Parish Board’s redistricting plan was best possible for our community; fair

By Reverend Harold McCoy
Member, Ouachita Parish School Board 

The Ouachita Parish School Board adopted a new redistricting plan on December 14, 2021, that would change the boundaries of board members’ districts to ensure each district represents racial minority populations. I believe the plan selected was the best possible for our community going forward.

School boards, along with other municipalities, are required to re-visit district lines after the decennial census. The last time redistricting occurred for the OPSB was approximately ten years ago. 

The process of redistricting, or redrawing district boundaries for the Ouachita Parish School Board, began last fall of 2021 after the release of the 2020 Census in August.   The 2020 Census revealed a drop in the parish’s white population from 63 percent to 60 percent. The parish’s black population rose from 35 percent to 38 percent. There are some 112,000 people who live outside the Monroe City Schools System’s districts.

“Every other parish in northeastern Louisiana, lost population,” according to Doug Mitchell of North Delta Regional Planning and Development, however, Ouachita Parish gained 6,648 people.”

During a special-called meeting on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at 5:00 P.M., the School Board entertained three different plans presented by North Delta Regional Planning and Development Corp. to re-draw board members’ districts.

The first plan would not have achieved some main objectives of redistricting in so much that it would have had several split precincts and according to the demographer, the state does not recommend that. The fewer the split precincts, the better. Additionally, plan one did not reflect the true shift in the minority population.

The second plan relocated a voter precinct from District D, between Hwy 546 and Britton Road, to District B, split two precincts between Districts G and F, and grew District E by taking in a number of homes north of Stuart Street. This plan allowed for the increase of the minority population in District F, which reflects a 50% Black majority, 43.55% White residents, and 6.4% others.

The third plan split several precincts but represented an 8.4-percent deviation. Under the third plan, District E took in precinct 48 and split precinct 31; relocated precinct 52A and half of precinct 54 from District C to District B; and lowered the white population of District D from 69 percent to 56 percent. More precincts would be split with this plan according to Mitchell.

Ultimately, I favored and supported Plan #2 because, in my opinion, it met more of the objectives that I thought suited our expectations. First, it affords the strong possibility of having another minority represented district, it reflects the shift in minority population, it addresses the problem with deviation, and it met the approval of several members of the local NAACP, educators, including some school principals, elected officials and some representatives of the church community.

The plan may not be a perfect plan but each district representative had to do a bit of give and take to achieve this plan. I am thankful and proud of the fact that this was done without causing a major fight between board members and within the community.