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School Board agrees on new districts

FRANK TAYLOR
Managing Editor

 

When voters pick four members of the School Board next year, districts will be based on population and will be shaped as unbroken parcels of land, not multiple islands that don’t touch.
After months of sometimes contentious discussions and public debate, the Lincoln County Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve Plan 13 for new districts.
Under the new plan and the legislation that forced it, the board will go from its current makeup of one at-large seat and six seats filled from districts drawn on a purely geographical basis to two at-large seats and five in which the member must reside in districts drawn to have similar populations.
Left unresolved is which four of the new districts will be up for election next year and which ones will come into use in 2014.
Board chairman Ed Hatley said he thought it was wise to keep that issue separate from the question of which map the board would adopt.
Unlike some of the other proposals under consideration, Plan 13 avoided the creation of divided districts made up of multiple non-touching islands. Instead it uses compact and contiguous districts.
This plan received strong support from several citizens who spoke at the board’s November meeting, expressing sharp criticism of some of the other proposed plans.
Elections scholars with the University of North Carolina School of Government have advised that contiguous districts aren’t necessarily required by law, but they don’t know of any districts in the state that aren’t contiguous, so that it’s something of a reasonable voter expectation.
The School Board districts will now be redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census, to ensure that the county’s population is distributed equitably.
In the plan under which current board members were elected, sparsely populated areas sent more members to the board than areas with much greater populations. This result had some residents of eastern Lincoln County, where much recent population growth has occurred, crying foul.
In other action at Wednesday’s meeting, the board unanimously reappointed Hatley as chairman and Candy Bergin as vice chairman. Other board members kept their existing committee assignments.

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