Change is coming for the Oakdale Joint Unified School Board and it is the goal of School District Superintendent Marc Malone to not only inform the community, but get them involved.
The change which Malone and the board have found themselves most recently faced with comes by way of being in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. Currently operating as a hybrid district, the OJUSD Board seats an elected representative from the Knights Ferry or Valley Home area as well as four others.
Under CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) it has been determined as something which does not meet guidelines within the voting rights act. The district will now need to transition to board members elected by “trustee area,” which has been rolled out throughout the state over the past several years.
Malone shared that due to the size of the district and the hybrid configuration, he as well as the board felt the district was in compliance. While there is nothing which has forced the issue for the district to change to trustee areas, it is a proactive decision to avoid the possibility of wrongful lawsuits from special interest groups.
“So we need to go to a by-district election,” Malone said. “We have a five member board so now we have to divide our whole district into five different zones and only the people that live in those zones can run for that board seat and only the people who live in that zone can vote for that board seat.”
In order for the board to identify those zones a number of things must be taken into consideration and an outside source hired. Zone determining factors include: population density as close as possible; socio economic as close as possible, as well as a race/gender demographic balanced.
Information is given to a demographer who then reviews the census data and the varying zone divisions are comprised. Four separate options have been drawn up and will now be available for community review. The community will have four zone maps to review and way in on.
“On those dates, it’s just open for the public to come in” the Superintendent said of the upcoming events designed to introduce the concept and areas. “Take a look at those election by boundary maps and then make any comments to the demographer they find appropriate.”
Malone will be reviewing the zoning in detail at the next school board meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the OJUSD Tech Center. The zone maps will be available for review on Wednesday, Feb. 12 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Tech Center and then again on Thursday, Feb. 20 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Oakdale Charter School, 1235 E. D St.
Questions can be directed to the demographer who will be on site for each of the open houses.
“We still are a five person board. When you go through this process, no sitting board member would lose their seat,” Malone stated, indicating that when a board member’s term is up the zoning would then apply and given how the zoning breaks out, seated board members may find themselves now running against one another for the same seats.
In 2020 two board seats are up for election. Malone further stated he feels it’s important to act on this now so that boundaries are established in time for the next election.
“What people need to look at is, what provides in their mind the best balance of populace in our community,” he said. “One of the things that needs to be taken into consideration is the balance of town and country populace. (rural versus city).
“The community needs to weigh in and say I think this one makes the most sense or this one or this one,” Malone continued.
He additionally shared while it is necessary to disclose the residential location of the current board, he encouraged the community not to get caught up in this data as it is based on election and is not long term.
The community input will be reviewed and compiled by the demographer and then put to a vote by the board.