County Judge Susan Devlin Scott upheld the Pennsbury School Board's approved plan for the realignment of election districts on Tuesday.
The judge ruled to uphold a current three-region board. Three elected officials from each of the regions sit on the school board of nine.
Concerned Residents of Pennsbury (CROP) said the district would be better served if broken into nine regions. The group, founded by a former Pennsbury music teacher, wanted the regions to be realigned, which would likely force some current board members out.
“A three-region plan is better equipped to absorb shifts in population, which ensures stability in the future,” the judge wrote in her ruling. She added that the board-approved plan “best meets the needs of the District.
“The Board's ‘Administration 2’ plan preserves the district's three regions, equalizes the population among the three regions, and does not impact any existing seated board member,” board solicitor Jeff Sultanik said. “On the other hand, CROP's nine-region plan represents a dramatic departure over what has been in place over the past 50 years in the district, and, as we know, was specifically designed to target board members who are ideologically different from the individuals behind the CROP petition.”
School Board President Allan Weisel said he was happy with the outcome and thanked administrators “for their extensive work in putting together the proposed reapportionment plan.”
The court battled started when the district approved the three-region plan in June, officials said.
Below is the text of the board resolution, which was approved June 14, 2012:
WHEREAS, on April 12, 2012, the Board of School Directors of the Pennsbury School District (herein “Board”) approved and formed a three-person ad hoc committee, with one Board Member acting as Chairperson;
WHEREAS, the three-person ad hoc committee known as the Board Realignment Committee was composed of Board President, Allan Weisel (representing Region 3) and two appointed school directors, namely, Board Vice President, Simon Campbell (representing Region 1), and Board Member Gary Sanderson (representing Region 2);
WHEREAS, the Board Realignment Committee was charged with the responsibility of examining the population of each one of the Pennsbury School District‟s (herein “District”) three established regions using the most up-to-date data from the 2010 census, as well as any other data available from the constituent municipalities of the District and/or the Bucks County Board of Elections;
WHEREAS, the Board Realignment Committee received an opinion from the District Solicitor that due to the substantial disparity in the regions, the District‟s current regional election plan was both unconstitutional, as well as violative of the Public School Code of 1949;
WHEREAS, there are three possible election plans for the District to consider: at-large, regional, or a combination of at-large and regional;
WHEREAS, in the event that the District seeks to prepare either a new regional plan or combination plan, the District would have to adjust the current election boundaries;
WHEREAS, using the breakdown of the regions by precincts, the District needs to restructure the election districts to form boundaries for the regions so that the population of each region is as nearly equal as possible;
WHEREAS, in accordance with the Public School Code of 1949 and the Pennsylvania Constitution, the District must develop a redistricting plan that is in accordance with statutory law;
WHEREAS, the District has the adoption of choosing from one of three formats prescribed by law, each of which requires the election or appointment of nine Board Members: At-large – All nine Board Members are elected District-wide. Regional – The District would be divided into three or nine districts, with the population being as nearly equal as possible in each district. Elected members must reside in the district they represent. Combination – Again, the District is divided into three regions, with either three or six of the members elected at-large;
WHEREAS, on May 30, 2012, after a specially advertised public meeting of the Board Realignment Committee and after an administrative recommendation and public input, the Board considered the following: A recommendation for change was necessary to address the obvious population diversity/disparity among the currently structured regions. Current three regions and three representatives for regional election plan, with the population as nearly equal as possible in each region, was the preferred alignment selection by the unanimous consent of the Committee Members. Administration Option No. 2 was selected as the option to recommend to the full member School Board. Administrative Option No. 2 includes the redistricting of Precincts S-1 and S-4 from Region 1 to Region 3 and Precinct 1-5 from Region 3 to Region 2, thus resulting in an option that is the most equitable allocation of District residents.
The Board Realignment Committee reviewed the relevant information and concluded the following:
- A recommendation for change to the current District boundaries of its regions would be necessary to in order to address the apparent population disparity among the currently structured regions.
- Current three region structure and three representatives per region election plan that has been in place for the past 47 years, with the population being as nearly equal as possible in each region, was the preferred alignment selection by unanimous vote of the Committee Members.
- Administration Option No. 2 was selected as the option to recommend to the full nine member School Board.
WHEREAS, Administration Option No. 2 includes the redistricting of Precincts S-1 and S-4 from Region 1 to Region 3 and Precinct 1-5 from Region 3 to Region 2. This redistricting option resulted in the most equitable allocation of District population.
NOW, THEREFORE, the Board of School Directors of the District hereby resolves as follows:
1. The Board of School Directors hereby accepts the recommendation of the Board Realignment Committee as follows:
a. A recommendation for changes from the current reorganization plan was deemed to be required to address the obvious population diversity among the current structured regions.
b. Current three regions and three representatives per region election plan that has been in place for the past 47 years with the population being as nearly as equal as possible in each region was the preferred alignment selection by unanimous consent of the Committee Members.
c. Administration Option No. 2 was selected as the option to recommend to the full nine member School Board. Administration Option No. 2 includes the redistricting of Precincts S1- and S-4 from Region 1 to Region 3 and Precinct 1-5 from Region 1 to Region 2. The redistricting option resulted in the most equitable division of District expense.
2. The Board hereby adopts the recommendation made by the Board Realignment Committee.
3. The Board hereby authorizes its Solicitor, Fox Rothschild LLP, to prepare and file a Petition with the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County consistent with the recommendation of the Board Realignment Committee.
4. The Board hereby authorizes its Solicitor, Fox Rothschild LLP, to prepare a Petition that conforms with the requirements of Section 3-303 of the Public School Code of 1949 and file the Petition with the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County consistent with the ad hoc committee‟s recommendation.
5. Fox Rothschild LLP will also be authorized to defend against any alternate petitions that are filed with the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County.
6. Fox Rothschild LLP is further authorized to not only prepare and file the Petition but also attend any hearing or hearings or defend against any other petitions that may be filed by any citizens‟ group in conjunction with the District‟s ad hoc committee recommendation.
7. Fox Rothschild LLP and the District Administration are hereby authorized to take any and all necessary actions to fulfill the intent of this Resolution.