Lowell District adopts new trustee map

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

The Lowell Joint School District Board of Trustees dealt with two items at its meeting Tuesday night that impacts the future of their board.

New trustee area map for Lowell Joint School District board.

The trustees approved a map that establishes a “by-trustee area” elections methodology. Trustees will now be elected from the specific designated areas from the district.

According to board President Bill Hinz, the map that was unanimously approved “best reflects the overall comments from the public and allows for a great diversity of demographics. “

La Habra Heights Mayor Roy Francis and former mayor Stan Carroll both spoke urging the district adopt a map that kept the Heights region intact as one trustee area.

Trustee Staci Shackelford noted that the most part, the adopted map keeps the Heights area intact and doesn’t split it up unnecessarily. She went on to add that the new designated areas allow for trustees to represent multiple schools in the district.

This “overlap” will help provide greater responsibility and input by the trustees and allow for parents and district employees to have greater representation on the board.

Shackelford reiterated to those in attendance that the drawing of the map and designating areas is not by

Demographics of new trustee areas of Lowell Joint School District’s board.

choice. “It’s really unfortunate that are arm is being twisted like it is being twisted,” she said. “We are a little district and to have to do this is counterproductive to what we do.”

The change was initiated after the board received a demand letter from Malibu law firm of Shenkman & Hughes which stated that the board was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act and needed to make the change.

All board members shared that the boundaries on the map allowed for the best opportunities for the district and will allow the district to continue operating as it has been.

The board also unanimously approved submitting a waiver that will allow the district to implement the “by trustee area” voting map and not have to have the public vote on it.

Shackelford said that decision was not to seem like they were bypassing the public but rather to save the district money.

The waiver saved the district $50,000 for not having to submit to electorate for a vote. Shackelford explained that if they had done the election they would have been outside the timeframe outlined in the lawsuit, and it would initiate a follow-up lawsuit. Further, if the electorate decided against any of the maps then not only would they be served with another lawsuit, but the district would also have to pay for the demographer and research of new proposed maps.

Shackelford and Hinz explained that this waiver saves the district time and money.

The board directed Superintendent Jim Coombs to work with outreach to the families and voters in the district to let them know about the map and understand the new voting process.

In addition the approving the map, the board accepted the resignation of Trustee Darin Barber. Barber’s resignation was effective Jan 12, 2018.

In his note to the board Barber explained that his other commitments have made it difficult to continue to be an effective member of the board.

The board will now have until March 21 to appoint and swear-in a replacement trustee to finish out Barber’s term, which ends in 2018.

Information will be sent out to the district families letting them know of the vacancy. Coombs said it will be posted as early as Monday and will run for three weeks. Applicants who were in the pool to fill the vacancy last year will also be contacted to see if they would like to submit their applications.

The next board meeting is February 5 at the district office.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.