The Ascension Parish School Board held a public hearing Tuesday at its Donaldsonville headquarters to address the issue of redistricting necessitated by the most recent census numbers. Due to the overwhelming growth in the northern part of Ascension Parish redistricting is a foregone conclusion.
“Everyone will be impacted,” responded demographer John Diez to questioning concerning the plight of two predominantly minority districts located on the west bank of Ascension. “The west bank will probably be reduced to about one and a third of districts.”
The 2010 Census calculated the population of Ascension Parish at over 107,000 people. The school board is currently comprised of eleven members who come from seven districts, four of which are dual districts meaning that two members are elected from the latter. The task of redistricting attempts to evenly divide the districts with respect to that population; i.e. each district ideally would represent 1/11 of the population, 9,747 citizens. The dual districts would represent double that number, 19,494 citizens.
“A 5% deviation up or down is acceptable to the (U.S.) Department of Justice, and since Ascension is subject to the requirements of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, preclearance by the Justice Department is required,” Diez explained. “The standard for acceptability is that no discriminatory purpose or effect be found by D.O.J.”
That is the Justice Department’s threshold question, its primary consideration when reviewing redistricting lines. It must determine that redistricting was done without a discriminatory purpose and without a discriminatory effect before the newly drawn districts can go into effect.
“Tier 2 factors are compactness, contiguity, communities of interest and maintenance of existing districts,” added Diez. “I’m not saying these factors are unimportant but discriminatory purpose or effect is generally the determinant in obtaining preclearance.”
In other business the board’s consent agenda included 13 items, one of which was removed pursuant to the motion of board member for District 6, Jamie Bourgeios. Building renovations planned for Gonzales Primary School received no bids within the project’s proposed budget. The board directed its Director for Planning and Construction to reopen the bidding process after he opined that money could be saved by doing so.
The board also recognized the winners of the “Stop the Silence” anti-bullying campaign sponsored by one of the 2013Leadership Ascension classes. Prairieville Primary won a bullying campaign competition proposed by the group. Leadership Ascension raised funds in excess of the amount needed to sponsor the event and donated $5,170.00 to the board earmarked for its anti-bullying efforts.
The board’s Policy Committee also met on Tuesday to discuss changes to teacher’s pay scales relating to incoming teachers.
Teachers entering the system will be rewarded based on performance in the classroom, which allows the School Board to focus on the ability of individual teachers in the classroom.
Beginning, first-year teachers will now receive a salary in the region of $42,000, with pay jumps of $500 to $700 for each year in the classroom, depending on length of time of service. Rewards in the range of $1000 and up will also be given for teachers holding further education degrees.
Further incentives are given for the overall performance scores of schools, as any improvements will show monetary awards for teachers.