Unified School Board candidates say their constituents want answ - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Unified School Board candidates say their constituents want answers

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County Unified School Board candidates say the County Commission's rationale behind the new seven-district school board map has voters scratching their heads.

"My constituents are asking me," said candidate Freda Williams, Ph.D.

Tennessee state law requires staggered terms, with some two years and other four years.  Williams, who is running in District 1, said she wants to know why the commission decided the odd-numbered districts would have the shorter terms.

"Their colleagues are having the luxury of having a four-year term and not having to face reelection for four years," said Williams.

She said the commission never communicated why they voted to renumber Districts 4 and 5.

"People have been asking me the same question:  what district are you in?" said candidate Kenneth Whalum, Jr.  "It doesn't matter.  If you go to the polls, you see my name, vote."

Whalum was originally in District 5.

"You know, that's politics, man," said Whalum.

The renumbering means Whalum is now in District 4, which moved his New Olivet Baptist Church out of the district where he was running.

"If it were the truth that somebody was trying to slice me out of my support, it's comical because the people who belong to my church don't live in that district," he said.  "Just like I don't now live in the district where my church is."

Commissioner Mike Ritz told said the original map had both county districts serving the shorter terms, so they renumbered for fairness.

"The two out in the county will now be for one of them to serve two years and one of them to serve four years," said Ritz.

Ritz also explained there were fewer even-numbered districts, so they got longer terms.

"Because we're going to expand the school probably to 13 next year," said Ritz.  "We wanted to be sure we had the fewest number of people serving for four years."

Williams said she plans to talk with commissioners to hear the rationale for herself.

The Unified School Board candidates will be placed on the August Shelby County ballot.  Their terms begin September 1 of this year.

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