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School board will revisit redistricting

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education members will each receive copies of 37 possible high school redistricting maps when they return to the drawing board at a special work session Wednesday afternoon.
Rita Foil, public information officer for the school system, said Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations, would be distributing the maps developed by OR/ED, Operations Research and Education.
The board paid the N.C. State University Educational consulting company $40,000 to come up with redistricting options based on such criteria as enrollments at all the schools, projected growth and transportation issues.
The work session will be held at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s central offices at 110 S. Long St., East Spencer. Though the session is open to the public, no public comments will be allowed.
The board will also consider Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom’s recommended hirings for principal vacancies at Erwin Middle School and Hanford Dole Elementary School in a closed session following the redistricting discussion.
To recap highlights of what has happened with the proposed high school redistricting so far:
– The board Redistricting Committee made up of Bryce Beard, Karen South Carpenter and Vice Chairman Jean Kennedy narrowed the plans to three, recommending at the board’s Sept. 28 meeting a plan that would affect all six high school districts.
In the recommended plan, the Country Club and Country Club Hills sections would remain in the Salisbury High district, but Crescent and Hidden Creek, located across Jake Alexander Boulevard, would be moved to the North district.
– At an Oct. 12 work session, however, the board rejected the recommended plan and voted 4-3 ó with Beard, Carpenter, Linda Freeze and Kennedy voting for it and Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson, Kay Wright Norman and Patty Williams voting against it ó to proceed with a plan that would leave the Salisbury High district intact.
– This caused an outcry from many of 56 people speaking against the proposed plan at two public hearings and the public comment section of the board’s Nov. 23 meeting. Though some spoke in favor of redistricting to address the declining enrollment at North Rowan, most spoke against it, with many noting that it was unfair to leave Salisbury High untouched.
– The board voted at the November meeting to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternate plan. Freeze made the motion to take another look at the maps developed by OR/ED. “I still support redistricting,” she said, “but I think I acted too quickly in support of Redistricting Map No. 2.”
Discussion at the meeting was very heated at times, with Carpenter pointing a finger at Norman and Williams pointing a finger at Beard.
Carpenter took issue with Norman’s comment that the board had only seen three of the OR/Ed maps and had not been privy to everything. She said the committee had spent a lot of time studying the maps and that if Norman wanted to see them all, all she had to do was say so.
Beard’s comments about Salisbury High School doing a better job educating at-risk students than other high schools angered Williams, who responded, “Thank you for your sermon. Salisbury is not the only school that works hard.”
Emerson, who is opposed to redistricting the high schools at this time, said he doesn’t plan to bring up another vote to postpone redistricting at Wednesday’s work session. “It’s been defeated every time,” he said, “but there may be a change of heart as far as the others as to what schools need to be involved.”
If the board decides on another plan, Emerson said more public hearings “would be the sensible, courteous thing to do so the people who would be affected under a different plan have a chance to voice their opinions.”
“What we’re trying to do is come up with a proposed plan,” he said, “and I think it’s important that you use that word. It’s simply a proposed plan until we have the hearing(s) and then we’ll vote on it at the January board meeting.
“But be sure that you make it clear that our minds won’t be made up … If people on the board have their minds made up, there’s no sense of having it.”
As for his opinion, Emerson said he can justify redistricting if it affects all the high schools easier than he can “throwing East and West under the bus.”
Unfortunately, Emerson said the proposed redistricting has been a very contentious issue with board members. “My goal is always ‘let’s have win-win situations and not win-lose situations,’ ” he said. “but some people are going to feel like winners and some people are going to feel like losers.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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