Dear Parents of Students in Kindergarten through 12th Grade:
The Sequoia Union High School District currently elects its five Trustees by the “at large” method. That means that the entire electorate within the Sequoia Union High School District votes to elect all five Trustees and the Trustees may live anywhere within the Sequoia Union High School District.
An alternative method of election, is electing Trustees “by district.” In a pure district-based method, the population is apportioned into districts and each district’s electorate votes for, and elects a single Trustee that must reside within the apportioned district.
California law disfavors at-large based elections. In 2002, California enacted the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. The Act prohibits the “at-large” method when it results in a protected class, defined “as a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group,” being impaired from electing candidates of its choice “or influencing the outcome of an election.” Since the passage of this law, at least 135 school districts throughout the state have transitioned to “by-district” elections.
In addition, on May 19, 2016, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“MALDEF”) wrote a letter to the District notifying it that if it failed to move to the “by-district” method, MALDEF would file a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act and seek to recover expert and attorneys’ fees.
At its June 15, 2016, meeting, the Board discussed whether moving to a by-district method would be in the best interest of the District. The Board received a presentation from National Demographics Corporation (“NDC”), which works with local public entities on these issues. The NDC presentation provided information on the California Voting Rights Act, Sequoia Union High School District demographics, Board electoral history, as well as the re-districting process in the event that the District opts to transition to a “by-district” method. The Board held an additional discussion at its June 29 meeting and committed to take a vote on whether to move to a “by-district” trustee elections at its August 17 meeting. By a 5-0 vote, the Board took action at the
August 17 meeting to begin the process of moving to “by-district” trustee elections.
At its most recent meeting, the Board discussed a number of possible district maps and has selected four of them for further consideration. In addition, the Board will also be taking action to move its elections to even years instead of odd years in conformance with a new California law. The “by-district” maps (see attached) will be presented at three community meetings that have been scheduled for later this month. The Board is seeking public input and comments on the various maps. Three of the maps maintain the current number of trustees (five) and one map expands the number of trustee seats to seven. The schedule of community input meetings is as follows:
• Thursday, October 20, 2016, 7:00 p.m.—Sequoia High School Carrington Hall, 1201 Brewster Avenue, Redwood City 94062
• Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 7:00 p.m.—Fair Oaks Community Center, 2600 Middlefield Road, Redwood City 94063
• Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 7:00 p.m.—East Palo Alto Academy, 1050 Myrtle Street, East Palo Alto 94303
Spanish translation will be provided at all meetings.
The demographer that created the maps will be present along with district staff and legal counsel to receive your input and answer questions.
James Lianides, Ed.D.