Images Courtesy of SBUSD
Santa Barbara Unified School District has begun the process of transitioning from at-large elections to trustee area elections, now with four possible maps of district boundaries, following the board’s decision to transition in 2018 as a response to the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.
The process of creating a district boundary map involves the creation of conceptual trustee area boundaries and providing opportunities for the public to learn more and give feedback. The trustee area election model is similar to the district elections in the city, wherein a board member is elected by constituents living in the same district as them. The proposed maps will be refined and revised following the public’s input.
There have been several community meetings discussing this process, and there are expected to be a handful more before the board votes to fully transition to trustee area elections before the November 2022 elections.
The district has hired independent demographer Cooperative Strategies to prepare the proposed district maps. Cooperative Strategies is also working with the district’s legal counsel to ensure all map options are in compliance with federal law and other districting requirements, including ensuring that each proposed district all contain about the same population size. The board is also considering factors such as topography, geography, cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity, compactness of territory, and community of interests.
One issue being brought forward with some of the district maps is how schools within certain boundaries would be represented, considering that many schools are grouped in certain areas of the city. “We’ve tried to make it as representative as possible, at least within the elementary schools,” said Scott Newell, chief executive officer of Cooperative Strategies, at the October 26 regular board meeting. “One of the other things to look at is communities of interest, with the same number of inhabitants.” This would mean drawing boundaries that take into consideration layout of schools in the city, and mitigating the chances of a school board member representing a single school in the district.
Ultimately, the board will adopt a proposed map, which will be reviewed and approved by the County Committee on School District Organization. The current board members will continue in office until the expiration of their terms in 2022 or 2024. The next public hearing on this topic is scheduled for the Tuesday, November 16, regular board meeting.