No-one filed for office in the Blevins Public School District election, but other school elections in Hempstead County drew at least one contested race each at the close of the filing period this week.
Filings in the Hempstead County Clerk's office show three contested races in the revamp of the Hope School Board and one contested race in the Spring Hill School District.
The Hope district is filling positions for the entire board in September under a new districting plan approved in May by a federal judge, stemming from the federal mandate for redistricting after the 2010 U. S. Census.
Filings in Hope include: Zone 1 – Viney Johnson, incumbent, and Janice Milus; Zone 2 – Mildred Green, incumbent; Zone 3 – Willie Buck, Jr., incumbent; Zone 4 – Joe Short, incumbent; Zone 5 – Danny Watson, incumbent, and Val R. Knight; Zone 6 – Denny Dickinson, incumbent, and Larry D. Johnson; and Zone 7 – Jesus Coronado, incumbent.
Johnson currently represents Zone 1; but, Milus now lives in the same district, under the plan. Johnson voted against the plan, but Milus did not.
U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey, of Texarkana, issued a consent order May 3 which stems from the agreement between the Hope district and Little Rock attorney John Walker, as they relate to a 1989 federal court order which established the current eight-member school board system used by the district.
Hickey approved the Hope plan to reduce the board to a seven member board elected from single member districts with the specific election zones identified as Option 4 in the plan submitted to the court.
She said terms of service for board members will not exceed three years in each term, except for members elected in September, 2013, who will draw for terms of one, two or three years.
However, the district remains under federal court supervision relating to its original desegregation order.
With a total population of 15,849 residents, and a 48 percent minority population, the Hope district breaks down to an average population of 2,264 residents each across seven school board zone; that is the ideal number per district.
The redistricting plan which the Hope board adopted has a deviation margin from ideal between -2.39 percent and +4.54 percent, where the requirement in state law is no more than 10 percent in either direction, according to School Board President Joe Short, an attorney.
The Option 4 plan adopted by the board in 2012, and agreed upon by the district and Walker, varies from ideal by -8.74 percent to +5.23 percent, within the 10 percent variation allowed by law.
Under the plan adopted by the board, Districts 1, 3, and 7 have majority ethnic populations, with District 1 at 2,278 total population, 47.28 percent black and 82 percent ethnic minority population, with a voting population that is 50.76 percent black and 78 percent ethnic minority population.
District 3 has a total population of 2,256 residents, with 48.76 percent black and 74 percent ethnic minority population, and a voting population that is 48.77 percent black and 71 percent ethnic minority population.
Page 2 of 2 - District 7 has a total population of 2,367 resident, with 46.39 percent black and 55 percent ethnic minority population, and a voting population that is 42.87 percent black and 51 percent ethnic minority population.
The Blevins district undertook its board re-alignment last year, according to Superintendent Billy Lee. But, it did so with one board position filled by appointment, which has been the case for some 10 years, now, Lee said.
“That position is the Emmet district,” Lee said. “Nobody has run for that position for 10 years.”
He said Mike Parker continues to serve in the Zone 2 seat as an appointed board member, and will be reappointed after the September election this year because the district cannot legally leave a board position vacant. However, Parker does not live within Zone 2, Lee explained; but, he is the only person willing to serve on the board to represent the zone.
Lee said the problem stems from a long-standing animosity by Emmet residents who saw their schools consolidated with Blevins under a state mandate during the tenure of Governor Mike Huckabee.
“They won't talk to you about it; they want no part of it,” he said. “We have tried to talk to people to get them to run, and they will not.”
Lee said that the original board member from Zone 2 resigned the day after the consolidation took place.
He said the other board member from Emmet has continued to seek re-election and serve, but will likely retire once his children are no longer in school.
“He has been a long-standing, good board member,” Lee said.
In the Spring Hill School District, Jerry Rodgers, incumbent, and Mary Plant filed for Position 1; Eric Fisher filed for Position 3; and Joey Anderson filed for Position 4.