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Dublin School Board Agrees to By-Trustee Area Election System, Transition in 2018

July 25, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–The headline for this article is a 4-1 vote in favor of the Dublin Unified School District moving to a “by-trustee area election system” (Yea: Megan Rouse, Amy Miller, Joe Giannini, Dan Cherrier; Nay: Dan Cunningham). This is a significant event requires a bit of a backgrounder.

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A sweeping movement that has been moderately reported upon has been sweeping up and down the state of California and within its education districts. The impetus for this movement was the successful passage under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA). The foundation of this legislation was to “level out” representation across municipalities so that there would be equal representation on public school boards that mirrored the civic population and demographics.

This event stimulated significant inertia in Southern California and was spearheaded by Malibu, CA based attorney, Kevin Shenkman. In short, written claims were delivered to specific school districts that challenged the value/virtue of at-large elected Trustees versus a process that would represent a “by-trustee-area specific” model. There have been many arguments that support this concept. It has been categorized in several municipalities where this has been a successful profile that has provided a path of leadership to largely under-represented communities and their constituents.

On the other hand, some critics have claimed this to be a “blanket” approach to ensuring that every community within each and every city has representation on the board. In reality, the CVRA movement is successfully moving across the state. The alternative to fighting the statue is potential lengthy and costly litigation – a cost that most school districts cannot bear.

Important to note is that the term of each existing Trustee would be preserved – regardless of when their term expires. However, the safe harbor for each would be dependent upon their voted upon tenure and their position could be impacted upon how the Trustee boundaries are then re-drawn.

The Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) scheduled a Special Public Board Meeting on Monday night to encourage a transparent presentation by those representing this mission and for the public to respond with their own comments and questions.

The public comment period – represented by nine speakers carried two basic themes. The attorneys present stated that the basis for determining how the City of Dublin may be parsed out would be by virtue of the results of the 2010 U.S. annual census. Many of those willing to speak argued that comparing Dublin of 2017 vs. a census conducted in 2010 would be largely inaccurate – perhaps by 30%. The other view expressed was that weaving through the CVRA issue – at the risk of a lawsuit against Dublin, might present a distraction and or delay relative to the movement towards constructing a second high school campus.

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Once the audience was provided their time, the Trustees began their deliberation. Within minutes, it was fairly clear as to where this decision was heading. However, each Trustee had their opportunity to express their position. Initially, Dan Cherrier stated his support of the Resolution and suggested that the board to not seek a waiver/delay. Joe Giannini commented that given the circumstances that the “process must just play out.” Amy Miller relayed that despite the circumstances that “we have to move forward.” Dan Cunningham voiced that “I don’t support this for many reasons” and “it’s not what is best for our community.” Finally, Board President Megan Rouse opined that “we are being forced to act in a very compressed timeline” and that the Board would desire to have access to all current residency available by law.

With the conclusion of public comment, the Trustees were left to act on this resolution. According to Superintendent Dr. Leslie Boozer, DUSD received this formal/legal request on June 12, 2017 and was commanded to act within 45 days or be subject to potential legal action. Ms. Miller made the motion to approve with one modification and it was seconded by Mr. Giannini. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote.

So what happens from here? The purpose of tonight’s meeting was simply to comply with the resolution in a timely manner. The hard work of defining neighborhood boundaries is ahead. It will require several weeks to resolve. Superintendent Boozer announced that a series of public sessions – whether in the form or regularly scheduled board meetings or site specific events will be announced in the near term. The audience was assured that there will be multiple opportunities to share their feedback and thoughts on what this redistricting may ultimately look like. Additionally, there will be outlets for public feedback through the school district website.

It is a new day in California public education. Perhaps, the movement to At-Large to By-Trustee Area Elections started in Southern California, but it has definitely made its way up north.

Agenda item documents:

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