Board hires redistricting firm - Company did the job in 2001, too

Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Saturday, November 5, 2011
Author: Jim Derry St. Tammany bureau

The St. Tammany Parish School Board has approved a $22,000 bid to hire Redistricting LLC to assist in remapping its 15 districts. 

The 12-0 vote came at Thursday night's Business Administration Committee meeting at the C.J. Schoen Administrative Complex in Covington. Board members Robin Mullett, Charles Harrell and James Panks were absent. 

By law, the board must tweak district boundaries every 10 years based on the U.S. Census so that each district maintains a similar population. And although there isn't a rush to finish, with the next election not scheduled until 2014, school system administrators hope to be done by April. 

The process should begin in February and last "a couple of months," according to the head of Redistricting LLC, Glenn Koepp. The company will first meet with the board as a whole and then individually before coming up with a plan. 

That plan then will be presented publicly at a board meeting before being voted on, according to Koepp, who also serves as secretary for the state Senate. Following approval by the board, it must be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for final approval. 

The company has been in business for more than 30 years and has worked with many political bodies across the state, including recently with the New Orleans City Council. Redistricting LLC should be familiar with this job, as it was hired for the same project in 2001. 

"You have to look at what's happened in the parish the past 10 years -- where the growth has occurred and if there's any real changes. This parish is lucky enough to have grown some," Koepp said. "There are two hurdles we have to overcome: First, we have to make every district as equal as we can in accordance with the United States Constitution and 'one person, one vote;' the second is we have to meet the Voting Rights Act issues." 

Assistant Superintendent of Administration Bill Brady said the other company considered for the job, Garnet Innovations LLC, came in with a slightly lower bid, but that their proposal would have meant "more leg work, more for the board to do and possible additional changes." 

"(Redistricting) has a very, very good track record in these types of procedures, and we feel very comfortable that they will get our board through this process," he told the board. 

Also Thursday night, some board members inquired about the progress of construction at Henry Mayfield Elementary School near Slidell, which originally had been scheduled to open in August but repeatedly has been delayed. 

Brady said that he attended a PTA meeting Wednesday night to update parents, and said the school system still hopes to make the move from its temporary campuses at Bayou Woods Elementary and Carolyn Park Middle to the new school shortly after the Christmas break.