In the past, we have seen both our City Council and Community College District transition from at-large elections to district elections as well as most recently, the county’s long-awaited work on redistricting recently completed.
Now it’s Santa Barbara Unified School District’s turn.
In 2018, the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to put in place a time frame to convert to trustee-area elections to move from an “at-large” election process to trustee area elections in 2022.
The boundaries of the trustee areas are reevaluated and updated after the data from each federal census is released, which is every 10 years. (Ed. Code, § 5019.5.)
This does not impact where a student attends school or the governance of the Board. This impacts where the elected boardmembers come from.
The opportunity to create seven trustee areas instead of five has many advantages. The biggest winners would be students, parents, and teachers. Closing the achievement gap will take more than sweeping statements and proclamations (independent.com/2019/08/01/in-santa-barbara-latinos-are-veering-off-college-path).
Because of the complexity of the SBUSD being a combined elementary and secondary district, adding two more trustees would promote more inclusiveness with parents and teachers to better serve students. Teachers clearly want to be more involved and are tired of being scapegoats for the lack of learning and the increasing disciplinary issues. They are not being included in the conversation with administration and have been bullied with the code of silence. A survey at the end of the year shows the dissatisfaction the teachers are having with our current administration (independent.com/2021/12/02/santa-barbara-unified-teachers-survey-highlights-dissatisfaction-with-superintendent-school-board).
More representation will amplify teachers’ voices. An out-of-touch, top-down administration does not serve students well, and the increase in the achievement gap can no longer be ignored.
“We have to do something now. And we have to start not at the secondary level, but at the elementary level,” Boardmember Virginia Alvarez said with tears at the June 22, 2021, board meeting. “I am interested in finding out in a deep dive where no stone is left unturned: Where are the students at the elementary level? How are we helping them?” (independent.com/2021/06/23/santa-barbaras-black-latinx-grads-less-likely-to-get-into-californias-public-universities.)
At the November 16 school board meeting, Board President Kate Ford stated, “I emphatically support seven trustee areas.”
There is no question that with more representation, there is more input. A big advantage of a seven-trustee district according, to Jacqueline Inda, is that “it would allow more subcommittees to look more closely at the results of current policies to evaluate the effectiveness of different programs; currently, with only five, they are spread too thin.”
This is important, particularly at the elementary level, for underachieving students and would also allow more opportunities for teacher and parent participation. A subcommittee could investigate how Franklin Elementary is getting the amazing results above state average with both English and math in setting up their students for success as compared with other schools with similar demographics (about 95 percent Latino students, according to greatschools.org).
Franklin Elementary’s English scores come in at 57 percent, versus the state average of 51 percent. The students’ math is at 49 percent, versus the state at 40 percent. Adelante Charter School shows English at 19 percent, versus the state average 51 percent. Their math is at 27 percent, versus the state average at 40 percent.
The Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (coalitionforneighborhoodschools.com) agrees that seven trustee areas are best because it will promote more engagement of neighborhood schools with their trustee representative, foundational in the neighborhood school concept.
During the past few months, the district and general public have been involved with reviewing the various drafts of the new District by Trustee Area election maps to replace the District’s at-large school board elections. Background information and latest maps available from Cooperative Strategies that have been hired to assist the transition can be found at
Next community meeting is January 13, 2022, at 6 p.m.: coopstrategies.zoom.us/j/83021292225?pwd=ZzZTeGR0WXNZOWlHaHZBbU9tbXV3dz09#success.
January 25, 2022, at 5:30 p.m: School Board Meeting. Regular session begins at 5:30 p.m. Check agenda for details.
Fourth Public Hearing: Map Trustee Area Scenarios: Selection of three final maps for consideration.
February 8, 2022, at 5:30 p.m.: School Board Meeting: Fifth Public Hearing on Trustee-Area Maps during regular school board meeting. The board will take action to select the recommended By-Trustee Area Election map.
Click here for details on how to attend or to email boardmembers.