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Gainesville school board still mulling redistricting maps
Issue may come up at meeting tonight or Dec. 12
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Gainesville Board of Education meeting

When: 6 tonight
Where: Gainesville Exploration Academy, 1145 McEver Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-287-1223

The Gainesville Board of Education might be putting off a decision on redistricting maps — again.

Redistricting is on the agenda, but Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said it might be removed before tonight's meeting.

"What the board was doing was talking to legislators," Dyer said. "It's a chance we will put it off to the Dec. 12 meeting."

Dyer said school board members divided amongst themselves who would talk with which members of the Georgia legislature, including Sen. Butch Miller, Rep. Carl Rogers and Rep. Doug Collins.

The school board, unlike Gainesville City Council, does not need its maps to go through the home rule process. Maps are not due to the General Assembly until January for the school system.

The process of creating a map has been drawn out since August, with City Council members wanting one and school board members wanting another.

The last time redistricting made an appearance at a school board meeting was the Oct. 3 work session, when board members approved payment for Linda Meggers, formerly of the Georgia General Assembly's Reapportionment Office, for her work creating the school board's proposed map.

The school board's new district lines must reconcile a population boom in Ward 4, represented by Delores Diaz, with decreased populations in Wards 1 and 2, represented by David Syfan and Maria Calkins, respectively, while trying not to interfere with the near-perfect population in Sammy Smith's Ward 5 and the minority populations in Ward 3, represented by board chairman Willie Mitchell.

After a meeting with both groups, Smith contended the school board could have different voting maps than the council, but city elections personnel believed two different voting districts could spell extra expenses for Gainesville.

On Sept. 20, the City Council was set to approve a map that mirrored what the school board endorsed. The map, Plan 3, was initially approved Sept. 6, with those voting in favor of it saying they wanted both council and school board districts to be the same.

Councilman George Wangemann changed his vote, and the council backed away from Plan 3, reverting back to supporting Plan 2RE, a map city staff created.

At that meeting, Wangemann said he'd rather support a map that better illustrated the "one man, one vote" mandate of the Voting Rights Act.

The ideal population for each of the five wards is 6,761. Plan 3 deviates from that number up to 4.66 percent.

After Wangemann altered his vote, Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Dunagan encouraged the school board to adopt Plan 2RE.

He, Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras and Wangemann supported that map. They were opposed by Mayor Ruth Bruner and Councilman Bob Hamrick.

Dyer was unaware until after the Sept. 20 meeting the City Council was even still considering Plan 2RE as a possible map.

On Nov. 17, city officials submitted a plan to redraw Gainesville's voting districts to the U.S. Department of Justice, which gave residents another opportunity to comment on the proposed ward map.

That map was approved by the council in October with the intention of realigning boundaries with new population estimates from the 2010 census.

Dyer said the school board wanted to look at different options, but board members agreed "either of the maps would work."

"The goal still is to have one map," she said in October. "... From the very first, the goal was to have one map." 

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