wire SCS board race in 2010.
On Tuesday, Pickler let it be known that he was headed to the offices of the Shelby County Election Commission to file for District 5 of the Unified School Board when elections are held August 2 to constitute a permanent 7-member version of that board. (At present, there is an interim 23-member Unified School Board, consisting of the former memberships of the MCS and SCS boards, plus 7 interim appointees.)
Pickler’s declaration for a place on the Unified Board is another sign of an apparent commitment to the future of a unified school system, one unexpected as recently as late last year, when, as a holdover chairman of SCS, he automatically became a member of both the interim Unified School Board and the Transition Planning Commission guiding the merger process.
He subsequently has floated a pair of compromise proposals for organizing a permanent unified system — both involving maximizing the autonomy of suburban school areas, to be sure, but both also recognizing the prospect of long-term consolidation.
Meanwhile, former foe Hoover, a consistent attendee at meetings of the Unified Board and the TPC, has made a point of signing Pickler’s petition for the Unified School Board seat. Hoover himself is placing his bets elsewhere, intending to file for a seat on what he hopes turns out to be a School Board seat for a separate Germantown school system.
An opinion last month from state Attorney General Robert Cooper forestalled at least temporarily the plans of Germantown and other suburban municipalities to begin the process of creating their own school districts, but the municipalities still intend to form such districts, whether inside or (preferably) outside a consolidated system.
Meanwhile, with this week’s filing deadline of Thursday, April 5, approaching, the candidate roster for Unified School Board seats is filling up. Several current members of the Unified Board are candidates, and there are multiple instances of members who have drawn petitions that, if filed, would have them running against other members.
One case where two such candidates have actually completed filing is in District 3, an outer-county district, where incumbent Unified Board members David Reaves, formerly of the SCS board, and Raphael Mcinnis, who was appointed to the Board by the Shelby County Commission, are now both active candidates. Other such matchups are sure to materialize by Thursday.