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VUSD Board to Consider Resolution for By-Trustee Area Elections

The Vacaville Unified School District Board of Trustees will consider a resolution declaring the intent to transition from an at-large election system to a by-trustee area election system for the members of the governing board. The public meeting will be held on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 6:30 PM at the Educational Services Center located at 401 Nut Tree Road in Vacaville.


Currently, the seven members of the VUSD Board of Trustees are elected under an “at-large” election system, in which all voters residing within school district boundaries vote for each member. In August 2018, the District received a demand letter from the law firm Shenkman & Hughes, demanding that the District change its method of election to a by-district (or by-trustee) system in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act (Elec. Code, § 14025, et seq.) (“CVRA”) or risk being sued by the firm. This is the same law firm that challenged the City of Vacaville’s election system, which led the City Council to vote unanimously to move away from at-large elections.


Under the CVRA, at-large elections are impermissible if they result in racially polarized voting or cause disenfranchisement of voters from a protected class. The only election system that provides VUSD complete protection from a CVRA claim is a “by-trustee area” election system. A by-trustee election system would require that voting districts be established within the Vacaville Unified School District boundaries. Each trustee must then reside within the designated voting district boundary, and trustees would then be elected only by the voters from the voting district in which the trustee resides. 


When a public agency receives this type of demand letter, the agency is given 45 days to demonstrate its intent to transition to by-trustee area elections.  If the VUSD does not adopt a resolution signaling its intent to transition from at-large to by-trustee area board elections within this 45 day “safe harbor window,” the law firm, or any other plaintiff, may file a lawsuit against the District under the CVRA. 


Superintendent Jane Shamieh commented, “Valid and reasonable points can be made on both sides of the discussion for at-large versus by-trustee area elections systems. However, a CVRA claim is very difficult to defend against and can result in extensive legal expenses. We do all that we can to preserve funds so that they can be used for students.  These are some of the reasons that the Board will be considering adopting the resolution of intention to change election systems.” 


The Vacaville Unified board will hear from the public and consider whether or not to adopt a resolution declaring the intent to transition from at-large to by-trustee area Board elections on September 20th. The public is invited to attend and make public comment during the meeting. Residents can also provide comments to PIO@VacavilleUSD.org.

Posted by: Jennifer Leonard, District Admin, Vacaville Unified School District Published:9/17/18
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