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San Diego County Board of Education rejects FUESD map in favor of alternate

The San Diego County Board of Education, Wednesday, May 8, rejected Map 103, a trustee districting map approved by the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees in February and replaced it with the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz Map proposed by members of the community with a 4-0 vote.

The county board of education meeting in San Marcos was attended by supporters of the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz map and many approached the dais to explain their reasoning behind their opposition to FUESD's Map 103.

The school district adopted a resolution to accept Map 103, and its election sequence was the district's solution to remedy a 17-year California Voting Rights Act violation.

But, opponents said there was a lack of consideration from the Fallbrook board for the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz community map and maintained that Map 103 continued to violate the California Voting Rights Act by denying members of a majority Latino district in the 2020 election.

"We have very minimal representation and in our community surrounded by Rainbow, De Luz and Bonsall, we really have essentially two main bodies that make decisions about our education and our health," speaker Armando Tellis said, referencing the health district, elementary and high school districts. "Which all comes to mean that there are very few people making a lot of decisions for the vast majority that is not reflected on these boards. So, to have a lack of participation in those communities should be a concern. You should be concerned that when we are seeking to make these types of historic changes, the majority is still not part of that process.

"I'm glad that we're still going to be exploring what those maps look like because it's going to determine how these district areas are going to be broken down in the area. Very likely there's going to be an underserved community still left unheard," Tellis said.

After hearing community input, the county board of education board discussed the issue after 1st District Trustee Mark Powell abstained from the vote having missed the earlier community input meeting in Fallbrook Feb. 23.

"I favor the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz Map," 5th District Trustee Rich Shea said. "Based on all the testimony we've heard, all the documents we've received, that's my feeling."

2nd District Trustee Guadalupe Gonzales said community input was of the utmost importance to her.

"It is important because this is who these positions should be representing," she said. "I was impressed with the level of knowledge that the community sought for them to able to craft an equitable map. I think there was a lot of thought, a lot of process and great input that went into the map that was eventually developed by the community. Thank you for that."

After the board had their say, they took a vote to reject Map 103 and to adopt the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz Map. The board also had the option of sending the district back to the drawing board to start over or of adopting Map 103 as presented.

"Thanks to the San Diego County Office of Education for listening to our community, to those who showed up to every meeting and hearing, to all of the 200-plus who signed the petition, to all supporters and especially to the committed core group working to move our community forward together," Ricardo Favela said after the decision. "In the same meeting, the SDCOE also adopted Map 5a to form voting districts for the Fallbrook Union High School District. Map 5a is similar to the Favela/Stamos/Ortiz Map. Both maps include a downtown district with a majority of Latina and Latino voters that can effectively choose their own representatives who reside in the district. As desired by the community, these Latino majority districts can vote for their representatives in the next election of 2020."

The Village News reached out the FUESD board for comment after learning of the decision, and FUESD Governing Board President Siegrid Stillman provided a statement.

"The Governing Board is disappointed that the San Diego County Board of Education, acting as the county Committee on School District Organization, has voted to disregard the legal map that the FUESD Governing Board adopted following a thoughtful and transparent process," Stillman said. "While we dispute the legal authority the county committee has to implement a different map, we have decided to move forward in the process of transitioning to the trustee area elections using the map assigned to us. We are working to determine the next steps to conclude this transition.

"It is worth noting that the San Diego County Board of Education is one of only two boards in the entire state who acts wholly as the county Committee on School District Organization. Nowhere else in California has a county board interpreted the law in a way that forces a district to implement a different map over one selected by the local district's school board. The San Diego County Committee acknowledged that the map chosen by our board was legal and met all the criteria of the California Voting Rights Acts, but still chose to take action that disregarded the decision of locally elected board members.

"Although the FUESD Governing Board is disappointed, as we attend the many events that are a part of the end of the school year, we are reminded why we serve; our work is profoundly meaningful and making a difference in the lives of our students. We look forward to getting back to the work of inspiring greatness in our students," Stillman said.

Leticia Maldonado-Stamos, who spoke at the meeting in opposition of Map 103, also reacted to the decision.

"We as members of the community were up against an established group of people, the FUESD board, who decided early on that they didn't need to take us into account," she said. "We had to muster up all of our collective resources to make sure that the spirit and the letter of the law were followed to remedy this 17-year-old voting rights violation.

"Our local board had every opportunity at each and every meeting, even until Feb. 4 when they voted for the resolution, to step back and take another look at what they were doing. They made a deliberate and conscious decision to keep moving in the wrong direction. We counted on the process – the county committee – to right this wrong. And the process worked.

"We look forward to the future and are hopeful as we begin building representative governance in the various political subdivisions in Fallbrook. Now the real work begins and we are up for it," Maldonado-Stamos said.

During the meeting, the committee unanimously approved Fallbrook Union High School District's proposed by-trustee area map during the meeting.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected].


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