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Reconsidering Surrender?

Lots of questions in the coming days now that the Memphis City Schools board has approved a charter surrender. We’ll be tracking down all of them.

One that popped up among the parliamentary minded overnight was whether the board could undo this at its next meeting in January when it approves the minutes of the Dec. 20 meeting.

The board that meets in January will be different. Sara Lewis becomes the new district six commissioner replacing Sharon Webb, who was one of the five yes votes for the charter surrender. Five votes were required to pass the resolution.

Lewis was among those who spoke at Monday night’s meeting as a citizen. She doesn’t think the board should have acted. Lewis favored a “stand down” that would have involved more public hearings. And she argued that the school system and its students were “hostages in a crisis.”

Even if Lewis were inclined to move to reconsider the school board decision at the first meeting in January, she couldn’t. She did not vote on the prevailing side.

And the other four yes votes for the charter surrender are considered solid.

Martavius Jones and Tomeka Hart have been the most outspoken and as a result the most tested by the political crossfire surrounding the controversy.

Stephanie Gatewood made up her mind a bit later. But she said Monday evening that she has been threatened politically as she runs for the state House district 89 seat in the Jan. and March special elections. Despite that, she declared for the charter surrender boldly saying it was a decision the school system should have made 39 to 40 years ago.

Patrice Robinson was the crucial fifth vote who didn’t come on board publicly until the meeting was underway. When she did, the veteran board member was calm and solid.

“What would this accomplish?” she asked repeatedly about the three year stand down with a study of school district boundaries under special school district status and what a consolidated school system might look like. “I don’t think we need another study. We need action.”

After the stand down and study backed by board member Jeff Warren failed, she began “I think everybody had a valid point.”

“It should be in the hands of the citizens,” she added. “This is a great opportunity for us to get this to the public.”

The four yes votes left on the board appear unshakable and comfortable with their decisions.

Sometimes in a situation like this, a vote from the other side will switch and vote with the prevailing side in order to be able to move for reconsideration. That didn’t happen this time.


  1. Jimmie Covington says:

    Under Robert's Rules, a motion to reconsider must be made before the end of the meeting at which the action was taken and the above is correct in that it must be made by someone on the prevailing said. However, a move to rescind a previous action is an entirely different motion. Someone needs to explore whether Ms. Lewis can make a motion to rescind and if she does and it passes, what would be the impact?

  2. Jimmie Covington says:

    Ooops…The previous comment should have said "pevailing side" and not "prevailing said."

  3. Jimmie Covington says:

    Also want to say this about the minutes thing. The procedure followed by the City Council that an action is not final until the minutes are approved is a quirky procedure of thecouncil alone that is probably unknown to man in the rest of the world….

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