Lee County considering new School Board lines

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By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County School district will redraw the map it uses for its School Board member districts.

Population growth in Saltillo and Guntown has tilted the current format such that districts one and two in the northern part of the county are much larger than the other three districts. The one-man, one-vote principle requires the districts to be balanced with roughly the same population in each.

“It is all about equal representation across the district,” said Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks.

Kurt Brummett, research and analysis director at Three Rivers Planning and Development District, has worked on a proposed new map that he presented at Tuesday’s School Board meeting. Essentially, it would change the boundaries for each district to spread around the population.

“It is seeking to move more than 5,000 people in the northern two districts and move them into districts 3, 4 and 5, which need a larger population to be closer to that ideal number,” he said.

The district will hold a public hearing to allow residents to ask questions and make comments about the new map on July 10 at 4:30 p.m. in the Central Office. The Board can then vote on whether to approve it.

If approved, the new lines would immediately go into effect and would be used in this November’s election. The district 5 seat, held by Board President Sherry Mask, is up for election this year. The qualifying window is Aug. 6 to Sept. 5, and the seat will be listed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

A copy of the proposed new map will be available in the district office for review.

Given the school district’s population of 38,015, each of the five districts should have a population near 7,603.

However, under the current plan, they range from 11,625 to 4,727. In the new proposal, they would range from 7,676 to 7,547.

Brummett said when he helps government entities redraw election maps, he aims to keep districts within 5 percent of the ideal.

In this instance, they all are within 2 percent.

That should help the current proposal last longer, if adopted.

“The goal of this is to get the population close enough to where when the county looks at it again following the 2020 Census, they would not have to go through this process again and move voters from one district to another,” he said.

Although the current map has instances where school board members represent more than one attendance zone (such as parts of both Mooreville and Satillo), the new plan will create more of that.

Three Rivers produced the map free of charge for the district, a service it offers to local governments and school districts.

Lee County’s current five members are Mask (district 5), Vice President Mike Mitchell (district 3), Secretary Mary Edwards (district 4), Hal Swann (district 1) and Ronnie Bell (district 2).

Mask, a sales representative, has been on the board for 17.5 years. Mitchell, who works for the United Way of Northeast Mississippi has served for 14 years, and Edwards, who is retired, has been on it for 19.5 years.

Swann, a farmer, has served for 3.5 years, and Bell, division director at Three Rivers, for two years and four months.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com