MSCS board meets to discuss superintendent search; advocates banned from meetings

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 10:32 PM CDT|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 10:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s no clear answer on what’s next in the search for the next leader of Tennessee’s largest school district.

Memphis-Shelby County School (MSCS) board members met twice this week to determine what their next steps are in a now twice-delayed process.

It’s not back to the drawing board yet for the school board, but board members today acknowledged there were missteps with this process and the search is still on pause for the time being.

Friday’s MSCS Board retreat was led by a familiar face, former MSCS Board President Tomeka Hart Wigginton, who is no stranger to selecting a superintendent.

She was on the board that hired former Superintendent Kriner Cash in 2008.

“I know exactly what they’re going through and how difficult it is,” said Hart Wigginton. “That’s why I was really excited when they asked if I’d come and help.”

Board members began by laying out their purpose for this search, figuring out what the process will look like for picking the next leader, and how to move forward.

The board also reviewed their qualifications and policies for selecting a superintendent, all of which are more than a decade old.

“I would say, depending on what the next series of decisions they make, they’ll be able to articulate a more detailed timeline of when they think they can actually get a superintendent,” said Hart Wigginton. “I think it’s actually more important for them to get the process right to get the right superintendent, then to be trying to look at the clock and calendar.”

This was a step forward after a chaotic meeting Tuesday when the board announced they were pausing the search process again, leaving community members frustrated and confused.

ln the end, a majority of board members agreed to edit the rubric to select finalists, open the pool to new applicants, and then select finalists - but no official vote was cast.

No board members spoke to the media after Friday’s retreat.

The board will schedule two to three meetings on the search firm’s rubric as well as the board’s evaluations and policies around this process

Community and education advocates banned from district buildings, future board meetings

Outside of the retreat Friday, at least three people were banned from board meetings and all district buildings.

Education advocates Rachel Spriggs and Tikeila Rucker and community advocate LJ Abraham say they did not receive formal notice of this and were told by police they were banned for disruptive behavior.

Spriggs, a former MSCS teacher, says she was told to leave district property or face trespassing charges.

“I walk in and really immediately start feeling a lot of anxiety because the police officers are surrounding me,” said Spriggs. “Nobody notified me. I would not have come today if I would’ve been notified, because this could’ve all been prevented. This is more of a scene. It’s a distraction to what we are focused on and that’s the integrity of the superintendent search.”

Spriggs has worked with the district as a consultant during this search process and has been a critic of it, along with Rucker, Abraham, and others.

“We don’t want to just come with problems,” said Spriggs. “We don’t want to embarrass the district. We are partners with the district. If you check my track record, I talked with the district. Like I said in the beginning, I’m very passionate about the kids in the community, and the district. So for me not to be able to be a part of a retreat that we waited weeks on is very discouraging. It’s very disheartening, and it feels like retaliation.”

Spriggs was cut short during public comment at Tuesday’s meeting for violating board policy by referring to interim Superintendent Toni Williams by her first name.

When asked why community members were banned, the district told Action News 5, “multiple people were banned for threats to public safety, including disruptive behavior and activating panic alarms.”

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