A Latino voice speaks up in Little Rock School District | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Latino voice speaks up in Little Rock School District

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM

The Little Rock School Board has been dickering for weeks over new maps for school board zones following the census. A prime concern of some board members has been preserving existing zones as much as possible for existing board members and not putting any two members in the same zone.

A new issue has arisen on account of the growing Latino population, particularly in Southwest Little Rock. That community is interested in maximizing its influence and has objected to a map favored by a couple of incumbents.

An e-mail on the subject from Terry Trevino-Richard, who's active in the League of United Latin American Citizens, has gone to board members about the concerns. It follows. It was addressed originally to Michael Nellums and Norma Johnson, but has since been copied to all Board members.

UPDATE: The zones are likely to be approved at a special board meeting Thursday night.

Mr. Nellums and Ms. Johnson :

Please accept this email as a kindly push by the Latino community to have our voices heard by two of our admired LRSD Board Members. Over the last two weeks there have been several meetings of Latino parents with children in the LRSD to discuss the proposed mapping process presently being debated. Our community is concerned that the present redrawing of district zones for the LRSD Board members will have the effect of marginalizing the ability of Latinos to have their voices heard via elections for the school board. The growth of the Latino population both in students and parents continues to be the most dynamic element occurring in the LRSD and this is particularly evident in zones 6 and 7.

Our community asks you to please vote for Map 5 which does the least harm in diluting the ability of Latinos to have some leverage on school district board members. Two weeks ago an email was forwarded to point out what could be perceived as flaws in map 6 designed by Diane Curry and Charles Armstrong. Over the weekend I had a very productive meeting with Ms. Curry and I feel certain that the intent of the Curry/Armstrong map was to broach important factors which would ensure that the new zones would be both legal and not dramatically alter the board members voter connections. However as is often the case – not all variables were included in the remapping and as some issues are resolved – others emerged.

In this case as a representative of the Latino community – the Curry/Armstrong map was viewed as creating a problem in redistributing the Latino population in a way that minimized their impact on electing or at least influencing board member elections. This concern was voiced to Ms. Curry and an additional email was forwarded to Mr. Armstrong to let him know that although our community felt no overt discrimination from their rezoning effort we wanted to share the reasons why we opposed that map. This was primarily because of the significant lowering of the Latino population with Map 6 (Curry/Armstrong )– our preference is for map 5. The proposed map 5 would provide the best opportunity for Latino parents/voters to have an impact on board elections.

Please note that the preference of the League of United Latin American Citizens as regards zone boundaries was a new “out of the box” appeal to think in terms of drawing a new map which would rezone zones 6 and 7 in a way to increase one of those zones to contain at least a 30% Latino component in one zone. We hope that all of the board members will consider this at the next rezoning discussions.

As I had mentioned in the email that was sent two weeks ago, what is disturbing about the new rezoning maps is that for decades – African Americans were gerrymandered into districts that diluted their ability to have their voices heard. We have lived through a civil rights movement in which Blacks struggled mightily to overcome the unjust boundaries imposed by an entrenched White community. Mr. Nellums and Ms. Johnson - we call on you to heed the call of another minority in need of a voice. We need your help as LRSD Board Members to demonstrate that this struggle for justice was not waged to create new perks for African Americans only but for a cause that impacts ALL persons in our society, our state and our school district - the basic right that all groups can be fairly represented. Although we do not perceive Map 5 as the best map to give greater weight to Latinos – the Latinos in the LRSD do see this as the best alternative. Please help us in our struggle to be heard. We remain “a sus ordenes”.

Dr. Terry Trevino-Richard

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