Two groups that have been critical of the elimination of the diversity policy are also holding three open houses on redistricting of Wake County school board seats.
The League of Women Voters of Wake County and the Great Schools in Wake Coalition are teaming up for forums Monday at Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, Tuesday at Eva Perry Library in Apex and April 19 at Cameron Village Library in Raleigh. Click here for a press release that provides more detail.
Speakers for both groups raised concerns about the school board's handling of the redistricting process during Tuesday's meeting.
Betty Ellerbee, a member of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters, expressed Tuesday her overwhelming concern about the "lack of transparency" in the redistricting process.
Ellerbee questioned the school board not holding public hearings on draft maps. She said the board should be getting public input on the maps well in advance of the hearing on the final map.
Ellerbee contrasted Wake with the Town of Cary, where multiple meetings have been held on draft election maps for council races.
Patty Williams of Great Schools in Wake challenged the school board to lobby the county commissioners to provide the Wake Board of Elections more funding so that they can open new polling places to split up a dozen overly large precincts.
Williams and Ellerbee also urged the school board to speed up work on the maps.
"Voters have the right to know if their school board district will change," Williams said at the board meeting. "They need to understand if they'll be able to vote in the October elections or not. Prospective candidates deserve to know whether or not they will remain in the district where they had intended to run or not.
If you want to regain some of the public's trust, you have both an opportunity to follow the sprit and the letter of the law by talking with the commissioners and engaging the commissioners immediately in a fair redistricting process. If you don't want to lead by setting a good example for the public, your inaction will be readily apparently to all. Please accept my challenge to to do the right thing."
The goal of the open houses is to solicit public comments that organizers say will be forwarded to the school board. In addition, Ellerbee said in an interview that they'll unveil a sample map they developed.
Ellerbee isn't revealing details of the map, saying people need to come to see for themselves what they're suggesting. Wake needs to increase the populations in Districts 4,5,6 and 9 while shrinking it in Districts 1,2,3,7 and 8.
Ellerbee said they're not saying the school board should use their map. But she says the board and the public can use their map as a baseline to compare against the one that will be developed by Kieran Shanahan.
"They could produce a map that is better than ours," Ellerbee said of Shanahan. "I'm certainly going to allow for that."
School board chairman Ron Margiotta said they'll get an update from Shanahan at the April 26 work session. They'll then decide from there how to proceed but his plan is to adopt the new boundaries before the end of May.
The filing period for school board candidates starts July 25.
Margiotta said they'll consider the concerns raised by the League of Women Voters and GSIW. But he was skeptical of their motives on the redistricting issue considering their complaints about the elimination of the diversity policy
“They are certainly not supportive of the school board,” Margiotta said. “They’re the ones who are making the demands.”
But Williams and Ellerbee said all their groups want to do is to encourage public participation in the redistricting process.