Residents in the North Monterey County Unified School District are scheduled to begin electing board members by trustee area starting this fall, after perhaps one of the least contentious reorganization efforts in Monterey County's history.
The Monterey County Committee on School District Organization on Wednesday unanimously approved adoption of the new trustee area map, which splits Castroville, Prunedale, Elkhorn and Royal Oaks into five areas. Previously, trustees were elected at large.
Efforts to carve up the district began last summer, kicked into gear in the fall and smoothly wrapped up late Wednesday with a public hearing in which no one raised objections.
"The North Monterey County Board of Education did an excellent job," said Harvey Kuffner, committee chairman. "They moved pretty fast, they did their homework and they need to be congratulated for the fine job they did."
District reorganizations are usually emotional affairs that draw hundreds of people who feel passionately one way or the other. One of the most recent reorganizations was the splitting of the Monterey Peninsula College district into separate trustee areas, an issue that former trustees ferociously resisted.
But the reorganization in North Monterey County drew no opposition. Early in the process, new Superintendent Kari Yeater appointed a group of about 20 district residents to serve as advisers, a group that worked well together in coming up with the boundaries.
"When you get people involved who are willing to set aside their egos, good things happen," said Diana Jimenez, a representative of the League of United Latin American Citizens in North Monterey County, who sat on the redistricting committee.
Jimenez, a former board member, raised concerns about the lack of Latinos on the board after she lost re-election in 2011. The district is 54 percent Latino.
Two of the newly drawn trustee areas — Areas 2 and 4 — have a majority Latino population. They are the two areas up for election this fall.
The trustees up for re-election are Samuel Laage and Polly Jimenez.
Traditionally, this type of reorganization is put to a public vote, but district officials requested and got a waiver from the School District Organization Committee, which is made up of members from the Monterey County Board of Education. Not having to put the issue to a vote means the process moves along faster and saves the district money.
There are two hurdles that need to be cleared: The United States attorney general has to agree to the changes because Monterey County is covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and every change has to be approved; and the State Board of Education needs to agree to waiving the election.
"This is a textbook case of how democracy in action works," Kuffner said. "It doesn't happen that often. It was an ideal situation, and I can't be more pleased."
Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 753-6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.