Published: Jan 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 19, 2013 05:05 PM
Due to the Monday holiday, todays issue went to press as the school board was scheduled to vote in redistricting.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools 2012-13 redistricting has captured much public attention. Recently, there were two opinion pieces published on Chapel Hill News: one by Orange Commissioner Mark Dorosin on Dec 23 and the other by the Asian American Parent Advisory Committee on Jan 13. I believe there was a mischaracterization of the redistricting process and the problems associated with it in both pieces.
Like every other member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, I support balance and proximity in school assignment. I support diversity at the new Northside Elementary School and only wish the best for it.
However, I and many others have been frustrated by the lack of an open process and meaningful community involvement during the redistricting process. In the name of efficiency, the district circumvented due process necessary to ensure fairness and quality control.
In previous redistricting, residents had open access to data and planning tools and could submit their own plans for discussion. In this redistricting, the district put together a small team at the beginning with no public input, and it was the only party that had access to redistricting data and was responsible for proposing the redistricting plans for discussion. The advisory council, public hearing, and the school board work sessions were restricted to commenting on the four existing plans. No one, including the advisory council, school site improvement teams, school board members, a third party, or the public had access to the redistricting teams aggregate data or tools used by the team or was allowed to submit their own plan for discussion.
At a time when everyone advocates more open governance and participatory democracy, CHCCS goes backward. With false arguments for privacy (aggregate data have no identifiable personal information and carry no risk to individual privacy) and efficiency, the redistricting process has underminded democratic principles, challenging the legitimacy of its outcome.
As a result, residents of segment 74A feel unfairly targeted and think that Segment 074A was chosen for redistricting despite its inconvenient location, because 65 percent of our households in Parkside/Northwood are minority households. Using published data available, residents in segment 74A developed plan 1B and plan 4AA that achieved all the three stated redistricting goals: capacity, balance, and proximity. However, we were shot down prematurely for failing to use the full data which were actively blocked by the district. The district justified its dependence on heuristic algorithm instead of scientific optimization tools by claiming their optimization tools under-performed their heuristic algorithm, while rejecting assistance from reputable optimization experts from UNC, Duke and RTP.
Efficiency should not be used as an excuse to shortcut principles that are the foundation of our democracy. The district should have encouraged public input early on while drafting its redistricting plans.
Going forward, we urge the CHCCS school district to promote open access and meaningful community input. With fast growth of student enrollment and a new district strategic plan, there will be more changes at both the district and school levels. We, as tax payers, community members, and ultimate stakeholders of our childrens education, must take an active role and demand fair and open decision making to ensure education opportunities for all children.Jing Fu lives in Chapel Hill.
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