At-large elections ordered for Fort Cherry

February 5, 2013

A Washington County judge ruled Friday that Fort Cherry School District must abolish its school board’s regional election process and replace it with an at-large plan.

In his written order, Judge John DiSalle noted the district’s proposal to reapportion parts of McDonald, Mt. Pleasant Township and Robinson/Midway in an effort to balance each region’s population would be more disruptive than switching to an at-large election plan. The nine-member board had been split between the three regions.

School board director Jamie White of Mt. Pleasant, backed by the signatures of 315 residents, had petitioned the court for the at-large election plan in October 2011.

“This is a very positive outcome for the entire Fort Cherry community,” White said in an email Tuesday. “Everyone who lives in the district will now have equal representation regardless of where they live.”

White’s petition claimed the district’s regional election plan violated a section of the Public School Code regarding equality of representation because the population wasn’t evenly distributed. The petition cited 2010 Census data, stating that Mt. Pleasant held 41.3 percent of the population while Robinson/Midway had 33.4 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively.

In its own petition, the district sought to balance its regional representation and election plan by putting the Primrose portion of Mt. Pleasant into Robinson-Midway, the latter of which would give its 3rd Ward to McDonald. According to the petition, Mt. Pleasant had at least 700 more voters than the other regions.

The judge also ordered the Washington County Elections Department take all action necessary to ensure the four open school board seats are elected at-large in the upcoming municipal election.

Andy McNeil has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2011 as a general assignment reporter. He covers courts and education, and also serves as a photographer and videographer. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, with a degree in English; Duquense University with a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, and Point Park University with a graduate degree in journalism and mass communication.

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