San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) is now considering six maps for its transition to “by-trustee areas.” The process to draw up map options to change from an at-large election method to trustee districts is being undertaken in response to threats of costly litigation for violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
Attorney Jonathan Salt, of Fagen Freidman & Fullfrost, said making the transition is the only “safe harbor” from potential CVRA litigation and many governmental bodies in California have had to go through the process.
Since the district begun public hearings in October, the map options have grown from three to six, based on feedback received and in an effort to provide alternative concepts, according to SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill.
The board will select from one of the map options at its board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m.
The selected map will then go to the San Diego County Committee on School District Organization for approval and if the committee approves the change, the new voting areas would take effect in the 2018 general election.
The maps have no effect on attendance boundaries, Salt stressed, they just create districts where candidates need to live to run for the board and for people to vote for them.
At a community meeting at Torrey Pines High School on Nov. 14, the small crowd of three residents watched a video from demographer Doug Johnson, president of National Demographic Corporation, on his thoughts when putting the maps together.
Johnson said the maps followed certain criteria: each district had to have an equal population and race cannot be a predominant factor. Maps focused on neighborhoods and communities of interest together, such as elementary school feeder districts and boundaries of middle school attendance boundaries and cities.
An effort was made to include at least two middle school attendance zones in each district so trustees are representing multiple schools. Only one, the “orange” map, has Pacific Trails Middle School represented by just one trustee.
Attendance at community meetings and hearings has been sparse. A meeting at San Dieguito Academy High School on Nov. 13 was attended by just one person, a student reporter for the school paper. The Torrey Pines meeting was attended by two Carmel Valley residents and one Cardiff resident. Only one of two parents at the board’s hearing on Nov. 16 provided input. A last public meeting was held on Nov. 28.
Some concerns expressed by residents were that Pacific Highlands Ranch might be under-represented and that one of the maps splits Cardiff — as the resident noted, San Dieguito High School Academy is separated from the Cardiff Elementary School, which has historically been preferred by Cardiff students. Another resident had concerns about equally splitting Rancho Santa Fe between the district lines as he said he believes many residents there send their children to private schools.
“If I lived in Solana Beach and planned to go to Earl Warren I would be worried about my trustee being influenced by Rancho Santa Fe voters who don’t want their tax dollars spent heavily influencing the election and candidates,” the resident said.
One resident reflected that while it is not the district’s intent, when lines are drawn on maps, it feels like the goal is to separate. She said that the conversation she’s heard in Encinitas is that philosophically, residents are concerned about seated board members perceiving their job as representing specific districts only.
“We’re hoping that there isn’t that danger of people thinking that they only represent a particular area,” Dill said. “The current board understands that they represent the entire district but that is the concern and the danger moving forward that future candidates or board members might only think that they represent a certain neighborhood.”
All of the maps and demographer’s video presentation are available to view at cvra.sduhsd.net.
Those who cannot attend a hearing but would still like to weigh in on the maps can submit comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.