The proposed redistricting plan for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board would shift the boundaries of all nine board members’ districts but maintain roughly the same balance of representation for each school district, board members said.
The plan, developed by Dannie P. Garrett III of Redistricting LLC, is scheduled for amendment and/or adoption by the School Board on Tuesday.
Garrett said the plan seeks to bring each district back within 5 percent of its ideal population of 13,455, or one-ninth of the parish’s total population of 121,097.
According to the 2010 Census, Districts A and H each deviate from the ideal population by about 15 percent, Garrett said.
The draft plan also would maintain two minority-majority districts, where the majority of the district’s population is composed of residents of a racial minority, he said.
“One of our goals was to make sure the individual school districts also maintained a certain level of representation,” board member Brett Duncan said. “I certainly didn’t want to see just one board member representing, for example, Loranger or Independence or Amite, which could have easily happened, had we not made a concerted effort to prevent it.”
“I think we all worked together and everybody came up with a reasonable way to shift the lines a little so it affects everyone as minimally as possible,” board member Rose Dominguez said.
“Everybody had to give up something, and everybody had to gain something,” board member Al Link said. “And I think the individual that put the plan together really listened to us all and drafted a plan that gave everybody an area where they are strong.”
Many of the biggest changes occur in the southern end of the parish, where the population has grown significantly since the 2000 Census.
Dominguez’s District I will lose parts of Ponchatoula in the southwest, north of Methvin Drive between U.S. 51 Business and the Canadian National Railway line, and northeast from Interstate 12 south to Sisters Road and as far west as Yokum Road.
In return, Dominguez will pick up an area south of Robert between I-12 and La. 22, from the Tangipahoa River to the St. Tammany Parish line.
“We felt it was a good idea to have someone more centrally located to where the people are,” Dominguez said of her prospective gains in that area, which are currently part of Sandra Bailey Simmons’ District H. “And some of the precincts in downtown Ponchatoula are shifting to the westside representative (Chris Cohea’s District F), who currently has no one living in the city limits in her district.”
Simmons said she was not happy about losing the south Robert area, but with a district population nearly 2,000 in excess of the ideal, she had to lose constituents somewhere.
“The people of Robert have been very strong supporters and stood behind me through thick and thin, and I’m sad to lose even one of them,” she said. “But it was either that or I would have had to lose some at both ends – Loranger and down there – and I didn’t want to be chopped to pieces.”
Link’s District D will also see significant changes under the proposed plan, losing the Abene Road area northwest of Tickfaw and an area west of Hammond while picking up a strip of land along the Livingston Parish line between U.S. 190 and La. 22.
“Down south of the interstate doesn’t particularly excite me because it puts my district into Ponchatoula,” he said. “I think you always would like to sit down and draw your own district and try to make your strongpoint areas, but everybody had to move south because that’s where the population increased.”
Hammond-area representatives Duncan (District E) and Eric Dangerfield (District G) will swap some city precincts, exchanging some of Dangerfield’s southeastern city blocks for part of Duncan’s northeastern area between North Cherry Street and Morris Road.
Both said they have no real objections to the proposed plan, though Dangerfield noted he is still speaking with his constituents to gauge their reactions.
“If they’re happy with it, I’m happy with it,” he said.
On the north end, Ann Smith’s District A will swap an area in the northwest corner of the parish for some of District B’s downtown Kentwood blocks, currently represented by Gail Pittman-McDaniel.
Smith would also pick up the rest of Roseland and a large swath southwest of Amite as far south as La. 40, while McDaniel would gain part of the northeast quadrant of Amite. Each of those areas is currently represented by District C’s Andy Anderson.
Anderson, meanwhile, would maintain most of Independence and gain Duncan’s Tickfaw precinct and part of Natalbany, west of U.S. 51 between La. 1064 and La. 442.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the board room of the Tangipahoa Parish School System Central Office, 59656 Puleston Road, Amite.