School Board waiting on council remap plan

Advocate, The (Baton Rouge, LA) - Friday, April 22, 2011
LAFAYETTE - The Lafayette Parish School Board decided Wednesday to delay its decision on a redistricting plan and watch the Lafayette City-Parish Council's redistricting decisions unfold. 

"If we don't have to vote right now - they're going to give us a trial-mock run of what's going to happen," board member Tehmi Chassion said of the council's redistricting process. "We can see if the constituency is happy with what's chosen." 

The council meets Monday to vote on its proposed plan. 

Federal law requires redistricting after every 10-year U.S. Census count to achieve an equal distribution of residents. According to the 2010 Census, the parish's population has grown from 190,503 to 221,578 residents. 

Based on the count, the ideal population per district is 24,640 people, demographers say. 

The south part of the parish has seen the most growth with the largest deviation from the "ideal" in District 9 at 8,028 with a total of 32,648 residents, according to district-by-district data released. 

The council, with its next elections this fall, is up against a closer deadline for plan approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The School Board's next election is in 2014. 

But members decided Wednesday not to wait that long and voted 7-2 to make a choice prior to September 2012. 

District geographic lines are currently the same for both the council and the board, but there is no requirement that they be so, explained Nancy Jensen, a demographer who briefed the board during a Wednesday workshop. 

Board members Greg Awbrey of District 6 and Rae Trahan of District 9 voted against a delayed decision. 

Awbrey said he didn't want the board to get "mixed up" with the "jockeying" and "political maneuvering" seen by council members. 

"What we need to concentrate on is getting our schools fixed," said Awbrey. "We're also going to be looking for a superintendent. We have a lot to do without worrying about the redistricting." 

Awbrey and Trahan support ed a motion to accept a plan that differed from the council's choice, but only found one supporter in board President Mark Allen Babineaux. 

The council's proposed plan shifted Comeaux High School - now in District 7 and represented by School Board member Mark Cockerham - into District 8, represented by member Hunter Beasley. 

Cockerham and board member Tehmi Chassion of District 4 put forth the motion for the delay. 

On Thursday, Cockerham said he didn't want the board to rush into a decision and was pushed by voters in his district not to support a plan that moves Comeaux out of his district. 

"I ran on those precincts. I can't abandon them now. I'm just trying to give the voters what they voted for," Cockerham said. 

Lafayette Parish redistricting 

Ideal population distribution by district: 24,620 

District Population Deviation 

1 26,461 1,841 

2 23,345 -1,275 

3 19,723 -4,897 

4 20,895 -3,725 

5 25,733 1,113 

6 22,502 -2,118 

7 25,153 533 

8 25,118 498 

9 32,648 8,028 

Total: 221,578 

Source: Lafayette Consolidated Government