Board adopts map

Published 12:53 am Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Beaufort County Board of Education voted 5-4 Tuesday night to adopt a redistricting plan that could determine the shape of school-board districts for the next 10 years.

The vote followed a Monday-night public hearing on redistricting that reportedly attracted three speakers to the Washington High School Performing Arts Center.

The map signed off on by a majority of the board will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for “preclearance,” or approval for use in the 2012 election, provided the document meets the department’s requirements.

Preclearance is required under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the signature legislation arising out of the civil-rights movement.

Forty North Carolina counties are covered by Section 5 of the act with the intention of preventing “retrogression,” or a retreat from giving minority voters a reasonable chance of electing candidates of their choice, local election officials have explained.

Tuesday’s vote came after a motion to accept redistricting Alternative 1, one of two options placed on the table by the Tharrington Smith law firm of Raleigh.

Working through Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps, the board engaged the firm to craft redistricting blueprints for public consideration.

Board member Teressa Banks made the motion in favor of Alternative 1, and her motion received a second from board member Terry Williams.

After the results of a voice vote seemed unclear, board Chairman F. Mac Hodges asked for a show of hands.

Upon his request, board members Banks, Williams, Mike Isbell and Cindy Winstead raised their hands in the affirmative. (At the start of the session, Winstead had requested that redistricting be placed on the agenda.)

Board member Robert Belcher joined the board’s three minority members, Barbara Boyd-Williams, E.C. Peed and Eltha Booth, in raising his hand to signify their votes against adopting Alternative 1.

At that point, Hodges let it be known he was voting for adoption of the map.

“We’re going to try it and see where it goes,” he said.

Unlike some elected officials, among them area mayors, the school-board chairman is empowered to vote on every issue that comes before the board, and doesn’t vote only in case of a tie.

Boyd-Williams expressed reservations about the two plans on the table, saying, “I think a better job could be done.”

She expressed her disapproval of the shapes of Districts 1 and 3.

Represented by Booth, District 1 will retain its majority-minority population under Alternative 1.

District 3 is Boyd-Williams’ district, and this district will not have a majority-minority population under the plan.

She offered no specifics as to how the plans could be adjusted.

“It needs to be worked on,” she said. “That’s the best I can say.”

Two of the board’s nine districts — Williams’ and Peed’s — have lost minority residents because of shifts in population, and experts have let it be known there would be difficulty in crafting districts that retained majority-minority populations.

To see the districts as envisioned by the board, visit or stop by Beaufort County Schools’ administrative offices, located at 321 Smaw Road, Washington, during regular business hours.