TUSD's redistricting comes to a vote
Tehachapi School Board Update
June 25, 2022
The June 16, TUSD special board meeting was attended by a small group of local activists holding signs urging the board of directors to stay at a seven-member board opposed to the five-member board.
A previous vote to decrease from a seven-member board to a five-member board was voted down three to four, with Trustee Jeff Kermode as the deciding vote. He prefaced his vote with the intention of wanting to see the maps of both seven and five-member districts before making a decision. Both he and the public have had a few weeks to look over the proposed maps for both seven and five members.
The meeting started however with a closed session to discuss a complaint to the DA of potential litigation due to a violation of the Brown Act.
There was a large audience filled with parents, teachers and students, who all took turns voicing their opinions about the move from seven members to five. The audience voiced concerns about a smaller board not doing as good of a job representing disparate voices across the district. There were concerns over the sequence of elections, disadvantages for certain board members, and there were concerns about the speed in which the process was taking place.
Board members in favor of the move to a five-member board argued that the board operates as a representative democracy, and that the voice of the board is the voice of the people, similarly to how Kevin McCarthy is the voice of many in Kern County on the federal level. They also stated that when they went into the community and asked their constituents that there was a greater diversity of opinions, many of their constituents agreed with a five-member board, even if those constituencies were not in attendance at the board meetings. The board also recognized that they were not themselves a diverse group, and even mentioned that three of the seven board members live in Bear Valley. They also argued that the costs would be lower by moving forward with the election waiver and a move to five members. TUSD estimated that putting the board member decrease to a vote in 2022 would cost around $63,000. If the board lost two members, they would also pay less in health insurance, as all board members are entitled to be part of the district's health plan. This could save around $9,000 per year.
The vote hinged on Jeff Kermode. Before the vote, Kermode stated that Tehachapi has a history of having seven board members partly because Tehachapi started out as multiple separate districts and unified into one larger district. He also pushed back on the criticism that reducing the size of the board will disenfranchise voters and take their voices away. Kermode argued that the board is beholden to the public and is voted in by the public.
After these remarks, legal counsel explained that the board had three options. Option one was to vote down a five-member board, and stick to seven members. This option would also have the board adopting a seven-member map. Option two was to accept a five-member board in 2022. This would be potentially difficult, as the election waiver that would allow for a five-member board, might not be accepted in time for the 2022 election. This would mean that the election would have to default to a seven member election. Legal counsel commented that this option would be the most complicated. Option three would be to vote for a seven-member board in 2022, and have a five-member board in 2024. This option would allow for more time for the waiver to be accepted, and provide extra time to map out a five-district map.
The board voted four to three in favor of a five-member board in 2024, and a seven-member board for 2022. They also voted on map 702 as the map for 2022. Map 702 creates many vacant trustee seats in Stallion Springs, northern Tehachapi, and Golden Hills, so if you're considering a run for office, now might be your chance.
If you want to look at Map 702, you can visit TehachapiUSD.com. This topic was covered a week early on our Podcast "In the Loop: Tehachapi" which can be found on Spotify.
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.