Redistricting process sees flurry of activity - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007 11:00 pm

By Jason Ludwig Staff Writer The latest attempt to redraw the boundaries of the Kyrene, Tempe Union High and Tempe Elementary school districts has been going on since 2005, but interest in its ramifications has been heating up recently. On Tuesday, the Kyrene school board held a study session to examine the issue and decide on next steps. Next Wednesday, all three affected districts will meet for a tri-district discussion on ramifications. Meanwhile, the Parent and Community Leader Unification Commission (PCLUC), emceed by former Tempe Union board member Dick Foreman, has drawn around 50 and 40 community members to the first two of its weekly meetings on the subject. "It has been a spike in interest," Foreman said. "I think we tapped into a lot of frustration." Attendants of the last PCLUC meeting walked in thinking about the two official redistricting plans presented by the SDRC, or School District Redistricting Commission (see sidebar). They left thinking about seven, after five new and alternative plans were suggested by PCLUC attendants. "This is more of a town hall approach to a problem; more of a community approach," Foreman said. "There's a lot of skepticism out there about whether this can be done." Why the sudden interest? Voters won't be asked to vote a plan up or down until November 2008, but there are a few benchmarks that are much closer. "As you approach the deadline, it's like, 'Wake up! It's time to approach this stuff; something's going to happen,'" said Don Keuth, the only Tempe Union board member from Ahwatukee Foothills. Indeed, a major deadline is forthcoming. The SDRC sent official plans to all affected school districts in the state on April 30 and expects formal responses from those districts by July 30. An attempt by SDRC chairman Martin Shultz to have the state Legislature push the due date back to September has so far gone nowhere, and district and community members are in a hurry to give input in case the response deadline doesn't change. "Personally, I hope the Legislature extends this thing out to September," Keuth said. "I can't think of any compelling reason not to. They're not going to do anything with it over the summer; may as well let us noodle with it longer." Kyrene's study session on Tuesday elicited suspicion from board members and administrators whether unification would do anything good for Kyrene. "We (as Kyrene) can specialize in all the K-8 issues," said Rae Waters, the only Kyrene board member from Ahwatukee Foothills. "What I've found from other board members in unified districts ... is that you'd have all these high school issues to deal with because you have to get these kids graduated, that you never get down to the little ones." Kyrene had gathered to discuss results of a board member tour to various schools' site councils. One repeating theme they heard was questions from community members about why redistricting is taking place at all. "The consensus at the site councils was, 'If there aren't any good reasons to do this, why are we wasting all this time and energy?'" Ultimately the board decided to continue soliciting as many opinions as possible, including from the other two districts affected. A tri-district meeting is set for 6 p.m. June 20 at the Tempe Elementary main office, 3205 S. Rural Road. Still, many believe that unifying won't change anything, and many more have questioned the point of the efforts. "I am skeptical of any benefits to Kyrene students accruing from consolidation," said Dr. Patrick David, a Kyrene parent who has actively followed redistricting. "I believe it is important to become involved in the process at all levels to ensure that our children continue to receive the best education possible." Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com. Get involved! There are a number of ways to add your two cents to the ongoing redistricting process. • Contact your board members: Kyrene board members' e-mail addresses are listed at www.kyrene.org/gb; Tempe Union's are at www.tuhsd.k12.az.us/view.php?page=49. • Attend the Parent and Community Leader Unification Commission meetings: PCLUC meets every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the South Tempe Police Department Substation, 8201 S. Hardy Drive, Tempe. • Attend the tri-district meeting: set for June 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Tempe Elementary main office, 3205 S. Rural Road, Tempe. • Attend the next School District Redistricting Commission meeting: Thursday, June 28 at 2 p.m., Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Jefferson St., in House Hearing Room 5. • Contact the SDRC directly: visit online at www.ade.az.gov/sdrc or e-mail the SDRC's legislative liaison Art Harding at SDRC_comments@azed.gov. Official School District Redistricting Commission plans sent to school districts: Three-into-one: would combine the Kyrene, Tempe Union High and Tempe Elementary districts into a single, 44,000-student district. The ensuing district would be the third-largest school district in Arizona after Mesa Unified and Tucson Unified. Three-into-two: would dissolve the Tempe Union district and create two K-12 districts, drawn along current Kyrene and Tempe Elementary boundaries, separated at Guadalupe Road. Tempe, McClintock and Marcos de Niza high schools would be in the northern district while Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol high schools would be in the south.

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