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TUSD to form new districts

Tehachapi School Board Update

Tehachapi Unified School District is facing redistricting. In a special meeting held on May 16, the Tehachapi Unified School Board of Trustees heard public comments resulting from the decision the board had made at two previous May meetings. Up for discussion was the reduction in the number of trustees to sit on the board and the other regarding the number of districts into which to divide TUSD.

Many attending the meeting were upset that the meeting occurred with only 24-hour notice and the public had mostly heard about it by word-of-mouth. Many wanted the opportunity to voice their opinion concerning a matter that very much concerned them and their children. Even a member of the local press thought it necessary to remind the board that they were pushing the limits of the Brown Act and ignoring the "public's right to know." Many teachers and parents did attend the meeting in spite of the short meeting notice.

They learned that the requested changes in the Board of Trustees were brought on by the same California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) that had forced the Tehachapi City Council to form districts and move away from at-large representation several years ago. The TUSD Board is currently made up of seven members. Two members represent each of the three district divisions with one at-large member. Area of residence has not been a consideration. This has been the case since 1957 when the district was formed.

The CVRA requires equal representation in each district with ethnicity being the most important factor in deciding the boundaries. Trustees must now live in the district they represent. Areas not following the guidelines of the CVRA can be subject to litigation. The TUSD board had originally voted on May 10 to look at reducing the number of trustees to five and approved a contract with National Demographics Corporation to draw new district lines and be ready for the 2024 election. Most public objections occurred when TUSD decided to push the redistricting to November 2022, feeling there would not be enough time for public input.

On May 16, the Board voted to institute by-trustee area elections but the motion to decrease the number of trustees from seven to five was defeated. It was felt that before that decision was made, they should look at whether five or seven districts best served TUSD. They were informed by the demographer that there was enough time to develop two maps, one with five districts and one with seven, and still have time for public input before the November election. The maps will be placed on the TUSD website for public review and input before a decision is made as to whether to reduce the number of trustees. The final map must be approved 125 days before the November election so there is not a lot of time for review.

Ethnicity is not the only consideration in developing the maps. The demographers must also consider the exceptionally large size of the district as it includes everything from Sand Canyon to Hart Flat. According to Stacey Larson-Everson, the maps will be available for public input on the TUSD website as soon as they are completed. The public should check frequently for additional public hearings so that their voice may be heard.

The TUSD Board of Trustees meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Wells Education Center located at 300 S. Robinson St., at 5 p.m.