August 7, 2006
Since early this spring, the School Board Task Force has studied the effect a ward-based voting system would have on the City of Charlottesville and it's school board elections. Monday night they brought two recommendation to city council.
"Everybody who has kids in school wants to have somebody that they know they can call up and complain to," said Lloyd Snook, the Chair of the School Board Task Force.
To the ask force that means having someone local, from your neighborhood, on the city school board.
Both recommendations divide the city into four areas.
The first is a ward-based system, in which residents would vote for one person from their ward, and for three other candidates at-large.
The second is called the Residential District Model. In it, voters still vote for three at-large candidates, but also for four more candidates that must be from specific areas of the city.
Both promote geographic diversity.
Karen Waters, one of the Task Force members, said she went into the study with an open mind. She says both plans have strong points.
"The beauty of the residential district model though, over the ward-based model is that it gives an opportunity for everyone to vote for each candidate," said Waters.
With only one school board election in the books, some in the community say it's too early to make any changes at all.
The task force also realizes that fast growth in certain areas of town must also be factored in. In places like 5th Street Extended, there will be significantly more residents, once developments are complete.
"I think there is going to be a need to be able to accommodate a lot of those tax-payers, and to allow them a greater voice in the school board elections," said Waters.
Above all else, the task force wants city council to at least acknowledge the information they've compiled, and to look closely at the recommendations.
"If you want to say affirmatively, 'We're taking no action because we've read the report and we want to wait and see,' that's at least taking some action," said Snook.
The issue is not one that is going to be decided on or changed over night. Monday night task force members said their recommendations are meant to be put in place over the coming years.
Both city council and the task force want public input on the recommendations. They said look for public forums in the coming weeks, and the topic will also come up again at future city council meetings.