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Election changes come to TUSD

POSTED January 19, 2010 11:44 p.m.
Following the trend of other local public boards, the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to go from electing city-wide trustee seats to geographical districts within the city.
This means that each part of the community will be represented with each individual trustee representing their district or their “side of town.” So far all the current TUSD trustees live on the north and east sides of Turlock. There is no one on the board from the west or south side of town.
“This will be more representative of the community, be more intimate for the community, and be more effective and efficient,” said Sonny Da Marto, TUSD superintendent. “Hopefully, there will be more participation within the community.”
This item is coming to the district as a result of a legal mandate to create “trustee area” elections under the California Voter Rights Act, said Frank Lima, TUSD board president. This act requires elections by “trustee area.”
The legal mandate is being enforced by a Bay Area organization called the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area who are going up and down the Central Valley suing districts, Da Marto said.
“A major driver is a fear of potential litigation,” said John Sims, TUSD trustee.
The Modesto City Council and the Ceres Unified School District have changed their “at-large” election style to the “by-trustee area” election within the last couple of years.  
“This is to guard ourselves from any legal suits that might have come if we didn’t do this,” Da Marto said.
These changes to the election process will begin to take effect in the November 2013 election with the trustees who will be up for election that year, Da Marto said. Those trustees will be Josh Bernard and Bob Weaver. The election in November 2015 will hold all trustees from each district.
There will still remain seven members on the board, but each of them will represent a different geographical district within the city, he said. The community will be represented from Keyes, out to Merced County and reaching Chatom.
“This is in the best interest of the community with a representative group,” Da Marto said.
The maps for each district will be determined from the Census Data that will be received in April 2011, Da Marto said. The district will redraw the map every 10 years, as Census Data is released.
Changing the election process will cost the district a total of $15,000 in the November 2013 election, Da Marto said. It will cost about $5,000 for legal fees and $10,000 for the topography work.
“Although the state provides us no additional funding to comply with this law, if we are not proactive, the cost and expense to comply with this act could be significant,” Lima said. “By initiating this process, we’re hoping we can control our costs by following the law and establishing a timeline and procedure that is in the best interest of our district and its students.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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