Suburbs Debate Sharing A Superintendent

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(Shelby Co., TN) Leaders in Shelby County suburbs eager to form their own school districts have varying opinions on whether they can share a superintendent.

Mayors of the smaller cities, Lakeland and Arlington, said they would be very interested in sharing services and a superintendent.

"A superintendent usually has a lot of schools to take care of. A superintendent here would have one school," said Scott Carmichael, mayor of Lakeland.

Lakeland is one of four cities that has already hired John Aitken, former Shelby County Schools superintendent, as a consultant in their district formation process.

The other three cities are Germantown, Collierville and Arlington.

Carmichael said they have "John Aitken as a consultant, and potentially be offered the job by our school board."

Other cities may have the same idea. But not all are willing to share.

A spokesman for the city of Germantown said that they would be open to exploring the sharing of services like transportation, food and building maintenance, but that they do not intend to share a superintendent.

The mayor of Bartlett expressed similar views of wanting a superintendent solely for Bartlett.

A spokesman for Collierville said the city would be open to exploring the option of sharing a superintendent, but is equally eager to try to hire their own.

The Millington city manager said this issue has not been discussed and that if the referendum passes Tuesday, that idea will be up to the newly elected board.

But the question of whether such sharing would be legal is not easily determined.

Germantown officials point to several parts of state law, including Tennessee Code Annotated 6-36-109: "The board of education shall appoint a director of schools who shall be the administrative head of the city school system. The director shall be subject only to the board of education..."

Those officials take that to mean the director of schools can only work for one school board.

Other consultants don't see it that way. Certain mayors even point out the example of Dorsey Hopson, the interim superintendent of Shelby County Schools.

"We've had one superintendent for both the Shelby County Schools and the Memphis City Schools. So it's been done right here," said Carmichael.

One Arlington voter agreed that Arlington and Lakeland should pool resources, especially since those cities combined have only a handful of schools.

"Arlington and Lakeland are almost pretty much the same towns," said James Strickland.

But he said he would not want to share a superintendent with more cities.

Bartlett voter Marianne Rogers said she would want a superintendent focused only on Bartlett.

She knows a lot of people have their eye on Aitken, but she said there are other good candidates out there.

"There's a lot of people that are qualified for the job, and I'm sure the best person is going to get in that office. And Bartlett will be very picky in who they have," Rogers said.

Thursday was the last day of early voting. Election day is Tuesday, July 16.