School board looks into by-trustee election
by Maddy Houk
Dec 20, 2012 | 938 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson Joint Unified School District trustees on Monday, Dec. 10, pondered the idea of reducing the number of board members from seven to five and having each member represent a separate geographic area within the district.

Fresno-based Attorney David Soldani of Atkinson, Andelson, Lloyd Ruud & Romo presented the board with a demographic study about the Patterson area and its voting population. The board hired Soldani in November.

The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 makes all at-large elections in cities and school districts vulnerable to legal attacks concerning where a candidate resides and the candidate’s ethnicity.

In response, many public entities, including kindergarten-to-12th-grade schools, have changed how board members are chosen to by-trustee elections. In a by-trustee election, only people who live in a candidate’s specific geographic area can vote for the candidate.

Soldani presented maps and data of six different scenarios of demographics of the voting population. The board favored Scenario E, with a seven-member board that most closely resembles the way the board is today.

“We’re just now beginning to discuss this information and we’re looking at all possible outcomes,” said Grace McCord, the board president, on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Each scenario provided information on total population, Hispanic population, the number of citizens age 18 and older, and population by race.

Soldani suggested that board members choose a few scenarios and present them to the public in the next few months.

“Get some input from the community on this issue,” he said.

He told the board that having an election to change the way trustees are voted in can be costly, so most school districts prefer to seek a waiver of the voter approval requirement from the State Board of Education.

Adopting a by-trustee system voluntarily would allow the district to avoid potential litigation, which could cause .

Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or maddy@pattersonirrigator.com.

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