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County school board redistricting now underway

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School authorities now are wrapping up citizen meetings and preparing to evaluate resident input.

By Melody Jameson

Working toward conformation of Hillsborough County’s school board districts for the decade ahead, authorities now are wrapping up citizen meetings and preparing to evaluate resident input.

Propelled by 2010 U.S. Census population figures and the resulting requirements for representative area redistricting on county, state and national levels based on population changes, the county school system staff has conducted public meetings at high schools around the county during August. The county administration completed its redistricting processes in early July. The state currently is engaged in public sessions regarding redistricting up and down the peninsula.

Hillsborough’s seven-member elected school board includes five district seats held by the members elected from each of the five districts. The South County region at present is represented by Candy Olson from District 2 – the area including Gibsonton, Ruskin and Little Manatee South as well as the retirement communities of Sun City Center and Kings Point. District 2 also covers South Tampa. Stacy White represents District 4, a geographically large district which in the South County region encompasses Balm, Riverview, Wimauma, and Sundance, as well as the age-restricted community of Valencia Lakes. District 4 also includes Plant City and northeast Hillsborough. Currently, the dividing line between the two districts in the South County is U.S. Highway 301.

However, that dividing line could be altered – in one instance radically – if either of two of the three potential district re-alignments were to be implemented.

At its citizen sessions, school system staff has presented three options – Alternatives A, B and C - which meet mandated criteria related to conforming the districts consistent with population shifts. Those criteria include creating districts which evenly distribute the population to be served, are as compact as possible and which do not dilute the electorate in a minority district to the extent a minority representative could not be elected. From the school system perspective, District 5 encompassing east, central and north Tampa is the minority district.

Alternative A would push Olson’s future District 2 in a wide swath eastward beyond U.S. 301 into White’s current District 4, taking in a substantial portion of north Wimauma, Balm and large parts of eastern Riverview along Boyette Road. Parts of Plant City would remain in White’s District 4, but the area north and east would join District 3.

Alternative B would create a much more compact District 4 by excluding most of Plant City and the northeast section of the county, populations which then would be added to District 3. In the South County, both Districts 2 and 4 would be unchanged.

Similarly, Alternative C again would alter District 4 in the northeast part of the county, but have much less effect on the South County region, only adding a small portion of eastern Riverview to District 2.

Lorraine Duffy-Suarez, the school system’s general manager for growth and planning, emphasized that redistricting is based on new population statistics provided by the decennial census, not on district size. The objective, she added, is equal distribution of the population in the system’s five districts, and modifications “do not change which schools students attend”. Reapportionment within the districts also does not alter bus stops or transportation to any particular school, she said.
Population in each of the five districts, if any of the three alternatives were implemented, would be in the 235,000 to 255,000 range.

Unlike county administration re-alignments which then require district commissioners to run for re-election, county school board members do not seek election again until their current terms expire.

Citizens interested in the school board redistricting can view the three color-coded maps outlining the possible alternatives online by accessing http://redistricting.mysdhc.org. Public comment also can be forwarded through this website.
The county school board is scheduled to meet for a workshop on the subject at 10 AM, Tuesday, September 13. Public comment is not taken during workshops.

© 2011 Melody Jameson

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