Shelby County school board approves agreement with Germantown

Shelby County’s school board approved its final agreement with Germantown in a special-called meeting Tuesday.

The vote brings to close a months-long debate over which schools will be absorbed by six municipalities that don’t want to be part of the merged Shelby County School district.

Under the agreement, Germantown will pay $4.265 million over 12 years, or $355,453 annually.  It will receive the deeds to Houston Middle School, Houston High School, and Dogwood, Farmington and Riverdale elementary schools.

Shelby County Schools will retain Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle and Germantown High Schools, a move that upset several Germantown residents.

Administrators argued that because the majority of students in the Germantown schools actually live in Memphis and unincorporated areas around Germantown, it would cause less disruption to retain control over those schools, they said.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Germantown residents who chose to stay at the schools will be allowed to.

The schools will be classified as “optional schools.”

Tuesday’s deal, privately negotiated over the last month between several government lawyers, will serve as part of a settlement for Memphis city council members and Shelby County commissioners who sued the municipalities alleging the split was de facto segregation.

Planning for the new municipal districts has been ongoing since the legacy 100,000-student Memphis City school system surrendered its charter in 2011, forcing a merger with the legacy 40,000-student Shelby County school system.  That merger became official on July 1.

Both the merger and the plans for the breakaway districts have been contentious. The creation of new municipal school districts was initially deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge, but a new state law that passed last spring allowed the suburbs to go forward with their plans to create new districts.

The settlement is intended to mark an end to those battles. It aims to stem a lawsuit against the suburban towns from the Shelby County Commission and the Memphis City Council that alleges that the new districts would re-segregate the county’s schools. Suburban leaders have vehemently denied that that is their motivation, saying they are interested in efficiency and preserving local control. The County Commission voted earlier this week to postpone a hearing about withdrawing the lawsuit until December, by which point Shelby County is set to have negotiated with the other municipalities.