Tonight: School board may decide how to subdivide Sequoia high school district


The board of the Sequoia Union High School District meets tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 16) at 6 p.m. and may decide on a map to subdivide the 19-square-mile school district into separate voting areas. The goal is to improve the chances of a more ethnically diverse board.

Threatened with a lawsuit from a Latino civil rights group, and in order to comply with California's Voting Rights Act, the board is making changes to its at-large election system in which each member is elected by voters from the entire district.

The board meets at 480 James Ave. in Redwood City.

The new system would divide the district into trustee areas. Candidates would have to live within the area's boundaries and would be elected by voters living in that area.

The board has been studying a series of maps prepared by a demographer, and has narrowed the selection to three versions of two maps that each create five trustee areas. The board may settle on a map before the end of the year.

The challenge has been to find a map that meets rigorous federal fairness standards while creating trustee areas that do not include too much of one school attendance area. A trustee area that includes a heavy concentration of one school attendance area could create the impression that the board member for that trustee area represents that individual high school.

View the first set of three maps here, here and here.

View the second set here, here and here.

Maps 1(a) and 3(a) are the drafts the board winnowed out at its Nov. 2 meeting from a set of five maps presented to the public in October in a series of community meetings.

Maps 1(b) and 3(b) alter the (a) versions by expanding trustee area E to include the western portion of the Ravenswood City Elementary District.

Maps 1(c) and 3(c) of area E differ from the (a) versions in that they include the northwestern portion of the Ravenswood district, but a cost to the inclusion of parts of North Fair Oaks, Superintendent Jim Lianides said.

The challenge in creating these maps, Mr. Lianides said, is rooted in "numerous and generally white populations" between East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks that cause trustee area E to reach its maximum population total before taking in all of North Fair Oaks -- if the area also includes all of the Ravenswood district.

Board President Alan Sarver noted that the trustee area boundaries will be reevaluated after the next national census in 2020.

The board has been putting off a discussion of what to do if the final map puts two current board members in the same trustee area, something that's possible in creating two trustee areas: Menlo Park is home to both Mr. Thomsen and Allen Weiner, while Belmont and nearby San Carlos are home to Mr. Sarver and Carrie DuBois.

The demographer, while aware of board members' home addresses, was told not to consider them in preparing the maps.


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