Overturn redistricting plan, judge urges Recommendation based on Seven Oaks switch

February 09, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A state judge is recommending that the 1995 Anne Arundel County school redistricting plan -- a document that is the basis for last year's redistricting and the basis of proposals for redrawing school attendance areas this spring -- be overturned.

Administrative Law Judge Georgia B. Powell based her recommendation on the contentious switch of the Seven Oaks community from the Arundel feeder system to Meade, which she said made no sense. A feeder system is the set of elementary and middle schools whose students are funneled to a particular senior high school.

"That's ridiculous," said Joseph H. Foster, Anne Arundel County school board president, when told of the judge's recommendation. "She failed to take into account that it was part a very large redistricting."

"We're very happy. Now we go to the state board," said Zoe Draughon, Seven Oaks activist and an unsuccessful candidate for the school board last year.

Powell's 29-page opinion, released Friday, can be accepted or rejected by the state school board, which is expected to hear oral arguments from each side in coming weeks.

A group of residents of racially diverse Seven Oaks appealed the county school board's April 1995 decision to move their children into the Meade schools, which has about 45 percent minority students. They claimed the board was trying to push them into zTC Meade because of the large percentage of minorities.

The judge, however, based her opinion on other issues.

If one of the purposes of redistricting is to alleviate crowded classrooms, sending more students into Meade's elementary and middle schools does not make sense because no Arundel feeder system elementaries use portable classrooms -- except for seven in Meade, Powell wrote. Shifting the 75 Arundel High School students who live in Seven Oaks to Meade did little for Arundel, which is 200 students over capacity and still growing, she added.

Foster said yesterday that Powell's decision does not take into ,, account that the school board "probably would redistrict the Arundel feeder system soon."

Powell found that the plan to add Seven Oaks children to Meade Heights Elementary, which was on a list of academically troubled schools, "contradicts sound educational and reasonable policy" because it shows the school needs fewer demands on its resources. Seven Oaks pupils attend Odenton Elementary.

Powell blasted the school board for changing its ground rules of redistricting Oct. 12, 1994. What made that significant is that a board-appointed committee was working on recommendations to the board for redistricting using a substantially different policy. That alone, Powell wrote, would make the board's redistricting illegal.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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