Later this month the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees will decide on a trustee district map which will forever change the makeup of the board. Whichever map they choose, it will undoubtedly lead to a more diverse board of trustees.
Currently the board is elected through an “at-large” voting process. According to current trustee Tami Muniz, the board has always been (in recent memory) made up of people who live in the northeast section of Turlock. Current president Frank Lima said that all current trustees live within four or five blocks of each other. Of course this is all code for “well off people who live on the nice side of town.”
While I have no doubt the current board is full of committed, respectable and caring people who absolutely have the best interests of TUSD students and staff at heart, I feel that this board is not a representative selection of the TUSD.
I’ve worked at numerous newspapers in California and I’ve covered city councils, school district boards, water boards, county supervisors and small municipality districts. On dozens of governmental bodies I have yet to see more than two or three people of any color whatsoever. More importantly, I’ve rarely seen people who would be considered “not well off.”
The idea of democracy is that it’s for the people, by the people; and while the TUSD Board of Trustees itself is a reflection of this — it is not a reflection of for ALL the people by ALL the people.
The adoption of districts is a good thing in my opinion, and it will be encouraging to see a board of diverse people. A true reflection of Turlock. It will bring people from the west side, the south side and all sides of town. Districts could very well bring people who may not be upper middle class or wealthy, and most certainly it will bring more people of Hispanic heritage to the board.
Ultimately, this could bring a board that may look at challenges in TUSD differently. Seeing things from multiple views can often deliver a clearer picture. Different types of people from different life experiences could improve matters for students and teachers.
It makes sense; if more than half of the students are Hispanic and Turlock is half Hispanic then why isn’t the board half Hispanic? This, of course, raises the obvious question and counter point to my opinion.
As one person said to me “Nothing is stopping them from running now so why haven’t they?” By “they” we mean Hispanics or people with less than stellar bank account balances who also happen to live on the west or south side. The answer is: I don’t have an answer nor do I know for sure why time and time again in Turlock there are basically nothing but white well off people serving on the board.
The board members aren’t paid nor do they receive any benefits, so it couldn’t be money that is a motivating factor.
My only guess is that the people who don’t want to serve on the board probably don’t do so because they simply don’t care or don’t have time to spare to serve on a board. Perhaps they may even feel as if there is no point when they go against people from the northeast side of town who may have larger campaign budgets.
The only down side of districts is that if no one runs in a district the board must appoint someone who lives in that district. This could lead to a board of people who may not truly care or have TUSD students and staff’s best interests at heart. I’m willing to bet someone from each district will step up and serve.
Of course, it could all be a moot point. Judging from the lack of public input and interest in this topic, we could end up with a board of one or two people who actually are elected and the rest appointed by those one or two members who were elected.
Democracy only works if everyone participates.