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By-Trustee-Area Elections

The Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District is seeking community input regarding proposed maps for trustee areas as the district changes the method by which school board elections are conducted. Public hearings will be conducted at the next two school board meetings scheduled for April 11, 2019, and May 9, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the Media Center at Valley Center High School.

The public hearings on proposed electoral maps are the latest step in a process that started last November when the board voted to begin the process to change the way school board elections are conducted.

The school district currently elects its board of trustees through an at-large election system. Under this system, candidates for the school board can reside anywhere in the school district and are elected by the registered voters who reside within the district.

However, under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) of 2001 this method of election is subject to legal threat and potentially costly litigation if a plaintiff were to allege that the district’s election method results in racially polarized voting that inhibits the ability of protected classes to influence the outcome of elections. Transitioning from an at-large system to a by-area election system provides a safe harbor under CVRA. The board undertook action to begin this process in an effort to avoid litigation that has been filed all over the state (including neighboring school districts) under the CVRA, which could result in a significant and unnecessary expense for the district.

A by-area election system is one in which the school district is divided into five geographic trustee areas, and one board member living in each area would be elected by the voters who live in that area.

Pursuant to California Election Code, the school district conducted two public hearings in February and March to receive community input on the composition of proposed electoral geographic areas.

The community feedback at these “pre-map” public hearings assisted the district’s professional demographer in developing draft maps of the trustee areas. The district now will post the potential maps on its website, and the board will conduct the two additional hearings on April 11th and May 9th for the public to provide input on the proposed maps. After the final hearing, the board will select a preferred map based on the input from the public and from the professional demographer and legal counsel. Once the board selects the map of its preference, the San Diego County Committee on School District Organization will hold a public hearing in Valley Center to consider the map that was selected by the board. Once the county committee takes action, the board will submit a request to the State Department of Education seeking a waiver so that the district can change from an at-large voting system to a trustee-area system without incurring the cost of a special election of the entire electorate.

Once the new electoral system receives its final approval, the transition to trustee area elections would commence with the general election in November 2020. The voting cycle would involve elections for two board members in 2020 and three board members in 2022. School board members serve four-year terms.