Letters to the Editor: July 9, 2014

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Questions redistricting choices


Each year in late August, the Shelby County Public Schools (SCPS) Board of Education produces “The Tax Show.”  This year, the Board has added a new production to its theatrical repertoire, and, on June 26th, I attended what might best be described as the dress rehearsal for “Redistricting, Mathis Style.”

The rehearsal began with Superintendent James Niehof carefully delivering his lines, explaining the redistricting process and why the current map of Shelby County School Board districts must be revised.  When the script progressed to the board discussion of the newly proposed map, vice chairman Eddie Mathis “commanded the stage.”

He began by expressing concern that some of his constituents (Voting Precinct D101) in the Bagdad area would be shifted out of his district if the proposed map were adopted.  Immediately after acting so worried about losing D101, however, Mr. Mathis suggested moving another group of voters (D104) out of his district.  At that point I began to wonder whether the script was flawed or whether Mr. Mathis had simply forgotten the lines that would have helped make sense out of his fight to keep one precinct but ditch another.

Because I know the school board wants to appear transparent in all its dealings, I am sure the final performance of “Redistricting, Mathis Style” will include some cast member questioning whether Mr. Mathis’ otherwise incomprehensible desire to keep D101, while moving D104, has something to do with the following:  The person Mr. Mathis wants to succeed him lives in the precinct he is fighting to keep.

While Mr. Niehof and Mr. Mathis exchanged some thoughts on keeping small rural communities (i.e. Bagdad) within one board district, the proposal by Mr. Mathis could not have done a better job of splitting Bagdad.  I must give him some credit for “artistic map drawing” if the latest version holds.

After considerable discussion and review of the map, board member Karen Sams ended the rehearsal by requesting additional time to review the matter prior to voting.  Good idea.

I agree that school board district boundaries need review and revision every 10 years, and, after witnessing this dress rehearsal, I am even more convinced that members of the board must also be evaluated and changed on a regular basis.

I expect the final curtain call on the “Redistricting, Mathis Style” will be Thursday, July 10th, so mark your calendars.  The current term of this show’s star, Eddie Mathis (District 4), and another cast member, Doug Butler (District 1), ends this year.  I’m confident some new faces with fresh ideas will step forward to tackle the challenges of administering the SCPS system over the next 4 years.

Two other important dates to note are August 12th (candidate filing deadline) and November 4th (Election Day).  “Redistricting, Mathis Style” highlights the importance of these dates.



Tony Harover (D105)