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Court Approves Trustee Area Map, Sets Independent Redistricting Commission

A map that creates trustee areas in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) for the 2020 election was approved by a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge today, ending litigation that sought to change the way members of the Board of Education are voted into office and implementing new procedures for future elections.

“I am pleased to draw this litigation to a close and look forward to returning our focus to ensuring that our students get the best educational experiences possible,” Board President Tom Panas said. “It is the hope of this Board that the transition to trustee areas elections will give residents elected representatives who are passionate and effective advocates for all of the children in this District.”

On March 21, 2018, the Board of Education voted to move “by-trustee area” elections, where each member is elected from a defined area within the District, and by the voters residing in that defined area. To date, District elections have been “at large,” meaning that all voters in the District vote for all Trustee seats. However, also on March 21, 2018, a lawsuit was filed under the California Voting Rights Act.  While the Board adopted a proposed trustee area map, the County Committee on School District Organization rejected that map, and the litigation continued.

The trustee area map that has now been approved by the court is a result of negotiations between the plaintiff and the District and takes into consideration input received from the public at numerous public hearings. The map seeks to create at least two trustee areas in which traditionally underrepresented communities have a better opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing to the Board of Education. Trustee area boundaries do not affect the District’s school attendance boundaries.

Under the terms, voters in WCCUSD will elect members to the Board of Education by geographic area beginning in 2020 and have trustee area boundaries drawn and approved by an independent commission beginning with the 2022 election. All five seats on the Board will be up for election in 2020.

The court’s action further implements a decision previously announced by the Board of Education to use an independent commission to draw and approve trustee area maps beginning with the 2022 election. The independent commission will be composed of seven members appointed by a retired judge who is to be selected by the attorneys for the plaintiff and District. The independent commission is a process that is newly available to school districts under California Elections Code sections 23000 - 23003.

The agreement also directs the District to pay the plaintiff’s attorney $280,000 (in addition to the $30,600 previously paid).

Details about the negotiated resolution will be shared at the March 6 Board of Education meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. at DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond, CA.  Additional information can also be found online at www.wccusd.net/trusteeareas.