Groups propose maps for Wake schools redistricting
Posted April 11, 2011
Updated April 27, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — With the majority of the seats on the Wake County Board of Education up for election this year, some groups are viewing the county’s upcoming redistricting as a way to shape policy.
“There is a lot at stake this election,” said Betty Ellerbee, of the League of Women Voters and Great Schools in Wake County.
The League of Women Voters is holding several open houses where the group's drafts of new voter redistricting maps will be unveiled for public feedback.
District lines must be redrawn every 10 years based on U.S. census data. According to school board policy, the maps must be drawn up by June 24, after a series of public hearings.
The filing period for school board candidates begins on July 25.
"I feel very strongly that this should be happening now and the school board should be having sessions that are open to the public where they are talking about it," Ellerbee said Monday.
There are nine districts in Wake County. School board members from five of those districts are up for re-election in the fall.
School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta and board members Keith Sutton and Kevin Hill said they plan to run for re-election. Board members Carolyn Morrison and Anne McLaurin have not announced their plans.
Margiotta said the board is working with the Shanahan Law Group on redrawing school district lines.
"We are preparing districts that are fair and equitable to all," Margiotta said Monday.
On Feb. 1, the board approved some of the firm's proposed guidelines, including:
- Making all districts consist of equal populations
- Not splitting precincts, except when needed to conform with federal law
- Considering redistricting plans that would increase minority representation on the board
- New boundaries should not be drawn to take incumbents out of their districts
- In analyzing district population balance, political party registration should not be taken into account.
Margiotta said the board plans to work on the map later this month.
"We want to make sure it will withstand any court challenge. We want to make sure we are as transparent as possible and, at the same time, we want a plan that is a legitimate one," he said.
Groups like Ellerbee's said the board is moving too slow and not openly enough for appropriate public feedback.
"They're going to criticize us for anything and everything that we do, so I kind of take that with a grain of salt," Margiotta said.
The board came under fire last year when it voted to change its student assignment policy, which bused students to balance socioeconomic status levels in schools, to a neighborhood schools model.
In light of heated debate amongst board members and within the community, the board deferred to new Superintendent Tony Tata to develop a student assignment plan.
Tata has temporarily reassigned six members of his staff to devote themselves entirely to implementing the school system’s new student assignment policy.
"The diversity policy is something we feel should not have been discarded," Ellerbee said.
Ellerbee said her organization's feelings on the diversity policy's removal did not impact their creation of the maps being displayed at the open meetings. She hopes the board will strongly consider using the group's drafts.