Wake County Schools

Wake school board hears from public on redistricting

Posted May 9, 2011 2:18 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2011 12:16 p.m. EDT

— The public had its first chance Tuesday evening to chime in on a plan to change the boundaries of voting districts for the Wake County Board of Education.

About two dozen people showed up and nine spoke at a public forum about a plan before the board to redraw district lines, several criticizing the board for what they called a lack of openness and also for not considering alternative maps submitted last month by two community groups.

The school system redraws the district map every 10 years based upon population and growth data from the U.S. Census. A new map is due by June 24 so that candidates can begin the campaign for the November election.

The filing period for school board candidates begins July 25.

Five of the board's nine seats are up for grabs this year – those of board Chairman Ron Margiotta and the four Democratic board members – Kevin Hill, Keith Sutton, Carolyn Morrison and Dr. Anne McLaurin – who have voted as a bloc in the past 18 months, challenging the board majority's controversial move to change the district's longstanding student assignment policy.

All but Morrison and McLaurin have said they plan to run again. Sutton and Morrison face election for the first time after being appointed to fill seats left vacant in 2009.

The school board contracted with the Shanahan Law Group in February year to draw a map in which districts would be approximately equal in population, minority representation would be increased, precincts would be kept intact and incumbents would be kept in the same district.

McLaurin said Tuesday she hopes the board will reconsider the planned changes to her district, District 5 in south central Raleigh.

"I am concerned about it, and I hope there will be discussion about it," she said. "It changes the core business of my district, which has primarily been downtown and magnet schools."

But John Tedesco, a Republican board member representing southeast Wake County (District 2), said the map is fair and that he doesn't plan on voting for any changes.

"My honest opinion is (that) by having outside legal council create the maps, as opposed to the board members, it allowed for a more fair process," Tedesco said.

Shanahan presented its map to the board at its last meeting. The board will meet next week for a work session on the proposal.

"If the board members want to sit out here tonight and say, 'Well, move this line or that line, my opinion would be that would be somewhat gerrymandering," Tesdesco said.

Each district population, he said, is now balanced within 1 percent of the other and making changes to one could cause a domino effect of problems.

Board members voted 7-1 in February on a resolution saying that the redistricting process be done in an "open, transparent and inclusive manner."

But the panel has been criticized by The League of Women Voters and Great Schools in Wake for a lack of openness in the process. Both groups unveiled proposed redistricting maps last month, but the board is not considering them.