Three new maps considered for Hillsborough School Board member redistricting

08/29/11 Atecia Robinson
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A summer-long series of redistricting public hearings across Florida concludes this week. Lawmakers will redraw districts for Congressional and state legislative districts.

Redistricting is also happening in Hillsborough County Schools, where they are redrawing lines for School Board member districts. There's a public meeting last Thursday at Riverview High School.

After each census Hillsborough County Public Schools must redraw districts in order to keep an even population in each School Board member district. Terry Eagan from the Hillsborough County City-Count planning Commission said districting is important.

"Hillsborough County is one of four counties that the Department of Justice has to issue a pre-clearance on. Meaning any time that we make changes to voting districts, precincts that has to be submitted to the Department of Justice for them to review and make sure that there is no retrogression or diminishment of minorities electing their own candidate."

Eagan said District five in the center of the county, including parts of Tampa, would be the centerpiece of the new maps.

"The district has to be able to retain its ability to elect its own candidate."

One goal of redistricting is to produce districts with similar populations. Alternative A has districts with population numbers that are most similar to each other. Eagan said that the Department of Justice prefers that the population variance between districts be less than five percent, but would still be acceptable at 10 percent. There are three alternatives for re-drawing the school board districts. One, called Alternative A, has the least variation in population.

"On this map the population variance is 1.22 percent which means if you look at the numbers they're all very close, they're almost equal. District 5 remains fairly consistent with the changes occurring primarily around it."

Another goal is for districts to be geographically compact; that is, without unnecessary branches. Eagan said that Alternative B would create the most compact districts, but there’s a population variance of 6.9 percent.

"This is more proportioned. One of the things people comment upon when they come and look at redistricting maps is they feel like sometimes they're unbalanced."

Eagan said Alternative C would not be as compact as B, but it would have more evenly populated districts -- a population variance of 4.2 percent. In Alternative C, District 5 would retain more minority voters by keeping parts of West Tampa, which in B would be lumped in with South Tampa.

"The third map keeps it at below 5 percent. It's probably not as balanced aesthetically as that one is but it's still able to retain the minority district here for District 5."

No parents or other members of the public attended this public meeting. Two school board members, Jack Lamb and Stacy White were there. Chuck Smith from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office said meetings are usually informal.

"We haven't had much of anything that's been really argumentative or anything and generally the comments are 'I like this district' or 'I might run for school board and this one would put me against somebody I don't want to run against'. So there hasn't been anything that has been a red flag that would say 'oh, I really dislike this and I think this is an unfair mapping.'"

Even without community interest the show must still go on. Lorraine Duffy Suarez, the general manager of Growth Management and Planning at Hillsborough County Public Schools says the redistricting process does not affect which schools students will attend.

"The School Board is going to have a workshop where the School Board members will talk among themselves. It's not an open to the public comment but they will review the comments that the public has submitted to us on September 13th and then on October 4th, at 5 o'clock, they're scheduled to have a public hearing where the public can speak to them and they will vote on one of the maps, on a map of their choosing."

The next elections are in 2012.

More information on the current HCPS Board Members.

Redistricting of School Board Member Voting Districts 2011

Click here to view Alternative A, Alternative B and Alternative C.

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