Thursday, June 30, 2022

New Hanover County School Board admits errors were made in redistricting plans

More than 20 parents and community members voiced opposition to proposed redistricting by the New Hanover County School Board, forcing one board member to express surprise at the amount of anger in the room and another to admit the board had made a mistake.

New Hanover County Board of Education Chairman Edward Higgins Jr. (left) orders a public speaker to be removed from the podium for speaking over the imposed 3-minute time limit as Dr. Tim Markely (right) looks on during Tuesday's workshop on redistricting. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)
New Hanover County Board of Education Chairman Edward Higgins Jr. (left) orders a public speaker to be removed from the podium for speaking over the imposed 3-minute time limit as Tim Markely (right) looks on during Tuesday’s workshop on redistricting. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY—The New Hanover County School Board Tuesday admitted it made errors in its redistricting proposal and said it plans to submit new maps next month.

Initial redistricting plans were released earlier this month, but soon they will be redrawn after an onslaught of negative public opinion.

The school board had to answer to a crowd of over 100 students, families, faculty and community members during the standing-room-only meeting.

Over 20 public speakers voiced their opposition to the redistricting maps and urged the board to reconsider its current plans to move 685 students.

Topics visited throughout the night include:

  • an unequal dispersal of racial and economic demographics
  • the psychological impact of switching schools in the middle of high school
  • overburdening already strained New Hanover High School
  • the need for a new high school

Grievances

New Hanover County Public School District lines are theoretically designed to be inclusive of entire neighborhoods. Due to growth and other factors, some neighborhoods have been cut down the middle with new redistricting plans, while others have been left alone.

Split neighborhoods were a concern for several parents of Laney High School students.

Amie Lombardi, a Laney parent, said the new maps singled out smaller neighborhoods and left alone wealthy ones. Landfall, a predominately upper-middle class neighborhood, was untouched by new redistricting lines.

“We feel like you’re taking a small part of a neighborhood and sending it to a farther away school and we just don’t think it’s right,” Lombardi said.

Another parent described the redistricting plans as a short-term solution to a bigger problem.

“I think we’re putting Band-Aid on a big wound,” William Condon said.

Gina Fimbel, a New Hanover High School parent, spoke about racial and economic injustices she said the redistricting plan would worsen. Fimbel passed the 3-minute speaking limit and was nearly removed after Chairman Edward Higgins Jr. ordered her to stop.

Next steps

After hearing the grievances from the speakers, board member Bruce Shell admitted to the crowd that the board made errors. Board member Janice Cavenaugh said she was concerned by the level of “anger and hostility” expressed.

Cavenaugh said that to build a new school, the school board would require funding. The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners controls what funding the school board receives.

“We’ve never received what we’ve asked for,” Cavenaugh said.

The Redistricting Committee and the school board are expected to present new plans to the public early next month.

More than 20 parents and community members voiced opposition to proposed redistricting by the New Hanover County School Board, forcing one board member to express surprise at the amount of anger in the room and another to admit the board had made a mistake. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)
More than 20 parents and community members voiced opposition to proposed redistricting by the New Hanover County School Board, forcing one board member to express surprise at the amount of anger in the room and another to admit the board had made a mistake. (Port City Daily photo / JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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