Boyertown School Board's Ad Hoc region committee seeks to equalize voting regions

The Boyertown School Board’s Ad Hoc region committee will have to reorganize their efforts to try to equalize the population of the voting regions.

Board member Donna Usavage explained the attempts that the committee has made to change the voting regions in the Boyertown School District.

In 2012, the committee looked at equalizing the regions, and also to consider the various voting models allowed by the Pennsylvania School Code.

The committee used extensive research and community input to make a recommendation which was approved by the board.

“The rebuilding recommendation was two-fold to equalize the regions by moving the most rural voting precinct of Douglas Township in Montgomery County to region 1, and to switch to a hybrid voting model retaining six regional representatives two elected from each region, and three representatives from the school district at large,” said Usavage.

According to Usavage, the recommendation is very favorable to the community because each person in the district will now have some vote in a majority of the school board members.

The recommendation then had to be petitioned to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas for approval.

“That process became a lot more complicated and costly because two people chose to intervene at this point,” said Usavage. “These people that chose to fight in court, chose to do so rather than participate in the public meetings intended to gather the public sentiment on the topic. They chose to gather signatures on a slanted petition rather than encourage people to participate in our public meetings to voice an informed opinion on the topic.”

The result in the Court of Common Pleas was denied by the judge on the grounds that the lead time to put it in place for the 2013 elections was too short, however the judge stated the request could be re-filed for implementation starting in 2015.

Community member Ruth Baker refuted Usavage’s claims during the public comment period.

Baker gave some information from her perspective, seeking to clarify some of the statements that were made.

“Number one, it was not a lack of interest in attending those committee meetings I could give you chapter and verse why I could not attend them, that is why I don’t show up at more of your meetings. Number two, in the court testimony it was stated that there was really nominal research done on the hybrid at large model in any quantitative sense I gave the boards members the tables that I had prepared which included all the population data which shows that it is a very minor percentage difference between the regions that necessitates, in your eyes as the board majority, this change,” said Baker.

“I also showed what happens in other districts who are at large that the most populous, and the most well-to-do municipalities field the majority of the board almost without exception. Also the districts of our size uniformly in Berks County do not have at large seats at all.” Baker said. “This is what Earl township did and I’d like to present this to the board members so they can see explicitly what my municipality and their supervisors feel.”

Based on Baker’s research, and her petition to intervene which was signed by over 600 registered voters, the school district did not compare, according to Baker, to even the largest of attendance at the committee meetings.

Baker continued, “There would be no idea amongst residents that that was coming down. When I did petitioning in Montgomery County there was not a single person there who knew what was going on about this, including former board members and politicians, and likewise in much of Berks County.”

The next School Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 20.