By Charly SHELTON
Glendale Unified School District is switching from an at-large elected school district to a trustee area elected school district. There have been reports at the monthly school board meetings, there have been community meeting public forums where concerned community members and parents were invited to share their thoughts on the redistricting process, there have been, as GUSD Chief Business and Financial Officer Robert McEntire pointed out, ample attempts to get the word out through online information and announcements or advertisements in several newspapers in multiple languages. There are two more events for the public to voice its opinion, either in praise of or dissent to any of the proposed trustee area maps, before they are locked in for the next three years of elections. The lines will be redrawn in 2021 based on the new demographic information gathered in 2020 census. Until then, these lines will serve as the trustee area boundaries for the residents of the district to elect their GUSD Board of Education members.
One of the two remaining events in the process was an official public forum held at the monthly GUSD board meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting began with the annual rotation of officers on the board of education, moving Dr. Armina Gharpetian into the president’s position and Nayiri Nahabedian into the vice president slot. Then the board went into closed session for almost three hours, returning to the regular meeting over an hour after the scheduled time. When the meeting resumed, the call for the public forum was met with no response. Two speaker cards had been turned in but both speakers had not waited around to approach the board.
The presentation from Justin Levitt of the National Demographics Corporation, the firm hired to draw the districting maps, gave an overview of the results from the series of four community forums held throughout Glendale and La Crescenta in March, and answered some questions from the board.
“We look at our city, we are made up of 65 different languages, even though we have four or five major groups in our community,” said Board Member Greg Krikorian. “It’s important [that we remember the reason for switching from an at-large electing district to a trustee area electing district] is to get diversity in the elections, but it wasn’t to hurt our communities and our neighborhood schools. For me, I’m for the future for our community.”
The recent community forums gave some insight to the feelings of the members of the public who attended. The forums gathered between 40-45 attendees total across the meetings and at each meeting the four proposed maps were discussed and opinions collected through the dot voting system. Guests were given four dots to place on their favorite maps and then were asked to share why they made that choice. Map A received the most “best map” dots, which is the most clearly divided map. Map D, which splits the Crescenta Valley down the middle and groups each half with other parts of Glendale, received the second most “best map” dots but also the most “worst map” dots by far. This led to a suggestion to create a fifth map, Map E, that would combine aspects of the top two voted maps from the forums.
“There were two individuals who requested us to look at this particular variation,” Levitt said, “so we created a proposal that drew in the bottom two districts, four and five, from Plan A, and we looked at continuing the northern half, the northern three districts, more or less the same as in Plan D. So the boundary up north becomes the city boundary, literally, between Glendale and La Crescenta, and the southern two districts, as I mentioned before, are simply those of Plan A drawn in to the bottom part of the map.”
But just as the splitting of CV was polarizing at the community forums, it also had polarizing effects during the board’s discussion.
“When [NDC] first presented maps A, B and C to us, I liked those,” Krikorian said. “I’d like to see a merger of the three in some way or form because the big calling throughout this whole process was that the CV community wanted to have a voice, too. Crescenta Valley, Montrose wanted a voice. And by looking at those maps, in all the elections I ran in, which I ran in five, the CV candidate running would always have a hard time winning. Now if we split that area in half, I see it as very difficult, personally, to ever get a CV person up there.”
There will be a final public forum at the next board meeting on April 19 when, at the end of the discussion, the board will select the preferred map before it is officially adopted at the board meeting on May 3.
For more information on the trustee area voting conversion, visit GUSD.net.