Speaking of Rhee -- her ex-husband was just named new TN commissioner of education

And oh by the way, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday named Rhee's ex-husband, Kevin Huffman, the state's new education commissioner. Huffman was most recently a top executive at Teach for America and has a background as an education lawyer -- which will come in handy if and when the lawsuits start to fly over the public schools situation here in Shelby County.

Here is our story on Huffman. His hiring is yet another signal from Haslam that he will forcefully back non-traditional approaches to public education. It also is another indication he plans for the state to take an active role in the future of education for Memphis students, rather than stay away for fear of catching blame if things don't work out or the reform process turns into a mess.

If schools consolidation her moves forward, it will be fascinating to see whether Haslam and Huffman, with their predilection for non-traditional approaches, will support making current Shelby County Schools superintendent John Aitken leader of a new consolidated system. As you may know, Aitken received a big contract extension, from 2013 to 2015, in part because SCS board members wanted to make it difficult for any future entity, whether a Memphis-controlled county school board or transition planning commission, to remove Aitken (some are not happy about it). Many people who know Aitken rave about him, but his career trajectory has followed a very traditional public-school path. Educated at Henderson State with a master's from the University of Memphis, Aitken was a teacher and then a principal before getting into administration just three years ago. Buying out Aitken would cost taxpayers $400,000, not including unused vacation and remaining sick days; he also would get a $70,000 per year pension.

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As the process for merging Shelby County's schools accelerates into action, we'll provide bonus coverage here at www.MemphisNewsBlog.com, with a particular focus on the 21-member transition team and the 23-member unified school board. Comment early and often. If you have any tips or suggestions you wish to share, contact Zack McMillin at zmcmillin@commercialappeal.com or 529-2564.

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