The Natomas Unified School District Board of Trustees approved a map last night as part of the district’s transition from At-Large elections to By-Trustee area elections beginning with the November 2022 election. After significant stakeholder engagement, well beyond what is required by law, and also considering input from the community, Trustees voted 5-0 to approve and recommend the adoption of Map F, which can be viewed here.
“Last night’s extraordinary action by the Board demonstrates true leadership. Two Trustees voted for maps that would prevent them from running for school board again until 2024, vacating their seats for what the Board felt was best for Natomas and our students. That kind of leadership from Trustees Jag Bains and Lisa Kaplan is beyond commendable,” said Chris Evans, Superintendent. This first of its kind By-Trustee Area map for NUSD, creating five separate Trustee areas. These areas require future Board candidates to live in a specific Trustee area to be elected to the Board. Trustees will still represent all students in Natomas Unified; however, they will also represent the school and Natomas communities they live-in and near.
After receiving input from the Natomas community throughout the entire process on criteria for designing the draft maps and all of the draft maps presented for public review, the Board made its final decision last night. In the midst of this process, the district received notification on July 21, 2021, that they should be prepared to be sued because the district had not already implemented By-Trustee Areas. The attorney involved has filed a lawsuit against other local school districts in the past year. The district made multiple attempts to collaborate and negotiate with the attorney representing three plaintiffs. On October 26th, 2021, the plaintiffs’ attorney emailed a message stating, “The district has posted maps and must complete the hearing process by Thanksgiving to avoid litigation.” In an effort to create good will, NUSD moved up this decision before Thanksgiving. This past Friday, the plaintiff’s attorney went against his word and filed the lawsuit.
“The plaintiffs’ attorney has sometimes demanded tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from other districts. His efforts aren’t about what is best for our community. They are about money. NUSD has radically reshaped its Governing Body to best serve Natomas and meet the legal requirements. It is sad that this attorney and his clients are taking money away from students when COVID has brought on so many needs.” says Superintendent Evans.
The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA), prohibits the use of an At-Large election in a political subdivision if it would impair the ability of a protected class, as defined, to elect candidates of its choice or otherwise influence the outcome of an election. While NUSD has its most diverse Board of Trustees ever, CVRA addresses a variety of factors that Trustee Areas can ensure legal compliance.
Now that Trustees have approved and recommended the adoption of Map F that will represent the 5 different Trustee areas, the final step is review and approval of the Sacramento County Office of Education County Committee. The County Committee will consider this in early 2022, and By-Trustee Area elections would begin November 2022.