NSAA has own proposals about redistricting

Ryly Jane Hambleton
January 23, 2010

Pending legislation within the Nebraska School Activities Association might influence senators in the Nebraska Legislature.

That, in turn, could have an impact on the legislative life of LB1021, introduced this week. The High School Activities Association Act outlines the governing structure an association would need to qualify to run a high school activities program in Nebraska .

"I'm not sure there is anything we did that will have an impact," said Jim Tenopir, executive director of the NSAA. "There are those within the legislature and those who are prompting the legislature to look at this who are of the opinion that the NSAA ought to be strictly focused on the number of students who are represented in the district.

"There are some feelings that maybe we lose sight of the fact that because some of the more populated areas have more kids, they ought to have more representation. To a degree, that is correct. But we are an organization whose membership is schools. Our members are not students."

In district meetings this month, the NSAA advanced at least one proposal to its Representative Assembly in April that would change representation on the Board of Control.

"One proposal was to add an additional representative to District 1 and an additional representative to District 2," Tenopir said of the districts that include Lincoln and Omaha , respectively. "There was another proposal that added two representatives to District 2. That only passed in District 2.

"We know for certain the original proposal will advance to the Representative Assembly because it passed three districts. That doesn't mean the other one won't advance, because we have a 12-member Legislative Commission that meets in February and that commission could say we should put that on the floor as well."

Tenopir said he doesn't know how LB1021 may affect the membership's approach to those proposals.

"If one does not pass,I think there will be strong interest in our board to very quickly initiate a statewide committee to take a look at a whole variety of representation and redistricting,"he said.

Tenopir said the sparse population in the western part of the state causes problems with districting and classification for both legislative purposes and activities.

"We could set up a nearly equal number of threegrade student enrollment districts but that western district would be from somewhere around Kearney or a little east all the way out to the border," he said."That logistically does not work well with the amount of travel involved for some of those activities."

The NSAA districts have not been redrawn since 1926, but that doesn't mean the membership hasn't considered changes, according to Tenopir, who was a superintendent at Cambridge before becoming the NSAA executive director in 2001.

"We had a statewide committee that took a look at redistricting. After considerable cussing and discussing, we looked at a seven-district concept and a nine-district concept," he said. "The seven-district concept got to the Representative Assembly and was defeated. The general feeling was that we had issues, but people were content with the current makeup. I served on that committee, so I know the kinds of struggles we went through in trying to take a look at that."

Change is likely in the future for the NSAA, either through its own devices or those of the legislature, Tenopir said.

"My strong guess is that regardless of what happens with our Representative Assembly, our board is going to take a look at redistricting," he said. "We will see if we can come up with something that makes sense, that does not require a Red Cloud-to-Crawford kind of distance.

Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at rhambleton@journalstar.com or 473-7314.