The process to start redrawing school-attendance boundaries and voting districts for will be delayed by perhaps 45 days, frustrating administrators who fear there may not be enough time to pull off the task by a state-mandated deadline.
Unhappy with the number of consultants bidding to do the work, the school board voted to do a mulligan and search for more firms. This time, it wants the two items——bid on separately.
Trustee John Alpay said the two tasks aren’t as comparable as district staffers may have first believed. Now that the school district is switching to having its instead of at large, the consultants will have to be especially mindful of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to prevent discriminatory voting practices, he said.
“If we don’t get this right, we may get stuck with a lawsuit,” Alpay said. “Let’s get it right in the first place.”
Additionally, consultants who focus on political boundaries may have been scared away by the attendance-boundaries task, and vice versa, he said. Separating the projects should prompt more firms to seek out the work.
Ron Lebs, deputy superintendent of business and support services, said the request for bids was downloaded six times from the district website.
In the end, the staff recommended one consulting firm for the attendance-boundaries examination and a team of two firms to handle revision of the trustee areas.
“We cherry-picked from two of the bids,” Alpay said.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with the term ‘cherry-picking,’ ” said Superintendent Joseph Farley.
Lebs added: “From a legal and technical standpoint, we did the bid right.”
“Within the four corners of the law, yes,” Alpay responded.
Farley urged the board to approve the consultants. The district needs to have the new voting boundaries decided by March 1, and there is much work to be done, including a series of community meetings and board workshops, he said.
“I think you should adopt this recommendation. We don’t have time to do otherwise. I think it’s been fully vetted,” Farley said.
But several board members expressed frustration at having to make quick decisions under the pressure of a deadline.
“I’m worried about timelines forcing us to make a decision,” said Lynn Hatton. She pointed to the "West View Academy.” (Also at Wednesday’s board meeting, the trustees voted to convene a committee to reconsider the new school's name.)
Alpay agreed. “When we rush to do something, we don’t get it right. West View Academy is a perfect example of that.”
The board voted 4-3, with Trustees Anna Bryson, Ellen Addonizio and Sue Palazzo voting against.
In other news, the board:
- Reviewed the budgets of various Mello-Roos districts. The Ladera Ranch Community Facilities District listed three current projects: The at San Juan Hills High, the at San Juan Hills High and a $100,000 project to install security cameras at the school. Randy Rowles, executive director of facilities and plant operations, told Patch that the other high schools have security cameras. The 15-20 cameras should be installed before winter break, he said.
- Received a $7,000 check from the Capistrano Academic Resources to Education Foundation. The money will go to purchase a math software program called Fraction Nation.