School board wants to draw its own districts

147874 articles in the archive and more added every day

School board wants to draw its own districts

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
843-706-8177

Published Monday, September 12, 2011   |  631 Words  |  

The Beaufort County Board of Education is considering drawing its own district lines, following County Council's approval of a redistricting plan that would drastically change the school board.

Under the plan, which was approved unanimously Monday by County Council, 10 of the 11 school board incumbents would face election next year. Eight school board members are paired in four districts, meaning at least four incumbents will not return to the board after the 2012 elections. There are four districts without an incumbent.

In contrast, only two incumbent County Council members, Herbert Glaze and Gerald Dawson, were paired in the same district, leaving the remaining districts with one incumbent each. Currently, County Council and school board districts follow the same lines.

School board members have said the plan would dismantle their board. Board member Steven Morello, in previous emails to county and school board officials, had also accused the County Council of eroding minority representation on the school board. That battle was reignited Monday night when council member Stu Rodman renewed his call for Morello's resignation. Morello said that was "ridiculous."

It was not immediately clear how -- and if -- the school board could draw its own boundaries. Board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. said the board was still considering options.

"If it's realistic, we'll do it. If it's not realistic, we won't do it," he said.

During the council meeting, school board member Bill Evans presented the board's official position, admitting that it neglected to take part in the redistricting process early on. Evans said the council's redistricting process was conducted properly, but the school district has different priorities.

He said school board redistricting should focus on school attendance clusters and areas where there are a large percentage of families with school-age children, and it should also prevent mass turnover on the board.

"I hope we do it without a lot of emotion or foot stomping or finger pointing or anything else," Evans said before the meeting. "I just want us to look at it and say, 'Maybe this isn't the best governance model for the school district. Maybe there's a better way to select the people who are going to be on the school board.'"

County Council members seemed confused, wondering whether the school board wanted it to delay its vote on the redistricting plan or whether the board planned legal action against the council. Washington said neither was the case.

Council Chairman Weston Newton warned the school board that fighting the redistricting plan could be costly and that the cost would be borne by taxpayers.

"I hope when you study the data that we did, you'll come to the conclusion that adherence to the law is much more important than protecting incumbents, especially when it comes to the millions of dollars that could be spent," Newton said.

Washington said the board isn't interested in racking up costs.

"Whatever we do should not incur fees and should not impede the county plans for their districts," he said after the meeting.

The council's plan goes to the U.S. Department of Justice for review. School board members said they planned to continue to study their options.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Anger over school board redistricting erupts in email battle; Aug. 26, 2011
  2. School board members lose out in county redistricting plan; Aug. 24, 2011