All 12 members of the Omaha school board would keep their seats under a redistricting plan now before the school board.
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps has drawn new boundaries for the 12 subdistricts in the Omaha Public Schools using the latest population counts from the U.S. Census Bureau.
He said that in establishing the boundaries, he tried to avoid some of the controversies that occurred in 2001, the last time OPS's subdistricts were redrawn.
In 2001, two school board members were moved into subdistricts already represented by other board members, and two subdistricts were renumbered, sparking a lawsuit that made it to the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2002.
The court ruled the commissioner could redraw the boundaries but could not swap the numbers, which impacts when seats are up for election.
"It gets very political very quickly when you start trying to map incumbents out of their districts," Phipps said.
This year, Phipps adjusted some subdistrict lines because of population shifts that have occurred since 2000.
Under his proposal, the average size of an OPS subdistrict would be 27,905 people. Six of the 12 subdistricts have more people than that. Five of the six subdistricts with smaller populations are in north, northeast or southeast Omaha.
The largest would be in west Omaha, subdistrict 11, with 28,733 people, represented by board member Bambi Bartek.
The subdistrict, which resembles a jigsaw puzzle piece, extends from 90th and Blondo Streets west past 156th Street, and zigzags north to beyond State Street.
"We certainly try to avoid meandering as much as possible," Phipps said. "It depends on what other districts are around. Sometimes they kind of add up to little strangely shaped things."
Phipps said he tries to draw new districts as contiguous and as compact as possible.
Unlike in 2001, the school board will get the final say on the redistricting plan.
The election commissioner used to have complete say over how to redraw OPS's subdistricts. But under a state law passed soon after the 2001 controversy, the boundaries are subject to a review and adjustments by the Omaha school board.
Liz Standish, an OPS finance administrator, said the board and election commissioner will have until late November to finalize the new map.
A separate proposal also could lead to changes in OPS's voting subdistricts.
State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, who represents northwest Omaha, said last week that he plans to propose legislation trimming the size of the board from 12 members to five.
Under his proposal, board members would still be elected by subdistrict but would be limited to two four-year terms. Board members would be paid $20,000 a year. Lautenbaugh's proposal comes as concerns arise about whether the board is effectively overseeing OPS.
The boundaries would need to be redrawn again to create five election subdistricts if Lautenbaugh's proposal were to be approved by the Legislature.
If approved, the new subdistricts would take effect before the 2012 fall election.
Lautenbaugh was the election commissioner during the 2001 redistricting controversy.
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