School board races are considered “down ballot” races and often don’t receive much attention by voters who are more interested or motivated by candidates running for federal or statewide elective office. But residents of Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Del Sur, Rancho Peñasquitos and Carmel Mountain should take a keen interest in who is elected to represent them on the Poway Unified School District board of trustees.

Poway Unified School District is one of the most successful and prestigious districts in the state, with high-performing schools and high-achieving students.  Families from throughout the county and the nation move to Poway Unified, and pay more for the price of their home, precisely because of the district’s quality and reputation.

Many voters are, however, unsure for whom to vote or in which “area” they reside because of the district having transitioned from districtwide, “at-large” elections to “by-area” elections. This move to “Trustee Areas” was forced upon the district because the district was going to be sued (and would have lost) in court under the California Voting Rights Act (CRVA) if it didn’t adopt by-area elections. What was expressed by members of the board and the Superintendent (and quite a few members of the public, too) at the time was a desire to adopt trustee area maps that created “an opportunity” to keep continuity on the Board if voters decided to keep current members on the board in the upcoming election. There were many arguments made that the board shouldn’t “split” communities in half or in thirds, etc.  One popular request was to create trustee areas that aligned with the five main high schools in the district and their feeder schools. But the law requires trustee areas be population balanced.  All attempts to create maps that aligned with the five main high schools did not yield area maps that were population balanced and therefore didn’t work.  The reality is, using Rancho Bernardo as an example, now RB residents will have an opportunity to approach at least TWO trustees on the board when/if they have a problem with the district. This a good thing.

In the past four years, there have been many positive changes district-wide: a new, well-respected superintendent was hired; an entirely new cabinet has been assembled; and proper internal financial controls and organizational efficiencies have been implemented.  These changes should help ensure the district maintains its vaulted status for years, and local home values continue to appreciate as a result.

Important issues still require further attention: safeguarding our children’s physical safety, and social and emotional wellness; retaining and recruiting the best teachers and support staff; eliminating the structural budget deficit and reducing long-term debt (including the $1B bonds); introducing more classroom innovation and Career Technical Education opportunities; and increasing transparency and accountability in decision-making.

To find out in which trustee area you live, visit this link and be sure to vote on November 6th.

T.J. Zane is President of the Poway Unified School District Board of Education and has three children attending PUSD schools.

Paid for by Zane for School Board 2018.