Four draft maps now being considered; LAUSD wants feedback
The Los Alamitos Unified School District is in its final stages of changing how voters elect trustees to its Board of Education. But there’s still time for the public to weigh in on the process.
Since August, LAUSD has been transitioning from an at-large voting system to one with trustee voting areas. That means, starting in 2020, voters will no longer select all five of the trustees on the Board. Instead, voters will pick one candidate to represent their specific trustee area every four years.
LAUSD hired a professional demographer to draw the boundaries for the new five voting trustee areas. Since October, eleven draft maps have been produced. Each draft map was created and altered based on input from the Board of Education trustees at public hearings and feedback from community members at more than two dozen meetings.
Four maps have emerged as the final options up for discussion. All of the maps, including an interactive version, can be viewed at losal.org/voting.
LAUSD Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver encourages residents to check out the newest draft maps and offer comments to help the Board of Education make a choice.
“Really look at the maps,” Dr. Pulver said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Let us know which one really best represents your community of interest.” Dr. Pulver explained your community of interest could be your neighborhood, your city, or where your children attend school.
You can voice your opinion at a public hearing on Tuesday, January 7, during the regular Board of Education meeting at 6:30pm at 10293 Bloomfield Street in Los Alamitos. Board trustees are expected to vote on a final map at their meeting on January 21. You can also email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘There’s not one good or one bad map’
The district has nine schools spread across Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos but also encompasses parts of Cypress and Long Beach. Each trustee area must have an equal population size of about 9,600 people, which includes children and other nonvoters.
LAUSD hired the firm National Demographics Corporation to draw the maps dividing up the district in different ways to show a variety of options. The maps must adhere to state and federal laws and are based on criteria prioritized by the Board of Education.
First, there were five draft maps. Then, after public comment, a few were removed, including two that placed all of the incumbents in separate trustee areas. Revised draft maps were created after more public comment. Now, after another round of public hearings, the latest during the Dec. 10 Board of Education meeting, four draft maps are being considered – Orange 2, Yellow 3, Green 3 and Green 4.
“It makes the choices clearer,” Megan Cutuli, the newly named Board President, said at the Dec. 10 meeting.
“There’s not one good or one bad map,” Pulver said this week. “They just reflect different interests.”
So, what are the different interests of the four maps?
All of the draft maps keep the most ethnically diverse area of the district in one trustee area to ensure it has representation. That area covers parts of Los Alamitos and Cypress.
The map known as Orange 2 is the most compact and divides up the school district roughly by municipal boundaries. For instance, Seal Beach is split between two trustee areas along Westminster Boulevard.
Leisure World is entirely in its own trustee area in the Orange 2 map, which essentially guarantees the private retirement community a representative on the Board.
“We knew [Leisure World] was going to be our conundrum,” Dr. Pulver said this week.
There are a few concerns with Leisure World, which bars anyone under 55 from living there. Leisure World residents do not vote on or pay for any LAUSD bond measures, but they do vote for the Board of Education. Partially because no school-age children can live there, some community members question Leisure World’s connection to the school district.
Resident Donna Artukovic is one of them. She has attended many public hearings and initially supported keeping Leisure World in one trustee area. But at the Dec. 10 meeting she told Board members she now supports splitting it up.
After the meeting, Artukovic said she doesn’t feel Leisure World residents have enough of a personal interest in what’s happening with the district. “It doesn’t mean they don’t care about it,” she said, acknowledging that many of the residents are educated and turn out to vote. “It just means they don’t have a stake.”
Barbara Farrell has another view. At the Dec. 10 meeting, Farrell said Leisure World is its own community of interest and should not be broken up. She said many of the residents are very well-educated and engaged. “They have a right to a voice,” she told the Board members.
Board member Karen Russell said at the Dec. 10 meeting that no matter how Leisure World is incorporated into the trustee areas, its residents will have the option of running for a seat on the Board. In her public comments, resident Jody Roubanis said that based on her research, no Leisure World resident has ever held a seat on the Board.
The other concern is that because Leisure World is populated with residents who are all voting age, they could outvote other neighborhoods in their trustee area.
Right now, Leisure World represents about 20% of the registered voters in the entire district, according to Justin Levitt, the demographer in charge of drawing the boundaries of the trustee areas for LAUSD. Levitt based the figure on data from the 2016 and 2018 elections.
In the Orange 2 map, Leisure Would represents 84% of the registered voters in their trustee area. The Yellow 3 map breaks Leisure World into three trustee areas with Leisure World accounting for between 27% to 34% of the registered voters in each of the three trustee areas. The Green 3 and Green 4 maps split up Leisure World into four trustee areas. Leisure World would account for at least 16% and up to 28% of the registered voters in those four areas.
Balancing school sites
Another debate is how to arrange the district’s nine school campuses into the five trustee areas. LAUSD has six elementary schools, two middle schools and Los Alamitos High School.
At the Dec. 10 meeting, Rossmoor resident Joel Block said using school locations to draw the boundaries doesn’t make sense. Block said his kids attended LAUSD schools but thinks drawing districts that are contiguous and follow municipal boundaries makes the most sense.
“Stick to what you adopted,” Block said, referring to the measures the Board supported at the outset of the process. Later in the meeting, Dr. Pulver clarified that school attendance areas are part of the criteria adopted by the Board of Education for the drawing of the maps.
Rossmoor resident Larry Strawther spoke passionately about the importance of schools being considered as communities of interest. He said many LAUSD families connect with one another at their elementary schools where most students spend six years, from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“The schools are the commonality,” Strawther said and encouraged the drawing of trustee areas by schools. “Start with the elementary schools and go from there.”
“I do believe communities of interest are related to the schools,” Board trustee Diana Hill said.
Hill and Board President Cutuli also spoke in favor of spreading out the district’s schools across multiple trustee areas.
The Orange 2 map concentrates the district’s nine schools into two of the five trustee areas with J.H. McGaugh Elementary being the only school in a third trustee area. Two of the trustee areas have no campuses in the Orange 2 map. The Yellow 3, Green 3 and Green 4 maps spread the schools across four of the five trustee areas.
‘Democracy at its finest’
The public is being encouraged to speak up because Board members are listening.
At the Dec. 10 public hearing, Board Vice President Marlys Davidson said she was ready to ask for one map to be eliminated but said she heard some arguments from the public that changed her thinking.
“I was going to be opposed to Green, but I’m not now,” Davidson said.
Board President Cutuli thanked residents for the feedback. “It does impact our thoughts,” she said.
“I think it’s important to know that the Board is still deciding, and weighing all its options,” Levitt wrote in an email to The Sun. “They are continuing to ask for input from any district resident on the plan adopted.”
This week, Dr. Pulver emphasized that the public has already greatly impacted the process. He said not one of the original five drafts maps is still being considered because the community voiced their opinions to make changes.
“It’s really democracy at its finest,” he said.