School Trustees Called Right to Slow District Election Process | Tim speaks | Tim hunt
Pleasanton school trustees made the right choice last week when they took a collective deep breath and slowed down the process of moving from general election to district election.
Trustees were expected to approve the district elections at their meeting last week until Joan Laursen raised concerns about the timing and lack of public engagement.
Administrators envision elections in districts through a staff initiative. Staff leaders have seen other local districts – Dublin and San Ramon Valley – drop general elections in favor of districts after challenges from a law firm specializing in complying with California’s voting rights law. If the company determines from census data that minority groups are underrepresented on the board, it can officially call for district elections.
The same has happened in the towns of San Ramon and Livermore. Discussing Livermore’s situation with former mayor John Marchand as the city mulled over how to respond, he said the group had a perfect record against court challenges. Indeed, it was a waste of time and money trying to challenge it in court because the claim complied with state law.
Although districts follow state law, this is a case of excessive law. District elections do not need to be held in communities as small as those in the Tri-Valley. You can advocate for the San Ramon Valley School District which stretches from Alamo to San Ramon and has approximately 32,000 students enrolled. There is a substantial difference between the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon and the rural Alamo, but the common factor is that parents expect / demand quality education. High schools on the north end (San Ramon Valley and Monte Vista) have tiny minority enrollments, while Asian / Indian students account for over 70% of enrollment in Dougherty Valley.
My preference is for the trustees who watch over the entire district, especially in the small towns. The mission is to educate all children. Additionally, tiny districts can lead to situations like the one Dublin faced when a district administrator resigned and the board appointed a successor. It only took 75 signatures from registered voters to overturn that nomination and force an expensive special election. I believe that it is good policy to appoint officials to serve office and then let the voters have their say in the next scheduled election.
Unfortunately, district elections will take place. So the outreach effort to involve the public in the process and make citizens understand why this is happening and what it means is a great next step. I hope this will inspire interested citizens to consider throwing their hats in the ring in the next election.
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