MSCS school board delays search for superintendent in chaotic meeting

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 11:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Chaos ensued Tuesday at a special meeting of the Memphis-Shelby County School (MSCS) board after the board announced a pause to the search for superintendent again.

The meeting took a turn during the public comment portion when one former MSCS educator turned advocate, Rachel Spriggs, was turned away from the microphone for violating public comment meeting rules.

Another attendee also made a scene while leaving the meeting, leaving behind a noise-making device.

As for the board’s business, the superintendent search process is not paused indefinitely, according to board members, but the action Tuesday left many in the room confused and uncertain about what comes next in this process.

“Our kids’ blood on all ya’ll hands,” said executive director of Memphis Lift Sarah Carpenter. “I want ya’ll to know that.”

Board members say they chose to pause the already paused search to focus on the proposed $1.9 billion budget for next year, to support students’ standardized testing, and to turn attention to students graduating.

The board did not take a vote on this action and just simply announced it.

Board member and Memphis mayoral candidate Michelle McKissack raised concern about whether or not the way this process has gone has caused candidates to drop out of the search.

Board members Stephanie Love and Joyce Coleman are now leading this search.

The district released this statement after Tuesday’s special meeting:

“We’ve heard the community concerns regarding the MSCS Super Search: better define the candidate selection process, answer unanswered policy questions and get this right for the benefit of all, especially our children. Rather than stopping the search, we will temporarily pause to allow the time and attention necessary to complete the required tasks. This must be thoughtfully done to instill community confidence in the person chosen to lead Memphis and Shelby County Schools.

Please expect further details regarding the next steps in the process during our superintendent search retreat on Friday.”

When speaking to the media, Love would not answer when the search would continue or whether a candidate would be picked by the start of the new school year as originally planned.

“I didn’t want the process to be rushed,” said Love. “Take your time and identify a best candidate... The superintendent of the school district is in charge of all of our students. Take your time.”

Love also said board members did not have time to ask questions about the process, even though it’s been months in the works.

“I know emotions are high,” said MSCS Chief of Communications Cathryn Stout. “And they’re supposed to be high. This is one of the most important roles in the city. So on Friday, it’s gonna be a good session. It’s going to be a session where we put a lot of things on the table, but what I want you guys to hear, nothing stops today, nothing was suspended tonight.”

The search firm in charge of interviewing candidates and choosing finalists will be paid almost $70,000 in taxpayer money for their services, according to their contract.

Several board members were not happy with the finalists originally selected because the firm did not enforce one of its policies when selecting finalists.

The board is set to meet on Friday to decide on a timeline for what comes next with this process.

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