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As Germantown mayor begs to negotiate, Shelby board members gawk

Germantown’s mayor, Sharon Goldsworthy, upset several Shelby school board members at a committee meeting Wednesday when she claimed to want to keep Memphis students within her district to maintain diversity and create the least disruption possible.

Their intentions were once just the opposite, Shelby board members contended.  The mayor and several Germantown residents had once conspired to keep Memphis students out of their majority-white municipality by using tuition, hiked-up school fees and limited transportation, board members charged, citing e-mails and social media postings.

“You wanted to marginalize the presence of anyone who doesn’t live within the municipalitiy,” board member Teresa Jones said. “You said, ‘We reserve the right to educate our community with our values.’ ”

The mayor said she didn’t recall making such statements. It was their plan from the start, she said, to keep the school zones as is.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Goldsworthy said.  “I’ve never seen any statement like that.”

Shelby County’s school board proceeded with a controversial plan last Monday to keep more than a thousand students and four schools from being absorbed by six municipal districts set to open next school year.

The board voted 5-1 to approve a resolution that would allow the superintendent to lease several buildings to the municipalities. The resolution also allows the administration to begin planning to serve more than 1,000 students who live in Memphis but attend schools in the municipalities.

Board members devised the plan to cushion the financial blow that a separation between six municipalities and the county system would cause. Shelby administrators estimate they would lose at least $52 million if the six municipalities split next year. By holding on to the students, Shelby would also hold on to the per-pupil funding that follows them.

Under the plan, Shelby would retain Germantown High School, Middle School and Elementary School.

The board decided to hear an alternative plan from Germantown lawyers and officials Wednesday before signing any leases.

Goldsworthy offered several alternatives, including establishing a committee made of Shelby and Germantown school officials which would determine new school boundaries and retaining just Germantown Elementary.

Nothing was decided Wednesday.

The board is expected to meet again Nov. 13.