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District voting for Fayette BoE is a done deal: judge approves settlement

It’s official: A federal judge’s signature Friday has made district voting for all posts on the Fayette County Board of Education the law of the land.

The consent decree proposal to settle the 2011 federal lawsuit filed by the Fayette County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People against the Fayette County Board of Education to institute district voting has been signed by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr.

The judge’s Feb. 24 order followed a 3-2 vote by the school board on Jan. 9 to settle the suit and agree to district voting, which will replace at-large voting for all posts.

Left hanging is the same NAACP lawsuit against the Fayette County Commission. The county recently filed a map consisting of five districts, all with at-large voting.

The judge’s approval means that four of the five members of the school board will face voters this year, including Post 5, now held by appointee Leonard Presberg.

As ordered by Judge Batten, the consent decree states that, “The parties have agreed upon a single-member redistricting plan that provides an equal opportunity for Blacks to elected candidates of their choice to the Board of Education in District 5, in which Blacks comprise 48.68 percent of the total population and 46.2 percent of the voting age population.”  

The decree also states that, “Each member of the Board of Education shall be elected by a majority of the votes cast by qualified electors residing within the boundaries of each respective single-member education district.”

Another facet of the decree notes that candidates for election to the school board must have resided in the district at least 12 months prior to the election date.

A further condition in the consent decree states that newly appointed District 5 board member Leonard Presberg will be up for election in November.

Three other members’ terms are up this year: Janet Smola, Terri Smith and Marion Key. Candidates for those posts must run in the Democratic or Republican primaries this summer. But only voters residing in the same districts as the candidates may vote for them.

The decree also requires that the Fayette County Board of Education, as defendants, must pay the defendant’s attorney costs and expenses amounting to $5,000. Both parties in the case agreed to avoid further litigation and settle out of court.

The consent decree order will next be forwarded to the federal Department of Justice for consideration.

The 3-2 vote at the Jan. 9 school board meeting came with board members Leonard Presberg, Terri Smith and Janet Smola in favor of the motion and board members Marion Key and Bob Todd opposed.

If approved by the Dept. of Justice, board members Smith, Key, Smola and Presberg will be up for re-election later this year. The District 5 seat will essentially be a special election that will have the winner seated until the November 2014 election.

Presberg was selected by the school board by unanimous vote in late 2011 to fill the unexpired term of the late Sam Tolbert.



ginga1414's picture

Former BOE Chairman Terri Smith will answer the public's questions Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 7:00 PM, at Whitewater Creek Neighborhood Club House, Birkdale Dr. in Fayetteville.

The meeting is sponsored by the Fayette County Issues Tea Party and will be a great opportunity for everyone and especially parents of Fayette County students to have their questions answered concerning all issues connected to the Board of Education.

Some of those issues include:

Decisions to build, retain, and use Rivers Elementary School
Ms. Smith's support for Mr. Presberg as BOE Chairman
Expected impacts of charter school legislation
Is the Fayette school system still being impacted by the infiltration of out of county students?
How district voting will dilute the individual's representation on our BOE

SPQR's picture

Great. now we can have a bunch of fiefdom warlords that don't give a cr*p about the county as a whole.

Woody's picture

The NAACP must want to see how much they can make the Fayette County schools like those in Clayton County.

Look, it is clear that the boards here in the FC are controlled by three people--Horgan, Hearn, and Frady currently in case of the Board of Commissioners! It will be the same for the Board of Education no how the members are elected, district or otherwise. Whatever you think of the BOC triumvirate, that planned community out on the evil WFB IS in the best interest of the FC, sneaky though they went about pushing it through! I feel it will be the same for the BOC!

Newsboy's picture

How does the fact that a board member is elected by voters in one district negate them from showing care and concern and making sound judgments for the benefit of the whole county -- just like 99 percent of the other school boards in this state?

ginga1414's picture

The fact that a board member is elected by voters in one district doesn't negate them from showing care and concern and making sound judgements for the benefit of the whole county.

Considering human nature, however, wouldn't you think that a board member would naturally want to please the folks in his district and thereby cater to their wants in order to secure his position when election time comes around again?

Personally speaking, I can see as how it might further divide a board more than a continual 3-2 vote. If this were a perfect world and/or all our elected officials were held accountable these problems wouldn't exist.

explain the three Amigos on the BoC then? They care not what anyone wants and proceed as they think best for the county! The WFB and planned development over your way was not good for you and yours I admit, but from a county-wide perspective it makes more sense than a bunch of scattered sub-divisions! Can you please catch Steve Brown and chain him to a tree over there so he can make good on his promise to stop the WFB!

ginga1414's picture

One of the three BOC Amigos (Frady) is an experienced long term politician with the ability to influence less experienced newcomers to the board.

