Letter to the Editor from Shelby County R-lV School Board President, Dr. Aaron Gaines
After living away for nearly 20 years, Selena and I made a life changing decision to move back to Shelby County to raise our two daughters, Kaylee and Hannah. We never thought this would happen, but after a lot of life reflection, we felt the need to move back “home” to Shelby County in 2014. We certainly have not been disappointed with this decision and thank God for pointing us in the right direction.
One of the factors that went into our decision to move back to Shelby County was ensuring a quality education for our children like we experienced during our childhood years. In looking back on my personal experiences in the Shelby County R-IV system, I’m very appreciative and indebted to all the great administrators, teachers, and staff that helped prepare me for the future. In fact, the education I received in the Shelby County R-IV system helped me obtain a bachelor, masters, and doctorate degree which has served me well in my professional career. In addition, Selena completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and taught for several years before starting our family. Based on our own personal experiences in the Shelby County R-IV system and the countless success stories of other South Shelby alumni, there were no concerns regarding our kids receiving a quality education.
Since moving back, our children have attended the Shelbina Elementary and South Shelby Middle Schools with both having very positive educational experiences to date. Although a lot has changed since I was in school, one thing certainly remains -- and that is the fact we still have awesome administrators, teachers, and staff that are making long-lasting and positive differences in our children’s lives.
To advance educational opportunities for my own children and other students, I have been serving as a Shelby County R-IV Board Member since 2017. As a board member, I recognize it is my responsibility to see that the school is run well while providing the best educational resources possible for our students. To that end, I try to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and taxpayers. This past year, Shelby County R-IV has certainly experienced some highs and lows as it pertains to advancing educational opportunities in the best interest of our students and taxpayers and is the impetus for me to write this letter.
On April 3rd, the voters of this district passed a ballot initiative known as Proposition KIDS that calls for the construction of a new elementary school at the South Shelby campus. Although this should have been a celebration for patrons in the Shelby County R-IV system given the positive benefits for all our district students, it was quickly dampened by a redistricting initiative that had been looming in the background for some time as “leverage” to shutdown Proposition KIDS.
You see, a small group of patrons purposefully targeted community members without school-aged children in the Shelby County R-IV District to sign a redistricting petition with the purpose of using it as “leverage” to defeat Proposition KIDS. I personally was witness to this back in February when one of the redistricting leaders requested a meeting with myself and another board member where this person tried to use the redistricting petition as “leverage” to get us to stand down Proposition KIDS. We encouraged this person to present this information at the Board meeting indicating that this would have to be a board decision, and this person refused to present their work. Now fast forward to May where my wife had an exchange with a different redistricting leader and here is the exact quote from that person: “I would consider pulling the petition if the April election is called null and void. The consolidating elementary schools should have never been put on the ballot”. Once again, the redistricting initiative is not about what’s best for kids -- it’s only about “leverage”. It is sickening to see the damage this situation has caused for our students, district, families, and communities. We moved back here so our kids could have the same positive experiences we both had in the Shelby County R-IV system, and it is difficult to stand by and watch while some attempt to take that away from my children as well as the others in this district. Furthermore, the rhetoric, lies, threats, and accusations being made by redistricting supporters against the Shelby County R-IV District are unnecessary, and it needs to stop.
The Shelby County R-IV system is far from perfect, but we have some of the best administrators, teachers, and staff that work tirelessly to provide the best education, opportunities, and experiences for our kids. I personally want to recognize Superintendent Maddex for all his hard work on navigating this difficult situation and his passion for the kids of the Shelby County R-IV District.
Furthermore, I want to thank our administrators, teachers, staff, board members, district patrons, and friends to the North for supporting our KIDS in the Shelby County R-IV District -- Cardinal Pride!
Dr. Aaron Gaines
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