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Shelby County commissioners approve settlement with two suburbs

The Shelby County Commission voted this afternoon to approve a settlement between the merged Shelby County school district and municipal districts in Lakeland and Arlington.

The commission voted 10-0 to approve the agreement with Lakeland, with council member Henri E. Brooks abstaining. It voted 10-1 to approve the agreement with Arlington, with Brooks voting against.

Lakeland and Arlington will pay $4.7 million to Shelby County school district as part of the settlement. The agreement deeds school buildings to the two municipalities and resolves a complaint that alleges that suburbs’ plans to form their own districts were racially motivated. Lakeland and Arlington are paying not for the buildings but for the settlements.

Bartlett and Collierville have also come to agreements with the merged school district. Millington and Germantown are still in the midst of negotiations.

Council members said the agreement represented a compromise and would allow the system to move forward.

“Nobody’s getting everything we want, but it is time for us to move forward on these kind of things,” said council member Heidi Shafer. “The teachers and students have been in a state of terrible uncertainty for three years.”

Council member Brooks spoke in between the votes about her concerns about settling the civil rights complaint with prejudice, which means the council cannot bring the case against the municipalities again. 

“I don’t think you’e exchanging your lawsuit just for money, but for unified system to succeed, and for the whole system move forward in educating students,” said Kelly Rayne, the county’s lawyer.

Council member Heidi Shafer emphasized that any citizen could file a lawsuit if resegregation were to occur.

Today’s vote had been postponed earlier in the week in order for council members to examine the agreements the district reached with the suburbs.

The council will meet again on Monday, Dec. 2, at 1:00 pm to vote on anticipated agreements between the school board and other suburbs.