Wade’s school board bill stays alive

Jun. 16, 2013 @ 09:18 PM

Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill to redistrict and restructure elections of the county’s school board still has legs in the General Assembly.
The bill, SB 317, would redistrict the county’s school board members’ districts, make Guilford County school board elections partisan and make the terms of each member a two-year term.
Wade said she proposed the bill to better align the districts with the county commissioner districts introduced last year and give residents the chance to have more input and choices.
The bill has made its way to the N.C. House of Representatives and Guilford Republicans Jon Hardister, John Faircloth and John Blust are working on tweaking the bill.
“The concept the I’ve discussed with my colleagues is one that would mirror the commissioners districts,” Hardister said. “Sen. Wade’s would not.”
To mirror the commissioner districts, the board would have to be cut from 11 members to nine.
“That’s how it used to be,” Hardister said. “Then a person’s school district and commissioner district would be about the same.”
Hardister said the districts are not identical to the commissioner districts because they would be double-bunked, so his map shifts around a few precincts.
The House version of the bill will keep the part of Wade’s bill that would make school board elections partisan.
“Elections are nonpartisan, but parties get behind candidates, and if you really pay attention you can tell,” Hardister said. “(Partisan elections) would give more information to the voter, be more transparent, and could increase participation in school board elections.”
Hardister said he and his colleagues are not sure about the portion of the bill that deals with term lengths, and it is all subject to change.
Carlvena Foster, District 1 school board member, said the change isn’t necessary.
“I represent 13 schools, and I’m in and out talking to principals, teachers and parents,” she said. “For them to think that’s an easy task, it’s not.”
Changing the districts would change which schools board members represent. Foster said making the elections partisan would take away from the what the board members do.
“We’d probably spend more time campaigning instead of being in the schools,” she said.
Foster said if the term lengths are shortened to two years, as was proposed in Wade’s bill, it would be hard to make progress.
“The things that you try to start in your schools are cast away, and they have to start over every two years,” she said. “We aren’t like the commissioners. Schools are more individualized. What we have now works well.”

jhowse@hpe.com|888-3617