The APS board approved a redistricting plan that hews largely to the status quo, but shifts portions of several of its seven districts west to absorb growth west of the Rio Grande. West Side advocates had pushed for a plan that would move an entire board district from the Northeast Heights to the West Side. The approved plan ensures all sitting board members will continue to live in their current districts which some board members said was deliberate.
Board president Paula Maes said it was good for APS to keep the current board intact. "One of the things we have going on right now is a very harmonious board, and that is very important for this district, is that its board members get along," Maes said. "And it's not to make a district where everybody is still in their seat, but we have a board that works and we're making accomplishments. And if all the people on this board want to run again, they ought to have the opportunity to continue the work we're doing. And some of these maps caused huge shifts in that."
The maps under consideration were drafted and recommended by a committee of residents from each board district. The committee recommended two plans, one of which had majority support and was the committee's "preferred" option. That plan, the favorite of West Siders, would have moved Maes' District 5 from its current position near Sandia High to the West Side and would have divided the board mostly along the Rio Grande. Existing districts were not based on the river or other geographic boundaries. In the case of that plan, Maes would have served out her term but would have had to run against another sitting board member.
The committee's secondary recommendation, which became the template for the final boundaries, was based mainly on the status quo and on a principle of creating smaller districts in highgrowth areas to accommodate future growth. West Siders have opposed that plan, largely because they want Cibola and Volcano Vista high schools to be in the same board district, arguing they have similar voting interests. Under the previous boundaries and the new ones approved Monday, Cibola is part of District 3, which crosses the river and includes much of the North Valley. Volcano Vista is part of District 2, the only district entirely west of the river.
Kathy Korte, who represents District 2, advocated at the start of the meeting for the plan that would divide districts along the river, citing the will of the committee and of her constituents. But Korte ultimately voted for the plan that was approved, calling it a "compromise" and saying she did not have the votes to carry the plan West Siders preferred.
Korte said she also did not have much input and support from her constituents and that they should have come to meetings if they cared about the redistricting outcome. About 15 people came to a meeting on redistricting that was held at Cibola High School in the fall, and four people spoke Monday in support of the plan based on the river as a boundary. "This is a board that will be swayed when presented with a lot of public opinion and comment, and we didn't have that tonight," Korte said. "I knew I didn't have the votes, and I did what I thought was the best thing I could." Korte said her efforts were also stymied by the absence of board member Analee Maestas, who represents the South Valley and was not at the meeting. Maestas spoke briefly to the board by speakerphone at the beginning of the meeting, advocating for the Rio Grande-based plan. But she was not on the phone for the vote.
One board member said splitting the board at the river would create divisiveness. "I really would hope that Albuquerque doesn't get into an east-west debate," said board member David Robbins, who represents the East Mountains and foothills. Robbins also said a Rio Grande-based plan would give leverage to those who advocate for splitting a West Side school district off of APS.
School Board Sets District Boundaries
New representative boundaries shift west with population growth
The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education settled its boundaries for the next 10 years at its single-topic meeting Monday night. Based on the 2010 Census, eastern districts shifted their lines west to reflect the city's population growth.
A final version of the map will be posted as soon as it's available. New board districts do not affect school attendance boundaries.
The board voted from a choice of two final maps submitted by a citizen committee that has been working on drawing new boundaries for the past several months. The committee is comprised of two community members from each of the seven districts.
Board members worked to address the growing population of the West Side while balancing the size of each district. Some West Side residents asked that an entire district be added west of the Rio Grande.
The current map shows the West Side to be represented by at least parts of three districts. The newly approved map shifts District 4 south and will include a piece of the West Side south of Central Ave. District 5 also moves west, absorbing District 4 territory north of I-40.
Board members found their most difficult decision to be whether to move the neighborhoods around Cibola High School into District 2, or leave them where they are in District 3. Because it would have made District 2 too large, the board chose to keep the current arrangement.
"We got citizen input on this," Board President Paula Maes said. "Ultimately, (the board's) responsibility is to do what's best for the entire school district."
The next school board election is scheduled for February 2013, when members' terms in districts 3, 5, 6 and 7 will be up.
Read more about redistricting.