Central Unified adjusts board election plan

Following last year’s decision to change from district-wide, at-large elections to trustee-area elections, the Central Unified school board voted Tuesday night to move forward with a plan that establishes each trustee area will have two to seven elementary school attendance areas.

The board voted 6-1, with Cindy Berube the dissenting trustee. The vote also ensures no incumbents will be paired in November’s election.

The plan the district approved creates one trustee area with 50% Hispanic population in the central part of the district, and two others with 43% and 42% Hispanic populations. There are seven areas.

Central Unified expects the costs for the voting changes, including administrative costs, will be about $50,000.

Tuesday’s decision was preceded by a series of town hall-style meetings and public hearings.

Central Unified Superintendent Mike Berg said he was happy to finish the process and that the district was able to address issues raised by the community.

The vote for change in election procedure last March came about after the board was threatened with a lawsuit.

Many districts, including Fresno Unified, have changed the way they elect members after coming under fire for not adhering to the 2002 Voting Rights Act. The act requires public agencies to allow elections by districts if it’s proven that at-large elections — in which all voters can vote for any candidate — lessen the chances for a minority candidate to win.

Hispanic groups have pushed for such changes, saying candidates favored by minorities lose elections to white candidates who have the money to finance large, citywide campaigns.

Originally, the board voted to implement the new system for the 2012 elections, but after facing the threat of legal action by Hispanic voter-advocacy groups, the decision was changed to enact the procedure in 2010.

The plan now faces approval by the State Board of Education and the County Committee on School District Organization, both of which have meetings scheduled in March. If the changes are approved, they will be in effect for November’s election.

Central Unified has about 14,000 students. The district is more than 45% Hispanic, nearly double the number of whites, the second-largest group.

Correction: Based on information from the Central Unified School District, it was incorrectly reported that the school board voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to change from districtwide, at-large elections to trustee-area elections. The board voted 6-1, with Cindy Berube the dissenting trustee.

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