Here’s an article from The Commercial Appeal from January 21, 1996, illustrating the inability of Senator Norris to take a consistent – albeit fair – position on the issue of schools:
COUNTY SEEKS ANSWER TO SCHOOL DILEMMA:
As it grapples with a state law and a court ruling requiring election of Shelby County school board members by Memphis and Shelby County voters, the County Commission faces one of its knottiest problems in years. It is an issue where the commission has few options.
The switch to an elected county school board came as part of an overall state education reform effort. It grew primarily from a long-sought goal of the Tennessee School Boards Association for county school boards across the state to gain the power to appoint superintendents, rather than having the chief school administrators elected by the people or appointed by county commissions.The move was designed to ensure that all superintendents are chosen by elected boards.
State Constitution requirements for filling county offices are playing a major role in the issue. Citing the Constitution, courts have held that county school boards are county offices that must be filled by election of the voters of the entire county or appointed by the county commission.Shelby County school board members have been appointed in the past, but the General Assembly removed that option when it passed an education improvement law in 1992 mandating election of all Tennessee school boards by the people, with the boards appointing superintendents.
Several Shelby commissioners, including Bill Gibbons and Mark Norris, believe strongly that it is unfair for Memphis voters to be involved in the election of board members for the school system that serves the area outside the city.”I personally feel this is an absurd law, ” Gibbons said.
He and others have advanced state legislative proposals to change the requirement.
Other commissioners, including chairman Julian Bolton and Walter Bailey, feel just as strongly that both city and county voters should participate.Citing the failure of the commission to schedule an election in 1994, Bolton said, “The county is outside the law.”From various meetings, discussions, proposals and documents, the picture at this point shapes up this way:
The commission may support new legislation, but the only area in which it has the power to act is the drawing of election districts. Failure to draw the districts would mean almost certain court action against the commission.
The candidate filing deadline for any county school board race in the Aug. 1 county general election is May 16. Barring passage of new legislation or a quick appeals court ruling in an election lawsuit, the commission will have to approve the districts soon.The state Senate last year approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Leatherwood (R-Bartlett) to allow creation of new special school districts in Shelby County.