Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) Board of Trustees opened a public hearing Tuesday night to consider and discuss alternative maps for by-trustee area elections. Despite Chatom School District’s preference to proposed Plans A and B, the Board received no public input or preference for a particular map.
“I am very disappointed in our public,” Trustee Loren Holt commented regarding the lack of public input on such a significant issue.
“These maps are incredibly important. It really will change how this Board conducts itself,” Board President Lima said.
Using 2010 census data, the District worked to create three proposed trustee area maps for the seven trustee areas.
The three trustee area maps proposed are all in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. Consultant Doug Johnson said that the maps were drawn to have roughly the same population in each district, and are not divided according to the number of schools in each district. Each district has approximately 11,500 residents.
The first two maps, Plans A and B, present a more compacted approach, and are focused on keeping school attendance zones together.
Plan B has more of a rural trustee area, and therefore picks up less of the Turlock population. This plan also puts Chatom and Keyes into the same district.
Plan C takes a different approach, and each district is a blend of rural and urban areas. Johnson explains that this plan allows each area to have multiple trustees, which may result in voters having less of a voice.
Deputy Superintendent Ed Felt explained that he has met with a number of stakeholder groups, and they all seemed to be supportive of moving to by-trustee area elections.
However, Board Trustees Bob Weaver and John Sims both had concerns that Board Members in each by-trustee area will only be concerned about their area, and not the District as a whole. Trustee Sims commented that the Board may function differently if Trustees are not looking at the big picture.
Board President Lima also had concerns that Trustee representatives will ultimately be focused on their specific area, especially during election time.
Trustee Josh Bernard had concerns about Plan C, as stretching areas out may result in diluting the community and losing cohesiveness.
Trustee Tami Muniz felt very positively about the by-trustee areas, saying, “When you live in the area you represent, it’s a good thing.”
Trustee Muniz explained that newly elected Trustees will bring awareness to issues in their particular area, and she hopes to see citizens involving themselves in elections.
The Board of Trustees was scheduled to hold a second public hearing and choose a by-trustee-area map on Tuesday, June 21. However, two of the seven Board members, including Board President Lima and Trustee Sims, will not be able to attend the meeting. This would result in only needing the approval of three of the five present members to approve a proposed map.
Trustee Sims proposed to set a special meeting to vote on this item when all members would be able to attend. Trustee Muniz also thought it was important for all members to be in attendance for this issue.
“You think this is just a cut and dry thing to do, just numbers, but it isn’t. Our values are going to dictate which direction we go with these maps,” Trustee Sims concluded.
TUSD Board President Lima closed the discussion deciding to still have a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday June 21, and vote on the by-trustee-area maps in the last week of June, either June 27 or 28.
Upon choosing a map, the Board will seek approval of the County Committee. The Committee will proceed to hold a second public hearing, and approve the selected map.
Once the District receives approval from the Department of Justice, citizens of Turlock will participate in the first TUSD Trustees election using the newly approved district maps on November 5, 2013. The second election will be held in 2015.