Joel Glaze spent 18 years on the Limestone County School board between 1980 and 2000.
When he was first elected there were no school board districts, the five members were elected at-large. It was not until his last term, after the county created a seven-districts board, that Glaze represented a district rather than all the residents in the county.
“I was elected both ways and I can’t see one benefit to having districts,” said Glaze, who is a Limestone County voter registrar. “Voting at-large was the best because every school in the county belonged to every school board member.”
Glaze made the comments while addressing an Elkmont resident’s statement that current voting district lines make it difficult for an Elkmont resident to be elected to the school board.
John Carter had told school board members last week he represented many in Elkmont who would like to see a change in the way the lines for voting districts are drawn.
He said the Elkmont area is essentially split between Districts 4 and 5 because Alabama 127 is used as the basic dividing line. He said that gives the candidates from West Limestone and Ardmore an advantage over a candidate from the Elkmont area.
Glaze said Carter is wrong. He said County Road 55 — or Hays Mill Road/Pettusville Road — divides Districts 4 and 5, not Alabama 127. That puts the city of Elkmont and Elkmont Rural Village, two of the most heavily populated areas, in District 4, which is represented by Darin Russell. Fewer Elkmont area voters reside in District 5, which is currently represented by James Shannon.
Carter suggested redrawing the voting district lines to mirror the existing school district lines. Board members may look at doing that when they redraw the voting district lines this month. By law, city and county schools and governments must redraw voting district lines every 10 years following the census in order to ensure there are roughly the same number of residents in each district, within a margin of 5 percent. Limestone County school board members have tentatively agreed to hire a demographer to help them.
Return to old
Glaze said he would like to see the county school system return to a five-member school board in which each member was elected countywide rather than by district.
One problem with the current seven-district board, he said, is that board members become too territorial. Another problem is that one school board district — District 1 in the north end of the county — doesn’t even have a school.
Among the advantages of a countywide school board is that it would allow anyone the opportunity to run for school board at any time, he said.
“They wouldn’t have to wait for their turn — for the term of the board member in their district to end,” Glaze said.
Currently, board members serve staggered, six-year terms, so a new candidate would have to wait until a board member’s term expired to run. With at-large voting, a candidate could run whenever a seat on the board was open, which would occur every two years.
Glaze also believes a five-member, at-large board could accomplish more.
“It would be better at doing the business of educating our children,” he said. “Board members would not be worried about ‘my district.’”
He said five members could accomplish more than seven.
“Those two board members make a lot of difference,” he said.
If a board member or residents are interested in changing the board, Glaze said one board member could consult with a member of the local legislative delegation and get the proposal placed on an upcoming election ballot and let voters decide.
Source: Athens News Courier; Jean Cole
Hill Spirit's opinion is that population has shifted since Joel Glaze's time on the school board. An elected at-large school board could easily be dominated by the East Limestone area. A better solution would be for each high school to have an elected representative from it's district boundaries. That representative would speak for the high school and it's feeder schools.