Commission Approves Expanding School Board to 13

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(Memphis) The Shelby County Commission has approved a resolution to expand the merged school board from 7 to 13 members.

A federal judge must approve the decision.

Chairman Mike Ritz sponsored a resolution saying the commission should be able to appoint six additional board members so the unified school board is more representative of the entire community.

The map of members' districts matches the map of the 13 districts used for county commission seats in 2014.

“Seven school board members doesn’t adequately represent all the nooks and crannies of the county, and it’s much more fair to have representation for more parts of the community,” said Ritz.

Commissioner Melvin Burgess agrees says the way it stands North Memphis only has one representative for all the schools and families.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy also pointed out that having 13 members means each one of them represents 70,000 people, instead of 7 members representing 130,000 each.

Under the Ritz plan the commission would appoint those six members to start serving in September, and they would have to be elected after a year.

Other commissioners say this is back room politics at its finest.

Commissioner Terry Roland says you don’t have to look far to see what happens when you have too many voices on a board.

During the meeting, Roland also said, "The reason why there is a rush; they even know already who they’re going to put on this board."

Commissioner Steve Basar was among those who felt this decision was rushed.

"You measure twice and cut once. In carpentry, that’s what you do. You want to make sure you make the cut right the first time. And in this case, I feel we’ve rushed to a decision," he said.

Several attempts to delay the decision failed to get a majority vote.

Lashun Bell, a parent whose daughter attends a local elementary school, said, "Regardless of how many people sit on the board, they don’t listen to us anyway."

Bell said the current 23-member board is ineffective, but it's not about the number.

"I think it’s the quality that they’re pulling out," she said.

David Reaves, one of the seven elected school board members to begin work in the fall, said this was a "reckless move" by the county commission, meant to dilute the suburban voice.

"All these actions that seem to be levied against the suburban folks, even though it’s masked in other reasons, is doing nothing more than dividing them out and creating a bunch of activists in my part of the area ready to break away."