An update from DeKalb County School Board Member Nancy Jester
(via email, “Nancy’s News”)
The Georgia legislature is in session. As you may recall, they passed a bill in the 2011 session to shrink the DeKalb board from nine to seven (click here to view the bill). In addition to this process, we must also reapportion the districts based on the most recent census information. This is done every ten years. Please keep in mind that the majority of your property taxes (22.98 mils) fund the school system. Your district on the DeKalb Board of Education will be set for ten years based on what happens in the next week.
It is my understanding that the DeKalb delegation is expected to deliver new district maps for the Board of Education and the DeKalb Commission by mid-February. I further understand that the delegation will be voting on this matter next week.
As you know, five members of the current nine member board were elected in 2010 and took office in January 2011. Those five members (Jester, Copelin-Wood, Edler, Cunningham and Walker) were elected for terms that end in December 2014. It is my understanding that in the absence of a referendum, terms of office cannot be reduced. If the DeKalb delegation must submit maps by the middle of this month, it appears that a referendum is not possible given the time constraint. Therefore the five members elected in 2010, must serve their terms through 2014. If we are to reduce the board to seven members, then only two districts will be up for election this year and four current members will be collapsed into these two districts (McChesney, Womack, Bowen and Speaks).
I expressed concerns last year regarding these changes. Because we have five board members that have terms of office that extend beyond this year, it appears that the maps will be built around them. I am concerned that the outcome will create some gerrymandered districts that reduce the representation of some communities.
I have placed the maps I have seen on my blog for your review. Click here to go to my blog to see them. As you will note, there are some maps that appear to create some long, irregular districts. I believe that this dilutes the representation of communities of interest. My current preference is the map listed first on my blog. I believe that in order to shift to a seven member board, we need a step process to eight members until the end of 2014. This will eliminate the need to design all the districts around those elected in 2010. If we are forced to go to seven members effective in January 2013, it will be very difficult to design maps that appear to represent a common sense approach. Rather, we will probably see very long, vertical districts for some areas. This design will remain in place for ten years; until another census is complete. If you share my concern, please tell your Rep..
You can express your opinion by writing the members of the DeKalb delegation. Here is their contact information:
Rep. Pat Gardner (D) District 57 PH: 404 656-0265 (office)
Rep. Simone Bell (D) District 58 PH: 404 656-0325 (office)
Rep. Gloria Tinubu (D) District 60 PH: 404.656.0220 (office)
Rep. Tom Taylor (R) District 79 PH: 404.656.0152 (office)
Rep. Mike Jacobs (R) District 80 PH: 404 656-0152 (office)
Rep. Elena Parent (D) District 81 PH: 404.656.6372 (office)
Rep. Scott Holcomb (D) District 82 PH: 404.656.6372 (office)
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D) District 83 PH: 404 656-0265 (office)
Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) District 84 PH: 404 656-0220 (office)
Rep. Stephanie S. Benfield (D) District 85 PH: 404 656-7859 (office)
Rep. Karla Drenner (D) District 86 PH: 404 656-0202 (office)
Rep. Michele Henson (D) District 87 PH: 404 656-7859 (office)
Rep. Billy Mitchell (D) District 88 PH: 404 656-0116 (office)
Rep. “Coach” Williams (D) District 89 PH: 404 656-0202 (office)
Rep. Howard Mosby (D) District 90 PH: 404 656-0287 (office)
Rep. Rahn Mayo (D) District 91 PH: 404 656-6372 (office)
Rep. Pam Stephenson (D) District 92 PH: 404 656-0126 (office)
Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D) District 93 PH: 404 656-0287 (office)
Rep. Randal Mangham (D) District 94 PH: 404 656-0126 (office)
Sen. Curt Thompson (D) District 5 PH: 404 463-1318 (office)
Sen. Emanuel Jones (D) District 10 PH: 404 656-0502 (office)
Sen. Fran Millar (R) District 40 PH: 404 463-2260 (office)
Sen. Steve Henson (D) District 41 PH: 404 656-0085 (office)
Sen. Jason Carter (D) District 42 PH: 404 463-1376 (office)
Sen. Ron Ramsey, Sr. (D) District 43 PH: 404 463-2598 (office)
Sen. Gloria Butler (D) District 55 PH: 404 656-0075 (office)
As always, I am available if you have any questions or concerns.
UPDATE: MMO and Senator Fran Millar will speak to the Emory LaVista Parents Council at Briar LaVista Elementary School on Wednesday, February 15 to discuss DeKalb School issues and redistricting. She has met with and discussed redistricting school issues with many parents, and presently serves on the Redistricting Committee for the DeKalb Delegation which held a public hearing on district map proposals on January 31. On February 6, the Redistricting Committees for both the schools and county commission will again meet at the Coverdale Legislative Office Building in Room 514, beginning at 10:00 am. All are invited to this public meeting as well as the DeKalb delegation meetings that meet most Mondays at noon, also in Room 514.