Another member is well grounded as a local government employee (Hearn) and is well connected. i.e. Hearn's familial connection to the WFB, West Fayetteville Hamlets, and the Fayetteville Downtown Development Authority.

We have to remember that Frady is a career real estate man who is tied to the developers and that aspect of the WFB. The longer someone is in office the more connections they have. Would you really expect someone to take the pittance public officials are paid if there weren't other benefits to make the job worth their while?

If any other member of the general public were stopped by the police as Horgan was, tried to influence a police officer to overlook his discretion of illegal drug use and possession, and found in violation of probation, they would have been fired. Do you think that just maybe Horgan might possibly find himself in a position where he is beholding to some of the other commissioners?

Ninja, our local government is a very tangled web! I can't ignore the fact that politicians and developers are profiting at the expense of taxpayers. However, I am sure that with this year's local elections information will be revealed that voters won't be able to ignore.

mudcat's picture

Not only do we have 4 school board seats up for election, we have the appointed chairman who is tainted because of his free-thinker buddies, we have Smith and Smola who will go down because of their liberalism, we have a huge budget deficit which can only be corrected if closing some schools is on the table and last but certainly not least, we have district voting for the very first time.

Can it be any more clear what's going to happen? District candidates will run against the incumbents who built too many new schools and spent too much of our money and they will campaign on a promise not to close any schools in our district! But I guess closing schools in someone else's district will be ok? Well great, can't wait to see how that works out without the taxpayers taking it on the chin.

You're assuming we will have some competent folks step forward to run against the incumbents--we can only hope!

mudcat's picture

The purpose of the NAACP lawsuit was the exact opposite of competence, it was injecting a racial element into the process in order to "level the playing field" so that less-qualified candidates were given an artificial advantage. I daresay that there will be persons of color who will feel (correctly) that in this election the color of their skin matters much more than the content of their character or competence. That in and of itself will make things interesting and entertaining.

True, competent candidates would be a nice bonus, but don't count on it. This election is one where marginal candidates who would not be accepted by the entire county can pander to minority groups and feed upon the anti-incumbent frenzy and eventually get elected by a handful of votes in a voting district of only 3 or 4,000 registered voters.

And then of course these same people will preside over the very serious business of closing schools and reducing the teaching workforce. Wonder if they will bring any prejudice of any kind to the process?

Mike King's picture

Very well stated, and you seem to have encapsulated exactly what it is that has wrought decay to our eastern and northern neighboring counties. We are sure to witness a "me first" mentality from those are elected that will ultimately drive the quality of public education to match that of our neighbors.

I would have much preferred three districts plus two that are at large with each being answerable to all of Fayette County, and not just to the folks of their district.

The answer to your question: Most certainly!

Robert W. Morgan's picture

David's Mom will have a lot to say about mudcat's diatribe and your endorsement. And course you are both 100% correct but that won't matter to the Citizen's favorite seeker of the truth, will it?

Live free or die!

I don't think the purpose of the NAACP lawsuit was to elect incompetent representatives. Do you really believe that was the end game? Maybe it is just to be sure someone lives in the district that represents the district. I mean why have districts at all? I bet ATL would love it if there were no congressional districts and congressmen were elected at large. Ya'll act like Fayette county (& Clayton) are the only counties to have district voting for BOE & county commission. Maybe you'd like it better to go back to the time where some county commish's just had 1 member elected member, the chairman. Let's go further and just adopt the teabaggar position and return to senators being elected by the state legislature like in days of ol'.

The way it will work under district voting, just as it works now, is that three will gang up on the other two and do want they want! The problem with Clayton, among many, many other things, is that they have about 9 or 11 school board members, if I am not mistaken! Takes too much time and effort and shooting, shouting, and other such stuff for six to gang up on five! Three ganging up on two is short and sweet and to the point! Have faith! The end is NOT nigh!

What makes you think Smith & Smola will lose this time? Haven't lost yet...Dave Houston was a great candidate last time - didn't happen. The school closing will not happen in this county. This area can't handle it.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

The problem being Smith and Smola. As to your question about why have they not yet lost? Well now, that would be no district voting. When you are elected county-wide your foibles are forgiven or perhaps ignorned. Also, the good old boy network could kick in and get votes from parts of the county that do not know the candidates. Remember the drug dealer in Brooks or somewhere who got some dummies put on county commission? I do.

Digress, I did again, Sorry. Smith and Smola built schools we don't need and will be beaten because of that. Of course, the real question is who will actually run against them. And who will win. Better people or worse.

Smola and her district is not a problem - she's out. Presberg is out as well. Smith is in that rural redneck area and she needs a semi-strong competitor. I'm guessing Rex Green or even Steve Black (who must really be bored with his so-called retirement) would be worthy opponents for Ms. Smith. Jeff Betsill also lives in that district and he would be a good one.

Live free or die!

ginga1414's picture

You have some very perceptive comments here. Thanks so much for sharing.

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