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For the first time this November, South Bay voters will join the crowd and elect school board trustees the way many in San Diego already do.

Following a school board scandal that left residents of Chula Vista, National City, San Ysidro, Imperial Beach and southern San Diego with only one elected trustee, citizens petitioned to overhaul board elections. Before the switch, voters picked all five of the school board members, and the result was that many trustees came from the Eastlake and Bonita areas.

Now South Bay voters in five geographic areas will elect a single trustee to represent each of their respective areas throughout the Sweetwater Union High School District. The idea is that residents will get better representation through a more accessible board member, who must live in the area they speak for.

The process to create these geographic areas moved swiftly: The plan was drawn up and approved within five months.

The County Office of Education hired demographers to map out the five districts, divvying up South Bay’s population as equally as possible. Here’s what they look like:

Lora Duzyk, assistant superintendent at the office, said pairs of high schools and feeder middle schools were kept together in the same geographic district. For example, Eastlake Middle School and High School are both in District 3 and Castle Park High School and Middle School are both in District 4.

Duzyk said the demographers took into consideration political subdivision and U.S. Census blocks while creating the new districts, which will be redrawn every 10 years to accommodate population shifts.

Douglas Johnson, a redistricting consultant who worked on the plan, said nearly 100 school districts in California had started electing board members this way. Many districts in San Diego recently made the switch too.

Johnson said he anticipates more will transition to this model in coming years, especially as school districts recognize the need to reflect minority-majority districts with more equitable representation.

“When districts get really big, trustee areas make sense,” Johnson said, “because it gets harder to knock on all the doors.”

Bianca Bruno

Bianca Bruno is Voice of San Diego's News Literacy program manager. She works with Chula Vista residents, promoting equal access to news through civic...

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