EBR Parish School Board votes to downsize to 9 members

EBR School Board votes to downsize to 9 members
Published: Jul. 25, 2014 at 2:39 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2014 at 2:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After a marathon six-hour special meeting Thursday night, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted to downsize from 11 members to nine.

The decision was made after a controversial vote to redistrict the system. Board members could have chosen from five proposed redistricting plans. The various plans reduced the number of districts from the current 11 to as few as seven and as many as 10. After several of the proposals were voted down, the board approved the nine-member body.

Those in favor of a reduced board size said the change will make the unit more efficient. Those against the plan argued the number of people on the board is not the real issue.

"The larger board, the larger advocates that we have for these kids will help further this district," said board member Tarvald Smith of District 4. "We're fighting battles from the state and the legislature and we need those advocates for the kids."

"This board has never been divided down racial lines on a major issue," said David Tatman, board president. "Any division that we might have is philosophical. I believe that the board members do what they think is right and I respect everyone's opinion."

According to those against reducing the board size, with qualifying for November elections now only a month away, it's too late to redraw district lines.

"I question the timing of this and I question the motivation behind this," said board member Mary Lynch of District 11.

However, other members said redistricting should be resolved sooner rather than later and a smaller board would be more effective.

"There are very few members that I know have declared that they are running," said board member Craig Freeman of District 6. "Martin Luther King said, 'There's never a wrong time to do the right thing,' so I'd rather get this right before an election rather than suffer through a bad election and then have to deal with the consequences for the future."

"I believe a smaller board would be more efficient, so we could get things done and things would get done faster," said board member Evelyn Ware Jackson of District 5.

Several groups spoke out against redistricting in recent weeks, including the NAACP, parent group One Community, One School District, and both executive committees for Democrats and Republicans. A similar redistricting proposal narrowly failed in the Louisiana Legislature this year.

The NAACP has said it will challenge the redistricting in court.

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