By Jeannette Andruss
New draft maps have been released by the Los Alamitos Unified School District as it transitions from an at-large voting system to a trustee-area voting system for elections of its members on the Board of Education.
This comes after weeks of public meetings and after current Board members publicly voiced their opinions on the first round of draft maps for the first time.
“Based on public comment and its own deliberations, the Board at its November 12 meeting eliminated some maps from consideration and asked for revisions in others,” a Nov. 22 press release from LAUSD stated.
Last month, five draft maps were released. Two of those, the Orange map and Yellow map, are still being considered. Three of the original maps have been eliminated and replaced with three revised maps that were released Nov. 21. All of the maps can be viewed at losal.org/voting.
“It’s always important to keep in mind these are draft maps and reflect a dialogue,” Justin Levitt, a demographer hired by LAUSD to create the new maps, wrote in an email.
The dialogue will continue as the district will hold another community outreach meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office Board Room in Los Alamitos. A public hearing will also be held December 10 at the same time in the same location.
This is the latest phase of what has been a very public process for LAUSD that started in September. So far, the district has held five community outreach meetings and three public hearings to get feedback on how to fairly divide up the district into five equally-populated trustee areas to be used in the 2020 election. The Board could vote on a final map in January.
Incumbents, School Sites and Leisure World
At the November 12 Board meeting, the issue of incumbency came up. A number of former Board of Education members spoke about two maps that appeared to be drawn to protect incumbents. For instance, in the Teal map and Green map, Board President Diana Hill and Board member David Boyer were placed in separate trustee areas despite living only blocks apart.
“Protecting a seat on the Board of Trustees by ‘arranging’ the map to allow these board members to be placed in separate, ‘safe’ districts so that they can each again run for office and retain their seats on the LAUSD School Board, is a blatant disregard for the spirit of the law,” Del Clark, a former board member read from a letter at the meeting.
Hill, who is up for re-election in 2022, addressed the concerns and suggested the idea of protecting voters’ choices is a relevant criterion when drawing the trustee area maps but not if it means the boundaries don’t make sense for the long term.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Hill said of the apparent “carve outs” for incumbents in the two maps. “That, to me, isn’t logical,” Hill said and asked that they be eliminated. Boyer made a similar statement and said he wants what is right for the future. He added that he hasn’t decided if he will run for re-election in 2020.
In every one of the five draft maps now up for discussion, Boyer and Hill are in the same trustee area. In two of those maps, Boyer, Hill and fellow Board member Marlys Davidson are all in the same trustee area.
Board member Megan Cutuli thanked Hill and Boyer for addressing what she called the “elephant in this room.” In all of the draft maps up for discussion, Cutuli, who is up for re-election in 2020, is in the same trustee area as Karen Russell but Russell is not running again.
Another topic of concern was how the private retirement community of Leisure World should be included in the trustee areas. “The Leisure World conversation is not an easy one,” Hill noted. Leisure World is a community where school-age children are barred from living. It also has a high concentration of active voters which some worry could give them an edge if they are grouped in a trustee area with a neighborhood with a lot of children who cannot vote. While Leisure World residents can vote on the Board of Education, they do not vote on or pay for LAUSD bond measures.
Davidson recommended either keeping Leisure World in one area to give them one vote on the board or breaking it up into three or four trustee areas. Three of the five draft maps divide Leisure World into at least three trustee areas.
Another concern of Board members was having too many school sites concentrated in just a few trustee areas. They asked for school attendance boundaries to be given more weight to achieve more balance. The Yellow 2 map appears to address those concerns within Rossmoor in particular.