The Patterson Joint Unified School District will consider remaking its board Monday night, weighing a split into five or seven trustee areas meant to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
"You're playing with fire if you don't comply with this law. We're trying to be proactive," Superintendent Phil Alfano said.
Without trustee elections by demographic area, the district risks a lawsuit that, even if it complied, could still run up $100,000 or more in legal fees. The split, including demographic study, will cost about $15,000, Alfano said.
"Based on our attorney's advice, we believe we would be vulnerable," he said.
That makes the decision a no-brainer, he said. But the act also says voters can overrule the plan, rejecting trustee areas and leaving the district open to being sued.
"We're asking for a waiver to not have to put that to a vote when really, under the law, you have to do it," Alfano said.
The Patterson district now has a seven-member board, elected from throughout the district, and includes two Latinos, Alfano said.
But concerns were raised that there might not be enough school board candidates to support having seven districts of roughly 3,500 people each. So another option is proposed that would reduce the board to five members, dividing the district into five districts of about 5,000 people.
The board will hold a public hearing on the matter, then vote on the changes in four steps. Trustees will be asked to:
Choose a map dividing the district into five or seven trustee areas
Formally ask the Stanislaus County Committee on School District Organization to approve and implement the split
Request a waiver from the requirement that voters approve having trustee areas
Request a waiver from having voters approve the reduction from seven to five trustees
The Patterson Joint Unified School District Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office, 510 Keystone Blvd., Patterson. See the full agenda at http://bit.ly/Pattersonboard.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter, @NanAustin.