Where Southwest Allen County Schools board members live will matter less in 2022.
That will be the first election year in which the number of township-specific seats drops from four to two, the board decided Tuesday in a 4-1 vote.
Under the current structure, there is one at-large seat, meaning that member can live in either Aboite or Lafayette township, and there are two residence district seats for each township.
Board discussions about having three at-large seats and only one seat from each township began late last year. Community and board members had brought up the topic over the years, Superintendent Phil Downs said.
The large disparity between township populations contributed to the change. About 91% of the district's residents live in Aboite, and 9% live in Lafayette, Downs said.
All voters within the district can vote for all five board members, an element that won't change.
That's an important point, board President Tom Rhoades said, noting Tuesday's decision doesn't change “who's voting but who's able to run.”
Rhoades represents Aboite.
Having more at-large seats will give more people the opportunity to serve on the board, said board Secretary Jennifer Couch, who represents Lafayette.
Board Vice President Brad Mills, who represents Aboite, cast the only opposing vote.
“I don't see a real compelling need to change,” Mills said.
The change will take effect with the 2022 election. The two residence district seats up for election will become at-large seats, and the other seats will remain the same.
In other business, the board approved Homestead High School's request to add a ninth guidance counselor and a fifth assistant principal. Growing enrollment and expanding academic needs prompted the requests, which were discussed last month.
The board also approved a change that increases the hourly wages for literacy instructional assistants, employees who help students at all six elementary schools with reading skills. The assistants will also work 51/2 hours a day for the entire academic year rather than stopping once they earn a set threshold. The changes will cost the district about $31,300 annually.