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The San Benito High School Board of Trustees approved a proposal from a demographics firm at the May 9 meeting to begin the process that could eventually lead to re-drawing district boundaries. National Demographics Corporation (NDC) will be paid to start an analysis that could lead to a district decision on the re-drawn districts. 

The agenda item was first introduced at the Feb. 28 meeting by attorney William Tunick of Dannis Woliver Kelley (DWK). During public comment, community members and members of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) said current board members are not representative of the districts, the community or the current student population. While there was no immediate action taken at that meeting, the board asked for the topic to be brought back for further discussion. At the March 14 meeting, trustees voted to accept proposals regarding redistricting. 

“At this time, the district is recommending that the board take action to approve services to go out and do two things: One is the analysis from NDC for an analysis of concerns as well as trustee boundaries for redistricting,” said interim superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum, noting that the district had received four proposals but recommend NDC because of its “long excellent track record in this business.”

The first stage of the redistricting analysis —the compilation of demographic and election history profiles — will cost the district $4,500 and take approximately three weeks. The next stage, also a three-week process, will be a “racially polarized voting analysis” looking at the past two or three election cycles and will cost $1,200 per election analyzed. The re-drawing of districts, which would take between one and 14 months and include public outreach, will cost the district $12,500 per meeting.

During discussion, Trustee Juan Robledo asked when the redistricting would take place.

Tennenbaum answered, “The redistricting would take effect when each board member would term out of their cycle and where they would fall under the new boundaries.”

Board members also shared their concerns about running for re-election after their terms were finished. 

First-term trustee John Corrigan said, “It could be that you wouldn’t run for re-election because your district may not be available. Let’s say when they set it up that you (Robledo) and Patty (Nehme) are in the same district, but you’re terming out in 2018 when she doesn’t term out until 2020 so then you can’t run until she terms out so you would have to take a two-year break.”

He added that it was something board members could ask demographers to look into. “They can take into consideration the location of the current trustees,” Corrigan said. “They can’t enforce it, but they can legally consider.”

Later in the discussion, Nehme said, “I still have a concern … if there are people that don’t run for certain areas, that is just a fear of mine for the district, that you have no buy-in or concern for anything that is in this district. Yet you have to be appointed or something to that effect to fill the position and that is still a concern and that’s not personal.”

“Of course we’re going to do all the guidelines right and we’re going to open it up, but can there be something put in that saves the district the possibility of having somebody who is not concerned or not tied to the district and having them run and having them sit in a position were there is absolutely no viability for them and no want?”

At the March 14 meeting, Nehme shared her concerns about the potential lack of candidates running from the re-drawn districts. She suggested putting in place a “fail safe” in case no one in a district ran.

Robledo said, “I think when we go to districts, I think there will almost always be someone who’ll run because they won’t be challenged by somebody in another district.”

Corrigan added, “…we’re going to set up a policy of how this is handled but it’s going to happen. We’re going to have a district at some point where nobody runs and it’s something that the board has to have a policy in place to deal with. Sooner or later, it’ll happen. Maybe not in the next election, maybe not for 10 years, but at some point it’ll happen.”