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More on school redistricting

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
After hearing from 50 people at two public hearings on the proposed high school redistricting, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education is expected to hear from 10 more at its November meeting Monday afternoon.
A discussion on redistricting is also included on the board’s agenda.
The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the school system’s administrative offices at 110 N. Long St. in East Spencer.
Because the public hearings were limited to 90 minutes, 10 of the 40 people who signed up to speak Nov. 9 in signed an overflow sheet to speak at the next board meeting.
The overwhelming majority of the 30 who did speak ówhich included parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens ó were opposed to the proposed redistricting plan which would affect all of the system’s six high schools except Salisbury. Speakers urged school board members to come up with ways to address the declining enrollment at North Rowan High School without affecting other schools.
Two people spoke on behalf of North, saying students there deserved the same educational offerings as at other schools.
Some of the families that would be affected by the proposed plan were required to change from the East to Carson districts four years ago when Carson first opened. Rebecca Schill of the Carson district said the board was treating parents and students like pawns in a chess game in the proposed plan. “The chess pawn is placing the school board in check,” she said.
Teresa Craven said if board members approve the proposed plan the community would vote them out of office.
Twenty-two people spoke at the first public hearing at Knox Middle School. Although a few spoke in favor of the plan, most were opposed.
East Rowan parents whose children would be moved to North under the proposed plan have been the most vocal, some saying they would move or put their children in private schools to keep them from going to North.
West Rowan also had a large delegation at both hearings, saying the students the school would lose to South would adversely affect the school’s offerings such as band and award-winning clubs.
The main thing the 700-plus people who turned out for both hearings seemed to agree on was their contention that it was unfair to leave Salisbury High School out of the plan.
Only one person from Salisbury spoke at the hearings, and that was James Flynn of the Crescent subdivision, who said the district didn’t want to receive favoritism.
Why not here?
Mark Jennings said at the Knox hearing that he has yet to understand why students on Sells Road and Mocksville Avenue are remaining in the Salisbury district when they’re closer to North. “If you want to do the right thing, close your eyes,” he told the board. “Do not look at race … or wealth or politics, and do the right thing.”
Jennings’ comments drew most in the audience to their feet. “Country club! Country club!” shouted one man.
The board voted 4-3 Oct. 12 to go ahead with consideration of the redistricting plan which would not affect Salisbury High after rejecting a plan recommended by a committee that would have changed all of the high schools’ districts. Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson, Kay Wright Norman and Patty Williams voted against the plan approved by the board.
The three members of board’s Redistricting Committee ó Bryce Beard, Karen Carpenter and Vice Chairwoman W. Jean Kennedy óvoted in favor of it, along with Linda Freeze.
The board voted 5-2 earlier in the work session to proceed with redistricting the high schools, with Emerson and Norman opposing.
Funded study
Carpenter contended that the vote was redundant, saying the board had made the decision to redistrict last October by voting to spend $40,000 on a redistricting study by OR/ED (Operations Research and Education Laboratory), an educational consulting company from N.C. State University.
OR/ED used state-of-the-art technology factoring in extensive data and projected growth to come up with 26 plans that would meet the board’s directive of keeping utilization at each school between 80 and 87 percent.
After voting on the proposed redistricting plan, the board agreed to amending the map to keep all of the Westcliffe subdivision, off Statesville Boulevard, in the West district, a change that only affected 27 students.
Large copies of the maps have been available since then at all six high schools, the school system’s administrative offices and the Transportation Department headquarters as well as at Rowan Public Library headquarters and the East and South branches.
The proposed plan, outlined in what has been referred to as Study Map No. 2, would increase the 54 percent utilization at North Rowan to 87 percent. Growing concern about the declining enrollment at North prompted the board to consider redistricting the high schools in the first place.
High school numbers
North’s underutilization led to the school’s athletic teams being moved from a 2A to a 1A conference beginning this school year. Salisbury High is in a 2A conference, and Carson, East, South and West are in a 3A conference.
Other high school utilizations under the proposed plan are: East and North, 87 percent; Carson, 85 percent; and West 80 percent.
Projected average daily membership at the schools under the plan would be: East, 1,167; Carson, 1,025; North, 959; South, 1,196; and West, 929.
In presenting the board’s Redistricting Committee’s recommendation to go with Study Map No. 1 at the Sept. 28 meeting, Carpenter said she, Beard and Kennedy chose it over Study Map No. 2 because they didn’t think it was right to exclude one high school from a redistricting plan.
“If we’re going to do this correctly,” Carpenter said then, “everybody needs to be a part of it.”
Conflicting views
On Study Map No. 1, the Salisbury district would lose the Country Club neighborhood, Country Club Hills and Crescent to North. Study Map No. 1-A would leave the Country Club neighborhood and Country Club Hills in Salisbury, but move Crescent to North.
Freeze said she didn’t see the point of students from Crescent having to travel through Country Club Hills to get to North Rowan. “That’s just ridiculous,” she said.
Norman said she thought Study Map No. 1 and the amended 1-A map were “robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“There’s no reason to build up one school by tearing down another,” she said. “I think that’s the whole premise.”
One of the main problems, she contended, is the close proximity of Salisbury and North. Norman said the board could have eliminated that problem when it had the opportunity to build a new Salisbury High farther away from North.
Beard said Carson, the system’s newest high school, and South are closer than Salisbury and North.
Norman said she was also concerned with the committee-recommended plan reducing the utilization at West.
Emerson said all of the maps will have some students traveling farther to get to school. “I just don’t know how you justify that to the public,” he said, adding that it affected the credibility of the board. Several people in the audience applauded until Emerson asked them not to.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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