By Charly SHELTON
Last week saw the final community public forums at sites throughout the Glendale Unified School District regarding the upcoming redistricting of areas for school board voters. Until recently GUSD was an at-large district, meaning that anyone who lived within the district’s borders could vote for all five candidates on the GUSD board of education. On April 17, 2015, the school district was sued by a law firm citing a violation of the California Voting Rights Act in which the GUSD voting system violated the rights of minority voters. On Sept. 30, the Los Angeles Superior Court approved settlement of the case with no finding of liability or wrongdoing and an agreement was made to move to trustee area voting before the next election in 2017.
As such, a new kind of map will need to be drawn for aligning the entirety of the GUSD area into five equal areas, with voters in each area responsible for electing one representative for the board of education.
“Glendale Unified is like the 135 other school districts that have made the shift, mainly for financial reasons,” said Doug Johnson, president of National Demographics Corporation, who is doing the demographic research and drawing up the new trustee area maps. “The lawsuits are way too expensive to challenge and fight and so we are saving the couple of million dollars to spend on the kids rather than spend on lawyers.”
This issue dates back to January 2014 when it was first raised that there may be an issue with the CVRA compliance. Since then, there have been many avenues explored and a great deal of input given by experts as well as the public. Part of that information gathering is what brought the series of redistricting meetings to local area schools including Crescenta Valley High School. Since the second week of January 2016, the board of education and NDC have been working together to create four draft maps, each one slightly different, which represent the neighborhoods they cover and that can also work as a whole to unify the district.
“What moving to trustee areas is usually done for is to give a voice to areas that in the past didn’t have a voice because they were overwhelmed by the voters in other parts of the jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “We have a weird situation in Glendale. Usually the [voters] that are low turnout, that tend to not have a voice, are the lower income, often Latino or African-American [communities]. Here of course, the lowest turnout precincts in the district are some of the wealthiest, up here in the unincorporated area. It’s a little bit of an oddity in that respect.”
The Sagebrush issue was one that weighed heavily on the minds of many of the roughly 30 community members in attendance at the CVHS redistricting meeting. On the far eastern edge of the district in the Crescenta Valley is an area known as Sagebrush that has been hotly debated for the last few years. Some families in the Sagebrush area want to withdraw from the Glendale Unified School District and be part of the La Cañada Unified School District. If that larger chunk of the district was to be reassigned and removed from GUSD, the numbers could be thrown off and all of the current redistricting work may be altered. Johnson allayed fears and explained how the process would go should the Sagebrush territory leave the GUSD.
“I haven’t done the exact numbers yet, but there’s something like 2,000 or 3,000 people in Sagebrush,” Johnson said. “And the population numbers we’re using are for the 2010 census. The city has grown way [beyond the] 2,000 or 3,000 people since 2010 with all that growth downtown. So Sagebrush is not going to drive a huge shift or imbalance that isn’t already there.”
Johnson went on to explain that with the 2020 census, new numbers will be available and these lines may be altered or completely redrawn in 2021 to reflect the population changes.
The redistricting meetings gathered input from the public to gauge public opinion on the proposed areas. There will be an official public hearing at the April 5 school board meeting, and a final public hearing at the April 19 meeting when the board will select the preferred map. At the meeting on May 3, the board will formally adopt the preferred map and in April 2017 the new trustee area maps will be used to elect three of the five seats that will be up for election.
For more information, visit GUSD.net.