EBR School Board meeting postponed to next week

Only five of the 11 members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board showed up for Thursday’s meeting, one short of a quorum, prompting the board to postpone for a week introducing new district maps that could shrink the board to nine or fewer members.

Board President David Tatman waited 30 minutes before canceling. He plans instead to introduce new maps at 5 p.m. June 5.

Board members Connie Bernard, Jill Dyason, Barbara Freiberg, Tatman and Evelyn Ware-Jackson were present Thursday. Of the six members absent Thursday, only Craig Freeman, who was out of town, had given an excuse in advance, Tatman said.

Dannie Garrett III, an attorney with Redistricting LLC, the firm that has handled previous remaps for the board, brought nine maps covered in white paper. Garrett said those are the likely candidates but said it’s up to board members to decide which ones, if any, are worth introducing.

A state law, dating back to 1977, requires the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board to advertise in The Advocate any new proposed School Board maps, along with a general summary, and to do so at least 20 days ahead of when it’s voted on. The law also calls for the board to make the maps available in advance for public inspection.

Tatman said Thursday’s cancellation likely means postponing the vote until mid-July.

On May 1, a deeply divided board voted 6-5 to hire Redistricting LLC to redraw School Board districts in an effort prompted by thus far unsuccessful legislative efforts to force the School Board to shrink its size.

The idea is to have new maps in place in time before qualifying in August for the Nov. 4 elections.

Proponents of shrinking the board, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, say it would make the board more efficient and save tens of thousands of dollars a year from having to pay fewer board members.

Opponents, including almost half of the School Board, say it would result in large, hard-to-represent districts and amount to a power grab by local business leaders hoping to unseat board members they disagree with.