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Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Tucker McClendon, pictured, and Vice Chairman Tiffanie Robinson are not quite ready for the school board to move to 11 districts.

While we are sympathetic to — and support — the Hamilton County Board of Education's desire to discuss the number of school board districts following the decennial census, we're concerned about the end game if the school board does not have the same number of districts as the Hamilton County Commission.

On Nov. 2, the county commission approved a new map that increased the number of commission districts from nine to 11. Last week commissioners discussed a resolution adopting the same map for the school board, pending approval by the state legislature.

However, school board Chairman Tucker McClendon and Vice Chairwoman Tiffanie Robinson, on behalf of the board, objected. They said in a statement they weren't informed about the resolution, the issue hadn't been discussed in depth and they even suggested the board be allowed to propose its own map.

In our minds, the school board leadership should have been apprised of the resolution. However, the possibility that such a resolution might come up should not have been a tremendous surprise after the commission adopted its redistricting map.

But there certainly was — and is — time for another meeting, or two, between the commission and the school board before the Hamilton County Election Commission sets up precinct maps for the 2022 election year.

We hope they'll schedule at least one to, if nothing else, allow the commission to hear the concerns of their school board counterparts.

The emailed statement from the school board leaders did not spell out why an 11-district board would be a problem. They said only a map the board might formulate would better "reflect the needs of the school system's stakeholders" and that the board wanted "to determine how we can better define the current nine districts to best serve the people of Hamilton County."

Counties across the state have various set-ups with commissions and school board members.

Some, like Maury County, have the same number on their boards — 11, like Hamilton County is proposing. Others, like Robertson County, have one school board member representing two commission districts, while Sumner County has 24 commission members but only 11 school board members.

Meanwhile, Knox County has nine school board members and 11 commission members, but the extra two commissioners are elected at-large.

In the end, though, we wonder how parallel districts would not be the best solution for Hamilton County.

If there were nine school board districts and 11 commission districts, each school board district would overlap into one or more commission districts, leaving lines of authority and communication muddled.

That dichotomy, we feel, would be less likely to foster close and positive working relationships between a commissioner and a school board member.

And we wouldn't want constituents of any district to wonder, for example, if they are valued like some in District 5 might when, in the recent meeting in which commissioners approved the new district map, Commissioner Katherlyn Geter made a late play to get Harrison Elementary School in her district.

To do so, she would have needed to give up census blocks that included Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School, which she was willing to do. But only weeks earlier, she had said it was vitally important that Shepherd be included in her district because it was a feeder school for Tyner Middle School and Tyner Academy, which are in her district

In the end, Commissioner Steve Highlander said he preferred to keep Harrison in his district, and a vote of commissioners allowed him to do so.

We understand if current school board members do not want their district lines to change because of the relationships they may have developed with the schools, administrators, teachers and students. But even if they were to keep nine districts — and the districts be relatively equal in size — the lines would need to change significantly because of the sizable growth in the eastern part of the county.

Unless you're District 1 board member Rhonda Thurman, who has been in office since 2004, census counts and elections usually make it difficult to keep the exact same representatives in the exact same district for a long time.

Nevertheless, we hope commission members will give school board members some time to at least air their differences. Perhaps we've missed something on how nine- and 11-member bodies could work together. But we feel like parallel commission and school board districts make the most sense in the long run.

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