Perris Union High School District to select trustee area map

The feeling is mutual between Perris and Menifee residents living within the Perris Union High Scho...

The feeling is mutual between Perris and Menifee residents living within the Perris Union High School District.

After a series of meetings about the district’s switch from at-large to trustee area elections concluded last week, the public has let their school board know that they want an equitable plan.

The final public hearing was held last Wednesday at the Menifee Union School District, drawing a meager but loyal audience that favored only one of three potential redistricting maps presented.

Freeway-based Plan 1 is the map that has been preferred all across the district. Since it uses major thoroughfares as boundaries, such as the Interstate 215, it has the cleanest lines and lowest deviation.

A drawback of the plan is that it fails to create a single Hispanic majority district, one of the main goals in districting criteria. It does, however, create two districts of Hispanic influence.

Perris Board of Trustees President Eric Kroencke said that the school board will listen to what the people want. Plan 1 has been the public's preference throughout the district.
Other requirements are to balance the population evenly amongst the five trustee areas, anticipate population shifts, and maintain communities of interest.

Bob O’Donnell of the Menifee School District Governing Board liked Plan 1 despite its disadvantage.

“This plan visually makes more sense,” he said during the last meeting. “Even with its drawback, we’ll have Hispanic influence throughout the district.”

The other two plans create at least one Hispanic majority district, but audience members at every hearing were not keen about the way boundary lines were drawn.

Residents feel most comfortable with Plan 1 because it lessens the possibility of electing another dominated school board. Currently, four out of five trustees live in Menifee. The fifth trustee lives in Perris.

The district hired Peter A. Morrison of Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographics firm to create five trustee areas in accordance with the 2010 census.

“Plan 1 is attractive if you want to spread the influence equally,” Morrison said. “This plan gives each district a dominant voice.”

The Perris Board of Trustees will meet Nov. 16 to review the plans and possibly make a selection. The public is invited to attend at 5 p.m. in the boardroom at 155 East Fourth St. in Perris.

Board President Eric Kroencke, who attended all four of the informational meetings held throughout the district, said that he and the board “will listen to what the people want.”

Although public input was solicited, the district was disappointed in the amount of people who showed up to each public hearing.

Fred Good, a school facilities consultant, said he was proud of what the district accomplished with the meetings, but astonished about the turnout.

The district sent letters and phone messages in English and Spanish, and various residents helped spread the word through church and community events, but attendance was low, especially for Hispanics.

“I just don’t think there’s enough interest for them because it doesn’t directly concern their children,” said Linda Quattlebaum, Executive Assistant to the Perris Union High School District Superintendent.

The switch from at-large to trustee area elections may not affect students, but it may change the racial and geographic makeup of the school board to better represent its student population.

The Perris Union High School District is made up of eight schools. About 160,000 people live within the district’s boundaries. Approximately 76,400 are of Hispanic origin, but only 16,300 are registered voters.

Trustee area elections also guarantee a better opportunity for minority candidates to be elected since candidates will only be required to secure votes from the district they live in.

If the district does not make this transition, they risk being sued. The California Voting Rights Act forbids at-large elections if they deliberately impair the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice.

“In an environment where lawsuits are proliferating, this will insulate the district,” said Morrison.


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