The Richmond County school board accepted a compromise on district lines Tuesday that the Augusta Commission rejected last week.
The board voted 7-3 – with Jimmy Atkins, Helen Minchew and Jack Padgett Jr. opposed – to endorse the plan that adjusts district lines for school board and Augusta Commission members based on 2010 census data.
Several board members had some sharp comments before the vote.
Jack Padgett said at the last meeting of the ad hoc committee – composed of four members each of the commission, school board and legislative delegation – the compromise plan known as “3R” was hashed out after more than three hours of negotiation. Even though he was part of the unanimous vote supporting it, he criticized the plan Tuesday in part for drawing District 2 from downtown “almost to Burke County.”
“Some of the configurations don’t make a lot of sense geographically,” he said. “I hope this might be kicked up to people with wiser minds to make a wiser decision.”
Barnes, who was on the committee with board members Frank Dolan, Venus Cain and Padgett, started his response by saying, “I hate to do what I’m gonna do right now.” He took issue with Padgett’s characterization of the compromise. The committee, Barnes said, voted on two plans, Plans 2 and 3, and each received five votes for and against, with Barnes and Cain abstaining to leave both votes at a tie.
“Mr. Padgett is not being honest,” Barnes said. “I’m through.”
Minchew said her issue with the committee’s plan is that while it reunites the Sandridge neighborhood, which currently is split between districts, several others that are united now get split, including a couple of neighborhoods in her district.
Cain, the board vice president, agreed with Barnes, adding that it was Commissioner Jerry Brigham who came up with the numbers the plan uses for District 6, represented by Padgett and Commissioner Joe Jackson. As drawn in the redistricting plan, the district’s population is 60.6 percent black, the lowest percentage of the five majority-black districts, not counting Super Districts 9 and 10.
“He worked out the numbers,” Cain said of Brigham. “He asked us to agree. We bent a little more. We met Commissioner Brigham where he wanted to be. Then he gets to the commission and hollers foul play.”
Board President Alex Howard said he was “proud” of Cain’s and Barnes’ actions on the committee, and credited Padgett and Dolan with helping craft the compromise plan that was approved.