Some who attended a Newport-Mesa Unified School District hearing Thursday on changing trustee-area boundaries expressed frustration with the process and urged the school board to adopt a new map that they argued would better represent Costa Mesa’s largely Latino Westside.
About 30 people, including students, parents and retired teachers, attended the 30-minute hearing in Costa Mesa High School’s performing arts building.
The meeting was the second of three designed for the community to tell the district its feelings about two proposed maps, labeled “B” and “G,” that would change the areas that future trustees on the seven-member board would represent and need to live in.
The maps contain seven zones that, unlike the board’s current trustee zoning, would contain roughly the same number of people. Some of the current trustee areas, which have been in place for some 50 years, have many more residents than others, according to a district analysis last year.
For example, Area 4, which includes Corona del Mar High School, has about 46,000 people, while Area 5, which includes only one school, has about 16,000.
The district also is proposing that voters in each of the seven zones vote only for candidates from their zone — a shift from the current at-large voting system.
The new zones would not affect school attendance boundaries.
The changes are a reaction to a lawsuit threat last year from critics contending that Newport-Mesa’s at-large voting violates the California Voting Rights Act and prevents Latinos from electing their preferred candidates.
Under both proposed maps, Westside Costa Mesa would largely fall in Area 7, which is more than half Latino.
Map B was the preferred choice of a nine-member committee chosen by Supt. Fred Navarro. Each trustee zone had one member on the committee, as did the Harbor Council PTA and Newport-Mesa’s District English Learner Advisory Committee.
District officials say Map G was created in response to community input at two meetings earlier this year. Some at Thursday’s hearing argued that Map G has a mysterious origin unduly influenced by the school board.
Laurie Smith, a retired Newport-Mesa teacher, questioned why Map G exists when the committee favored Map B.
“Does this look and sound and feel like democracy?” she said.
Maria Larios urged the board to adopt Map B.
“We would like someone who can understand our community and support us,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter.
Ashley Anderson, a Costa Mesa resident and former teacher, noted that the Westside contains many Title 1 schools that she feels have been “disenfranchised for decades.” Title 1 is a federally funded program that provides money to school systems to benefit students from low-income households.
Before Thursday’s meeting, critics argued that one of the three hearings should have been scheduled in the Westside. The district arranged for a school bus to take attendees from the Westside’s Rea Elementary School across town to Costa Mesa High, but as of 5:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before the start of the meeting — the bus had no riders.
The third hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the district office at 2985 Bear St. in Costa Mesa. As at Thursday’s meeting, the board will listen to public comment but not reply to questions.
Final adoption of either map is scheduled for a special meeting Oct. 17. It will then be subject to county and state approvals. The district intends for it to take effect in time for the November 2018 general election.