Six members of the newest iteration of the Shelby County school board took office Friday morning.
Chris Caldwell, Stephanie Love, Scott McCormick, Shante Avant, Miska Clay Bibbs, and Mike Kernell were sworn in at a ceremony that also marked the beginning of new terms for new county commissioners, municipal judges, and the county mayor.
They are members of a new nine-member board that will govern a district of some 111,000 students, which includes Memphis and parts of Shelby County that are not part of incorporated towns.
The previous seven-member board governed a 140,000-student school district that existed for a single year after legacy Memphis City Schools and suburban Shelby County were merged in 2013. That district included towns, city, and unincorporated areas in Shelby County. Last fall, six suburban towns voted to create their school systems with elected boards, leaving behind the current urban-unincorporated district.
The boundary lines of the new board districts and creation of a new nine-member board were approved this spring by federal judge Samuel H. Mays, who oversaw the merger and subsequent splitting of the public school systems in the county.
The six sworn in Friday join Kevin Woods, Teresa Jones and Billy Orgel during a time of ongoing change in the district, as the new suburban systems begin operations and the state-run Achievement School District –tasked with taking over the worst-performing schools in the state–continues to grow. District officials have said they will create a new strategic plan this winter aimed at increasing the graduation rate and academic performance in the district.
Former Shelby County board member David Reaves also took office as a county commissioner at the ceremony.
County mayor Mark Luttrell made education one of the focuses of his keynote remarks at the ceremony. He said he had recently read a newspaper article from almost twenty-five years ago in which the idea of a merger between school systems in the county was floated—a possibility that only became reality last year. “Each of us takes an oath to work with those challenges that will always be with us,” he said.