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TUSD Board of Trustees to discuss district mapping for 2013 elections

Districts to be divided based on race, income, population

POSTED June 3, 2011 7:41 p.m.

The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to hear a report and discuss trustee district lines during its Tuesday board meeting at Turlock High School’s Performing Arts building.

According to Board of Trustees President Frank Lima, a final decision will be made at the June 21 meeting.

In December, the Stanislaus County Office of Education approved a TUSD Board of Trustees resolution that changed voting from an “at-large” method to a “district area” method. Starting in 2013, TUSD trustees will be voted in by district and no longer at-large as they have been in the past. Each trustee will represent a portion of the school district and will be elected by the voters in that area.

The resolution came in response to the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) of 2001 and subsequent litigation in the years since. The CVRA mandates that districts which use at-large election processes can be sued if voting patterns show that minority groups are unfairly being left out of elected positions. Most recently, in May 2009, the Ceres Unified School District was threatened with CVRA litigation.

“We are going to comply with the law and we are going to do it right. We want to be proactive and make sure we don’t have to deal with unnecessary litigation fees,” said Lima. “This is a good law, but we have to be careful we don’t create a situation in which trustees will only be concerned with their own district and neighborhood instead of the overall well-being on the entire school district.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, TUSD staff will present three maps which will show possible districts that are distributed throughout Turlock based on racial and economic conditions. All three map plans include seven districts that would divide the Turlock area along lines or sections based on race, income and population. The demographics of each section vary on the plan. The board of trustees must choose a plan they believe best represents the needs of the district.

According to Lima, the entire Board of Trustees resides in the northeast section of Turlock, although some grew up in the south and west side of town.

New districts would create a situation where trustees come from different areas of Turlock. In the event a candidate runs unopposed in a district, they would automatically become part of the TUSD Board of Trustees. If no one runs in a district, the board could appoint someone from another district to represent the vacant seat.

“So what happens is you could have any yahoo on the board, so we have to be careful with our map,” stressed Lima.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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