by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
UNION COUNTY, N.C. - The Union County School Board passed a surprising and controversial vote to redistrict the schools Tuesday night, and parents are preparing to fight back.
Dozens of parents have gathered in Waxhaw to discuss possible protests and even legal action.
Eyewitness News took their questions and concerns right to the school board chairman.
The Board of Education president said his focus is on moving forward and unifying the school district once again, but parents tell Eyewitness News the fight over redistricting is far from over.
“The parents were very upset, and that's understandable,” said board president Richard Yercheck. “Parents still have an ability to work through the process. There is an appeals process set up in place now.”
Yercheck contends while many parents feel the vote was rushed through early, the redistricting process started nearly a year ago when the board first hired an analyst to do a population forecast
“Any parent that had been coming to facility committee meetings and those places, they saw it there,” he said.
Steve Fussy is just one of the parents who said he had no idea the district was changing until January.
“That goes back to the transparency in the BOE and the central office, because we don't feel that way,” Fussy said.
He said the board's entire process is flawed.
“They've made a very large decision in less than 70 days,” Fussy said. “I felt like it was a jab to the heart because I take a lot of trust in people and what they tell you.”
Fussy is considering joining a group of parents that is raising money to sue the district.
Yercheck said the Board of Education is prepared for a lawsuit but warns the board was well within its legal rights.
“I think anybody has the ability to retain legal counsel and sue; that's part of the process. I don't believe they have a legal leg to stand on,” Yercheck said.
But parents said whether it is legal action or an election to recall the board they're ready for battle.
“The fights not over,” Fussy said.
Board Vice Chairman Marce Savage, another person left in the dark about the vote, said she will talk to the state Board of Education about a resolution to include parents in the redistricting process as a site-based committee.
Attorney: School board within law to vote early
Eyewitness News spoke with the attorney for the Union County School Board about the board’s controversial vote Tuesday night to go ahead with a redistricting plan.
Eyewitness News asked attorney Richard Schwartz, who was at last night’s vote, if there was anything illegal about voting early.
"I don't know if they ever declared a timetable,” he said. “If they decided to change that, they can change that."
He said the school board has the right to move up a vote weeks ahead of schedule without notifying parents.
Eyewitness News asked if board members discussed voting on this issue before Tuesday night and whether that was legal.
“As long as they're not doing it as a majority of the board. Individual board members have discussions with other individual board members all the time. There is nothing wrong with that,” Schwartz said.
He couldn’t say whether that happened, because he didn't want to speculate.
He did say while most board members voted to move ahead with the redistricting plan, that didn't have to happen.
He said a member could have requested the vote to be tabled.
Schwartz said the school board is not required to hold public hearings before a vote.
The next step for the school board will be to create a process to grandfather in students to let them stay at their schools.
Those students will need to find their own transportation. Everyone else will switch schools at the start of the next school year.
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