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Board proposes districting plan that would shift board seats, pits Hodgins, Busby in race

By the Thursday, May 12 meeting of the Snoqualmie Valley School Board, the district's citizens had clearly spoken on a proposed realignment of school board director districts. But the school board had not, as board President Dan Popp emphasized when his colleagues began their first public review and discussion of the proposal.

"We've not discussed it as a board, well, frankly, ever," Popp said. At the April 28 public hearing, he added, "We saw the presentation, we heard the community's feedback on that presentation, and we went on to our board meeting. We haven't had a chance to discuss it, so tonight, we're going to take the chance."

In the hour-long conversation that followed, board members critiqued the initial proposal, redrew maps, debated on past and future growth in the district, and ultimately came out with a proposal that they will present at a second public hearing, 7 pm. Wednesday, May 18. The new proposal divides the district into five population centers that parallel I-90 and the Snoqualmie River, with two districts in North Bend, one each in Snoqualmie and Fall City, and one district shared between the two.

"If we just look at the uniqueness of the communities, it makes a lot of sense to me," said board member Scott Hodgins.

However, the proposal reshapes District 4, represented by Marci Busby, to include part of District 1, represented by Hodgins. If adopted, this change would mean the two directors would have to run against each other for re-election in 2013. The two are the only board members whose terms are not expiring at the end of this year.

Popp said he liked the proposal because of its ensured representation for each city, which citizens clearly called for at the public hearing, but he disliked the impact it would have on Hodgins and Busby.

"We haven't always had an abundance of people raising their hands, wanting to run for the school board," he said. Earlier in the discussion, Popp had also emphasized that citizens in every district have had ample opportunity to run to represent their communities, but few have tried.

Another benefit of the board's proposal, board members agreed, was that the roughly vertical shapes would more easily accommodate future growth than the first proposal, developed by Sammamish Data Systems.

The initial proposal, which stretched most districts to encompass part of Snoqualmie Ridge to address that area's growth since the last census, drew heavy criticism from many citizens when it was published April 22. Board members were accused of gerrymandering and attempting to disenfranchise Snoqualmie residents. North Bend's City Council was asked to take a position on the issue, but declined. Snoqualmie's City Council urge the board to adopt a proposed "citizen's plan" ensuring representation for each city.

Several board members addressed these comments at the May 12 meeting, emphasizing that they represent the entire district, and taking offense at both the accusations and the letter from the Snoqualmie Council "telling us how to do our jobs," Hodgins said.

The board's proposed plan will be sent to Sammamish Data Systems, to determine if the proposal meets all of the state districting requirements, and to redraw the map. If possible, board members said they wanted the new proposal to be published to the district's website as soon as it was available. The board plans to review the information from Sammamish Data Systems at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at the district office, with a public hearing to immediately follow.

For more information, visit the district website: www.svsd410.org.

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