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Shelby County commission’s education committee approves board pay increase, delays redistricting issue

Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley talks about including Germantown representation on the school board.
Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley talks about including Germantown representation on the school board.
Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

The Shelby County commissioners’ education committee passed an ordinance on Wednesday to increase the pay of the Shelby County School Board members from $4,200 to $25,000 but deferred deciding on whether to rezone their districts.That issue will be discussed again in committee on Feb. 19.

Under the pay-increase proposal, the chairman of the school board would receive an extra $1,000 – making the chairman’s take-home pay $26,000.The pay increase ordinance will go before the full commission for a second vote on Monday. The ordinance must pass three separate readings before it takes effect.

During Wednesday’s discussion, commissioner Sidney Chism amended the $25,000 board pay to $14,000 and $15,000 for the chairman of the board. Chism’s amendment failed.

Chism said he was in favor of giving Shelby County School Board members a pay increase, but he thought $25,000 was too much. Commissioner Chris Thomas said it was “bad timing” and Commissioner Terry Roland said he couldn’t justify such a huge raise.

According to a 2010 National School Board Association survey, almost half of the board members surveyed in districts with more than 15,000 students don’t make any money for serving on the board. But, for those that do get paid, only 9 percent make less than $5,000 a year.

During a December commission committee meeting, several people pointed out that Shelby County pays its school board members less than Nashville, Knoxville and Cleveland school districts.

Shelby County resident Charles Nelson, who is also a candidate for county mayor, told commissioners during public comment that he was against the pay increase for board members when many county employees- including teachers- have not received a raise.

“I don’t think they need a raise,” Nelson said after the meeting. “The system is talking about closing 13 schools and getting rid of some teachers. They’re taking away jobs and that’s not right.”

In other business, commissioner Mike Ritz proposed redistricting the Shelby County Board of Education to establish nine districts. Currently, there are seven districts on the school board.

Ritz said the board needed to represent all communities in Shelby County.

“The smaller the board, the less it does that,” Ritz said.

Commissioner Walter Bailey supported Ritz’s proposal.

“The plan that he’s drafted is demographically more representative of the people in Shelby County,” Bailey said.

Newly appointed commissioner Mark Billingsley wants to hear from his constituents in the Germantown area. Three of the schools in the area – Germantown elementary, middle and high – are part of Shelby County Schools.

“I want both the municipalities and Shelby County Schools to succeed,” Billingsley said. “I want to hear from citizens before we meet again.”

Billingsley is in favor of the board remaining a seven-member board.

“It’s a smaller body and more manageable,” he said.

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