School board continues discussion of division boundaries; Reviews options from Bluegrass AD

Published 7:27 am Wednesday, April 13, 2022

STANFORD – The Lincoln County Board of Education continued the discussion about division boundaries during a March 29 special-called meeting.
Shane New, Director of Community Planning at Bluegrass AD, provided more information about boundary divisions and presented several different options for the school board to consider.
New started by showing the board where the numbers stand as of now, based on population.
“Right now, District 2 is over by 940, District 3 (is over) by 311, District 4 is under by 706 and District 5 is under by 750,” New said.
The county population is 24,275, according to the 2020 census data. A five-way split of the population would total 4,855 and five percent above or below the split would be a range of 4,612 to 5,098, according to New.
New provided four different options for the board to start with and consider.
Option 1 gave District 1 a population total of 5,202 which is 104 over the five-percent split range; District 2 would have 5,070 which is within the split range; District 3 would have 4,618 which is within the range; District 4 would have 5,040, which is also within the range; and District 5 would have 4,345 which would be 267 under the range.
Option 2 would put District 1 a total of 105 under the split range; District 2 would be within the range at 5,070; District 3 would be 63 under the range; District 4 would be within the split range at 4,994; and District 5 would be 57 over at a total of 5,155.
Option 3 leaves District 1 a total of 183 under at 4,429; District 2, District 3 and would be within the split range with 5070, 4,627 and 5,044, respectively; and District 5 would be 7 over the range with a total of 5,105.
Option 4 leaves District 1 with a total of 4,429, which is 183 under the range; District 2, District 3 and District 4 would be within the range at 4,909, 4,627 and 5,044, respectively; and District 5 would be 168 over the range with a total of 5,266.
“It was just a first quick run,” New said. “Obviously, I’m sure each one of you kind of have an area that you would like to keep in your district, or whatever that is. I didn’t take any of that into account, because I don’t know it, obviously.”
Board members Bruce Smith and Etta Meek asked that the location of each school be noted on the next presentation, which New said was something he could add to the maps.
“It’s something we could locate fairly quick,” he said.
Smith said he’s concerned with the upcoming election and making changes during an election year. He also said in the December magazine board members receive, districts were encouraged to wait.
“It was recommended in the procedure that we work alongside the Fiscal Court,” Smith said. “It’s my understanding they are not doing anything, in what
I’ve read, most other type of things are not doing anything until after 2023. I think that’s what House Bill 212 says. This has been an issue and yes it needs to be fixed. I brought it up two years ago.”
Smith said he finds it odd that the board suddenly wants to make these changes right before an election.
“My other concern is rushing this. If you look at KRS. 160.210, once you make a change you can’t make any more changes for five years,” he said. “I just think with all the possible other candidates, maybe who file before the June deadline whenever it is, and all these others, I mean we’re not working with the Fiscal Court. They’re not going to do anything until 2023…”
Chairman Win Smith said the only reason the topic was on the agenda was because of the discussion he and Bruce Smith had in the past.
“Bruce, the only reason this is on this agenda is because of the conservations you and I had. We never discussed why you wanted to make changes in the boundaries, and that’s fine, I put it on the agenda because you had brought it to my attention on several occasions…,” Win Smith said. “So, for you to bring this up now and say this…if you don’t want to change it, let’s not change it. But I don’t understand why, all that time you wanted to change things and wanted to bring this before the board and now we’re doing it. Now we’re sitting here with Mr. New and you bring this up.”
Bruce Smith said he’s expressed his concern about the timing prior to this meeting.
“Yes, it needs to be fixed. It should’ve been fixed years ago. But it has not been fixed. It’s been looked over,” he said.
He said he doesn’t want to appear like the board is interfering with an election.
Board member Gloria Sneed said the district does not have a vacancy and the changes to precincts would be minimal.
“There’s no gerrymandering going on. It’s been done with intelligence,” Sneed said. “We’re like a cat chasing our tail around and around in circles and we’re doing nothing. My intent was never to interfere with an election.”
Bruce Smith said the board should put it off until 2023.
“2023 we’re going to be up for election. There’s always going to be an election,” Sneed said.
Meek said she wants more time.
“We don’t have to take any action tonight,” Win Smith said.
New said the school board doesn’t have to work alongside the fiscal court.
“We’re not necessarily working with the fiscal court on it. But, what I assume the letter of the law on that probably means is that normally, under normal circumstances, fiscal court would probably do their thing with the magisterial district boundaries and then they would move forward. You all are kind of just beating them to the punch on that. It’s either they go first or you go first. And I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the school boards we see, they don’t really care what the magistrates do, they kind of go in and do their own thing.”
The law does say districts should try to match it as close as they can, New said.
Superintendent Michael Rowe added that the Lincoln County Fiscal Court only has four magistrates, while the Lincoln County Board of Education has five members.
“My previous experience as an administrator in other districts is you have five of each, so you want to work with them because you want to stay the same.
This is like comparing apples to oranges when you have five versus four,” Rowe said.
Board Member Ricky Lane said he finds it weird that the group decided to move forward but now there is hesitation among some members.
“It’s just really weird that we go from one meeting all in agreement that we need to do this and then a certain someone finds their financial paperwork and then all the sudden we pump the brakes on moving things around,” Lane said. “So forgive me, but I think thigns smell a little fishy as well…”
Lane said this was a favorable topic across the board until “some certain things were announced in the public.”
“My point in all of this district-moving…is to make it formal. So this was split up in the past to accommodate one voting district,” he said. “This gets it back to a more formal process to where there’s no moving things around to make sure one person can stay on the board. To me, this looks like a formal process to make things equal.”
Bruce Smith said the issue should’ve already been fixed but constituents in the county have told him the board should wait.
“It’s not just the McKinney people that are talking to me,” he said. “I know that’s what people mostly think. It’s people all over this county and outside of this county.”
Meek noted that District 5 comes over to the Halls Gap area in all of the options and asked if that includes Highland Elementary. New said yes.
Win Smith said in two of the options Hustonville Elementary is moved out of District 1, which is his territory.
“You know I really don’t care. The reason I don’t care is because I believe that it’s more important that we have equal voting in each district, because I’ll be honest with you, the thing that exists, the tribalism over the elementary schools I think is one thing that has held this district back,” Smith said.
Meek said any time someone needs to talk to a board member they are directed to their district’s representative.
“I get lots of calls and they’re from my precincts,” Meek said. “I do get calls from Stanford also, but mostly from where I represent.”
Sneed said she gets calls from all over the district.
“I don’t care where the line is drawn and I don’t care if I have a building or not,” Sneed said.
New also discussed which precincts would possibly be moved with each option and said he’s working closely with the Lincoln County Clerk’s Office as well.
Board members and New worked on potential scenarios for the remainder of the meeting.
Meek said she needs more time to review the options. The board agreed to continue the discussion during the next working meeting.