By Anthony Caro
On March 21, 2018, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education was forced to move from at-large elections to trustee area elections due to a lawsuit filed against the district.
On June 27, 2018, three board members voted for a map after failing to attend community meetings and ignoring public hearings about the maps.
For those that aren’t aware, currently any citizen from any part of the district can run for school board. Likewise, any voting citizen from any part of the district can vote for a school board member. Under the new trustee area system, each region of the school district has its own designated trustee. They must live in that designated area and can only receive votes from people that live in that area. Thus leading to us drawing maps for how these trustee areas will be designated.
There are a few requirements the map must meet in order to comply with the district’s policies and the California and Federal Voting Rights Acts. I’d like to highlight two: 1) The map must create at least two trustee areas where a majority of the residents are minorities, and 2) It must keep communities that share similar interests together.
After many public comments, public hearings, community meetings, etc, the map that made the most sense was the June 4th map. This map created District 4 where 50.3% of registered voters in the area are Latino, and District 5 where 52% of registered voters in the area are Black.
Instead, three members of our school board decided to pass the Cities and Schools B map where only 47% of registered voters in District 4 are Latino, and only 48% of registered voters in District 5 are Black. This is in complete violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act as it fails to create two districts where a majority of residents are minorities. Not to mention, it takes power away from our minorities as we can potentially be outvoted by other groups.
One big difference between the two maps is the district encompassing Point Richmond and the Richmond Marina. In the June 4th map, these two more affluent areas are in the same district as El Cerrito- District 3. This was attractive to many community members as these communities share similar demographics and interests. It also follows the district’s elementary and middle school boundary map.
In the Cities and Schools B map, Point Richmond and the Richmond Marina are in District 5 which is made up of North and South Richmond and the Iron Triangle. What interests do the residents of Point Richmond share with the residents of North Richmond? What interests do the residents of the Richmond Marina share with the residents of the Iron Triangle? What if someone from South Richmond decides to run for school board and has to compete with someone in these more affluent areas? Who do you think will be able to raise more money to campaign?
A comment was made by Board Trustee Phillips in regards to Point Richmond being separated from North and South Richmond in the June 4th map. He said “We are now considering taking away, what is arguably, the most influential part of the community as far as resources are considered.” I live in the Iron Triangle and I hope I speak for most when I see we don’t need the more affluent Point Richmond and Richmond Marina influencing our election process.
Cities and Schools B separates parts of San Pablo and Richmond. Parts of Rheem avenue on the Richmond side of San Pablo Avenue are in District 3 with El Cerrito. What interests do the residents that live around Richmond High share with the residents that live around El Cerrito High?
It’s very disrespectful how three board members decided to vote on the Cities and Schools B map. After listening to multiple public comments in support of the June 4th map, and after not having attended any of the district-sponsored community meetings, they had the audacity to vote against the community’s best interest. The two board members, Tom Panas and Valerie Cuevas, who did show up to the district sponsored community meetings, heard the support for June 4th and voted for June 4th.
For those that are upset by how three board members turned their backs to the community, sign our petition. The County Board of Education will vote to approve or disapprove of the Board’s decision in late July. We hope to gather enough signatures to get rid of the disenfranchisement that comes with the Cities and Schools B map, and uphold the community chosen June 4th.
Anthony Caro is a current candidate for School Board for the 2018 election. This 2018 election will be at large, so he is not affected by the trustee area maps as they won’t take effect until the 2020 election.