Editorial: Now in crunch time, redistricting committee shouldn’t settle for ‘conceptual’ ideas

If the committee tasked with presenting the Carroll County Public Schools’ Board of Education with recommendations and options for redistricting and school closures comes to the board in September with only “conceptual” options, as the paid facilitator of the group suggested at the end of its most recent meeting, then there is no other way to describe the effort than an abject failure.

When the Board of Education opted for a Redistricting and School Closure Committee made up of a combination of school system staff and community members, then gave the group an unrealistic timeline, and very broad parameters to work within, it was set up to fail.


However, just a few weeks ago, it seemed the RSCC was exceeding expectations and making real progress with some ideas to put toward the school board as it related to closures of aging buildings. This week, the group was to spend its time discussing comprehensive redistricting, something that hasn’t been done — nay, has been avoided — by Carroll County Public Schools for decades.

However, at the end of the meeting, paid facilitator David Lever said any recommendations beyond conceptual ones is an “unrealistic” expectation. The RSCC is supposed to present its recommendations to the Board of Education at its September meeting. “It can’t possibly be done in this time,” Lever said.

To leave Thursday’s meeting on that note, without consideration given to the possibility of increasing the frequency of meetings (we’ve long questioned who thought meeting twice a month and taking a month-long break in the process would be a reasonable amount of time to accomplish what was being asked of this group), or clearly identifying the intensity of the work that must take place over the next two months, indicates that this group may not have the will necessary to tackle the problems in front of it.

“Conceptually,” anyone who has been remotely paying attention to the process has known since the beginning that addressing aging schools in Westminster and balancing enrollment systemwide should have been this group’s top priorities, even if the Board of Education didn’t explicitly give the RSCC those directions (another example of it being set up for failure).

It is a bit troubling that it is the members of the committee who are school system staff that aren’t clear on what problems comprehensive redistricting is trying to solve. If efficiencies are to be found, it is likely through redistricting at the elementary, middle and high school levels to balance enrollments as much as possible, clean up feeder patterns and, if it allows, closing schools as a result of the redistricting. Those efficiencies cannot be revealed, though, until someone starts toying with the map to see what redistricting efforts might make sense. To dismiss it without first examining the possibilities is both foolish and lazy.

The RSCC shouldn’t settle for conceptual plans. It should make every effort to ramp up the intensity of its meetings and start crunching numbers and playing with districting maps to present real solutions to the BOE in September that include plans for comprehensive redistricting, closures to avoid capital expenditures and potentially grade reconfigurations.

Anything less than that sort of effort would mean that the RSCC has wasted a lot of people’s time over the past few months to get absolutely nowhere. We’re confident they can do better, if the RSCC’s members are willing to make the commitment of time and energy to do so.