Othello school director redesign goes to ballot

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OTHELLO — Othello School District voters will be asked to accept or reject a proposal to change the director districts on the Othello School Board at a special election in February.

If the change is approved, the district would go from four board members representing director districts and one at-large to three director districts and one at-large. An at-large board member can live anywhere in the school district, while the at-large board members can live anywhere in the district.

Board members voted 5-0 to submit the proposal to voters. The discussion came at the request of board member Tony Ashton.

Ashton said the board had discussed the change last year, but decided not to do anything until after the school board election. State law requires director districts so that board is not dominated by one area of town, he said. But that’s not a problem in Othello. “We have had issues over the years getting enough people to run for positions,” he said.

School board elections are scheduled for 2019, when the seats currently held by Rob Simmons and Mike Garza will be up for election. In addition, “there’s a rumor going around I may move out of the area, and if I do, my position will come open as well.”

But whether he moves or not, Ashton said, it seemed like a good time to think about making some changes. Redistricting now means the changes will be in place before the next school board election.

Board member Jenn Simmons said she liked the idea of the change, but didn’t want the two at-large seats to be on the ballot at the same time.

“I like the thought of another at-large spot on this board too,” said board member Ken Johnson. “It just took me off-guard when it went from discussion to potential resolution.” The board hasn’t really had a chance to review the proposed director district boundary changes, he said.

Ashton said he forgot about it until a couple of weeks ago, and asked that it be added to the agenda. Simmons said the board had to approve the resolution by Dec. 14 to be qualify for the February election, which was the reason for the possible vote.

Maps of the proposed director districts will be available before the election.

In other business, Simmons reported that the committee tasked with reviewing facility needs in the district will make its recommendation at the next board meeting. Because of the Christmas holidays, the board meeting has been rescheduled to Dec. 19. The time has been rescheduled too, to noon in the boardroom in the district office, 1025 South First Ave.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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