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Community Divided Over Three Proposed ABCUSD Voting District Maps

ABC Federation of Teacher leaders Gavin Riley and Rueben Mancillas look to be unhappy with the three proposed Trustee Voting Maps that were unveiled during last week’s public meeting at Carmenita Middle School.  Pete Parker Photo

ABC Federation of Teacher leaders Gavin Riley and Rueben Mancillas look to be unhappy with the three proposed Trustee Voting Maps that were unveiled during last week’s public meeting at Carmenita Middle School. Pete Parker Photo

By Brian Hews

ABC Unified School District officials have rolled out three different plans that would dramatically place the well-respected public school system into seven different voting districts beginning in 2015.

Last week, members of the public got their first inside and up close look at the proposed maps during an informational hearing held at Carmenita Middle School in Cerritos.

Back on November 19, 2013 the ABCUSD Board of Education voted to approve changing from an at-large Board election to a trustee area election system. Seven trustee areas will be created for the 2015 Board election.

It now appears more than a strong possibility that as many as three or four of the current seven elected members on the ABC School Board may be in danger of losing their seats due to how the final voting district maps are drawn.

Currently, all seven members of the ABC School Board are residents of the City of Cerritos.  They are President Sophia Tse, and members Lynda Johnson, Soo Yoo, Celia Spitzer, Maynard Law, Olympia Chen and Armin Reyes.  The new maps could literally pit several of them against one and another in the same voting district since many live within blocks of each other in certain cases.

Dr. Jeanne Gobalet of Demographic Research, Inc. facilitated the discussion at Carmenita Middle School last week along with current ABC School Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu.  Sitting in the audience was Law, Yoo, Reyes, and several other local elected officials in the area including Artesia Vice Mayor Miguel Canales, Lakewood Mayor Steve Croft, Hawaiian Gardens City Councilmember Marianna Rios, and Cerritos Mayor Mark Pulido.

The three plans that are being proposed are broken into maps known as Trustee Area Plan A, B and C. While they three plans differ in boundaries, the voters who live in Hawaiian Gardens will be guaranteed to have one of its residents elected to the board in all future elections.

 “We tried to avoid splitting election precincts which should make our plans relatively easy for the Registrar of Voters to implement. However, using intact precincts tends to increase plan deviations, and sometimes leads to odd boundaries,” said a consultant with Lapkoff & Gobalet during the meeting at Carmenita Middle School.

It is also looking like the residents who live in the area of East Lakewood that serves Willow Elementary School, Artesia High School, Aloha Elementary School, and Melbourne Elementary School will also have their own representative in the future on the board if either Plan A, B or C are put into place.

Also, if Plan C is adopted, voters who live in Artesia will be able to vote for one of their own residents in the future to be their representative on the ABC School Board.  If Plan A or B are approved, it appears that the voters in Artesia will be placed into voting districts where Cerritos member Tse lives (Area 1, Plan A) as well as Spitzer (Area 4, Plan A).

If Plan A is adopted ABC School Board Members Yoo and Chen would have to square off against each other, and Reyes and Johnson would have to run against each other. Law would be the only incumbent to reside in Area 5 Plan A if that is adopted.

During the meeting, Gavin Riley, who has been an active leader for the ABC Federation of Teachers said that he and his union members “didn’t like any of the suggested plans, period.”  Riley said the ABCFT would be recommending their own boundaries and would be submitting them to District administrators.

Croft, the current Mayor of Lakewood, said that his city council would be adopting an official resolution to school district officials during the next few weeks.

“The voters and students who live in Lakewood have earned and deserve a permanent seat of the ABC School Board from this day forward,” Croft said.  The Lakewood mayor is also a former student and graduate from the ABC Unified School District.  “I am a product of the ABC School District, and want our community to have as much rights as any of the other communities of interest,” he said.

“The three proposed plans that were developed represent compromises that balance the legal requirement and other considerations,” said ABC Superintendent Sieu.

The report also stressed that “each Trustee Area must have approximately 1/7th of the school district Census 2010 total population; overall deviation or 10% or less of the ideal trustee area size.”

“The Federal Voting Right Act requires that we respect the rights of groups protected by the Act,” said Tom Chavez, who is a resident of Norwalk who was one of the Plaintiffs who sued the ABC School District over past at-large voting practices.

“Look, the law is clear.  The new ABC School Board is going to have representatives who live throughout the entire district, and we need to make sure that the right district lines are drawn to make this happen,” Chavez told HMG-CN in an interview at the hearing.

The adopted plan will need to be re-evaluated after the 2020 Census and again ten years later in 2030 to assure the voting district still meet legal requirements under the Federal Voting Rights Act.

“Democracy rules in the ABC School District, and we can all celebrate this new reality,” said Charles Ara, a longtime Cerritos resident and active proponent of the new district voting plan.