FORT SMITH – People who live in the Fort Smith School District face the prospect of a different make-up of the school board in the wake of the 2020 census results.
Lawyer Marshall Ney, district legal counsel, told the board of directors on Monday that Arkansas law could require a school district with a minority population of 10% or more to elect members from five or seven zones. single-member or five single-member zones. and two in general.
Zena Featherston Marshall, executive director of communications and community partnerships for the district, said the school board currently has members from four zones and three general positions. The members all serve a three-year term.
Dalton Person, an extraordinary member of the school board, has expressed support for the election of the seven board seats next year, with the board consisting of five zoned positions and two general positions.
âSo we’re looking at some pretty substantial roster changes over a pretty accelerated timeline, but that’s where we’re at with the census right now,â Person said.
The school board’s decision on how to elect board members should be made at least 120 days before the 2022 annual election, Ney said.
The board of directors, with the approval of the Sebastian County Election Commission, would also divide the school district into five or seven single-member zones in accordance with the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Zone boundaries will be based on census information, and the areas themselves should have “a substantially equal population”.
The law also requires the school board to file a copy of its district division plan with the Sebastian County clerk’s office at least 90 days before the annual school election filing deadline, according to Ney. A new school board would then be elected after the rezoning.
Ney said the new members would determine the length of their respective posts “by lot” at their first meeting. This is to ensure that an equal number of positions are filled each year and that the terms of up to two members expire each year, whenever possible.
âThe translation is that if you follow the directive of this law, the slate is cleaned up,â Ney said. “Everyone runs for office, then at the first meeting after the election, everyone pulls the chaff, and you can get a five-year term, you can get a one-year term, you can get something. thing in between. And then based on that, we start to have new elections on that basis where they are staggered. “
The law allows a school board spread over five single-member zones and two general positions to fill general positions by drawing lots among its members.
Failure by a school district to follow the law could cause the state’s Elementary and Secondary Education Division to withhold 20% of the state’s annual allocation of money to the district.
Terry Morawski, district superintendent, said the district has hired Monticello-based company EFS GeoTechnologies to provide an up-to-date digital representation of its four areas, as well as the district as a whole. The district would also work with the EFS to present zoning options to the school board.
Morawski said the board is expected to authorize an arrangement by Nov. 2 before the school elections. The deadline for the electoral commission to approve the new zones and for the school district to submit the necessary materials to the county clerk’s office is December 2.
“Anyone of you and anyone in our community who might want to be a part of this election will know by December 2nd what the updated areas and the configuration and the whole plan are at the same. place, âMorawski told the board.
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Fort Smith Census
Fort Smith’s population increased 3.4% from 86,209 to 89,142 between 2010 and 2020. However, Fort Smith lost its status as the second largest city in Arkansas to Fayetteville, where the population increased to 93,949 on April 1, 2020.
Source: United States Census Bureau