Staff Editorial: Redistricting meetings show PUSD board’s commitment to those whom they represent

In August, the PUSD school board unanimously voted in favor of a resolution stating that beginning in 2018, the election for PUSD school board members will be conducted by-district rather than the current district-wide elections. In essence, five districts will each elect one board member, rather than PUSD as a monolith electing five board members. PUSD is just one of 150 school districts in more than 66 California cities that is undergoing this process before the next board election cycle. This shift to by-district voting is taking place because of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. A number of public meetings have taken and will take place at the district office. These meetings aim to gather input from the public on the final decision regarding the composition of districts and other issues of interest surrounding the districting process. The board will hold a vote on the district lines themselves Nov. 9. Earlier this month, PUSD had also been soliciting advice on how to divide the districts online, accepting maps submitted and designed by the public. In these ways, PUSD has ensured that the public has a voice in this sensitive topic.

With the changes going into effect next year, their consequences approach quickly. In November of 2018, three of the five current board members are up for re-election, with the other two district election occurring in 2020. However, all three are from the Rancho Peñasquitos area, and depending on how the districts are drawn, they could end up running against each other for the same district. With more than half of the board at risk to lose their seats, the direction of the board, and as a result the district as a whole, may be altered dramatically within just the next year. In fact, the notion that a majority of the board is from Rancho Peñasquitos is indicative of the problem with representation that PUSD has struggled with. When 60 percent of the board is from one small area of the overall district, how can we expect 100 percent of PUSD to be fairly represented?

“I voted in favor of our school district moving from an ‘at-large’ voting system to a ‘by-district’ voting system in order to comply with the California Voting Rights Act,” Board member Kimberley Beatty said. “I also believe that creating five trustee areas in our 100-square-mile district will have the added benefit of creating stronger connections between our board and our community, since each community will have their individual representative to connect with.”

In a presentation released by the National Demographics Corporation (NDC), an organization working with PUSD throughout the districting process, the districting criterias that PUSD is aiming for are listed. The criteria listed by the NDC and PUSD functions largely either to comply with federal law, such as not having any racial gerrymandering, or in the interest of giving communities as loud of a voice as possible, such as district lines following already established natural or manmade boundaries. By establishing a criteria and making the parameters available to the public, PUSD shows that it is acting in line with respect to the wishes of the residents of the soon-to-be-formed  districts. In addition, their transparency and requests for public input shows their desire to work with the community on this momentous issue that is sure to affect district residents.

The districting process is a complicated one that can change the landscape of not only the school board, but the entire district. Under this new system, board members would be held more directly accountable to the district they represent, and the concerns of those residing within the district are more likely to be addressed as a result. This is largely because of the bonds that form between board members and residents when each area has their own representative. In addition, with the added representation from different parts of the district, there is potential for more of a variety of ideas to form. With this change, PUSD has ensured that communities across the school district will be represented far more attentively in the years to come.

By having a member from each part of the district, no area will be neglected or overlooked. PUSD should be commended for working in the interest of those who will be affected by this change in order to make sure that redistricting, a process meant to help district residents, actually does.