Registered voters living in the Manteca Unified School District geographical jurisdiction will be voting on more than one measure in the November elections.
First, they are being asked to vote on the proposed $159 million school bond, or Measure G, with the money earmarked for the repairs, technological upgrades, and maintenance of old classrooms as well as for the construction of new buildings on properties already owned by the district.
But there’s another measure on the ballot that has not been given as much hoopla as the school bond. It is Measure I, the proposal to change the method of electing district trustees from at-large as it has been in previous years, to by-trustee-area only which means that trustees are elected just by the voters in the respective areas that they represent. Voting at-large means all board members are elected by the registered voters of the entire school district, with each trustee living in the area that he or she represents.
The overriding reason behind the by-trustee-area electoral system is to protect the school district from expensive potential lawsuits. Voting by at-large has been shown to be threatened by the California Voting Rights Act of 1001, or CVRA. Several school districts in California have, in fact, been sued or threatened with lawsuits for alleged violations of the CVRA.
Switching to by-area voting only of trustees lessens the school district’s vulnerability to challenges under the CVRA.
As part of that proposed election-method switch, the trustee map of the school district was redrawn which resulted in seven instead of the previous five trustee areas. Now, each of the seven trustee areas is represented by one member of the board. Previously, Area 5, which is the central part of the city of Manteca and the most densely populated, was represented by three trustees – board president Don Scholl, and Trustees Evelyn Moore and Deborah Romero. With the redrawn map, Romero now represents Area 7, with Scholl and Moore representing Area 6 and Area 5, respectively.
The election method was originally proposed to be voted on by the school board members after obtaining a waiver from the state to eliminate the state-approval requirement. However, that proposal was challenged by school district residents including former board member Dale Fritchen of Weston Ranch, who said that such an action should rest on the voters instead on just a few people.