Local Parents Protest FUHSD Transition to Trustee Area Voting

Over 2,200 residents from the Monta Vista and Lynbrook High School attendance areas have expressed opposition to the the Fremont Union High School District’s transition from at-large to by-trustee area elections. Residents have spoken out at board meetings, community meetings, and signed a Change.org petition.

Feb. 13, 2024 FUHSD Board Meeting

A Controversial Move

With the previous at-large voting system, residents were able to elect all five FUHSD Board Trustees. But with the new Trustee Area voting system, residents will only be allowed to elect one trustee in their designated Trustee Area. See our previous article for more background. 

FUHSD’s stated reason for transitioning from At Large to Trustee Area Elections is to avoid scrutiny under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA, passed in 2002, helps minority groups more easily challenge At Large elections, on the grounds that they cause racially-polarized voting. However, to date, FUHSD has not done any analysis to determine whether there is racially-polarized voting in its district.

Cupertino Councilmembers Question FUHSD Plan

At the February 13th FUHSD Board Meeting, Cupertino City Councilmember Liang Chao, representing herself only, stated, “In the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in August 2023, the Supreme Court raised the bar for the CVRA challenge. It specifically said alternatives could be ranked-choice voting and cumulative voting.” 

Chao called for the FUHSD Board to immediately add an agenda item to consider other voting methods, and also “consider fiscal impacts of going through the lengthy redistricting process every 10 years with by-trustee area elections.”

Cupertino Councilmember Kitty Moore, whose children attended FUHSD schools, also spoke out representing herself only. Moore stated, “I am very concerned about the profound lack of data concerning redistricting, especially considering that we are a high school district known for our academics. This could potentially expose the district to various risks.”

Supporters of By-Trustee Areas

According to the FUHSD presentation delivered by Superintendent Graham Clark, the switch helps North Sunnyvale residents. Historically, most FUHSD trustees have come from South Sunnyvale and Cupertino. North Sunnyvale has not had any trustees. With the transition, North Sunnyvale would always be guaranteed one board member. 

One of the decision’s biggest advocates is an organization called Sunnyvale Equity in Education (SEE). SEE has stated in a Facebook post that its goals include achieving equal representation on the board, and, in the long term, opening its own North Sunnyvale school.

Current and former Sunnyvale City Councilmembers are also proponents of the move. “No taxation without representation,” stated Sunnyvale’s Councilmember of District 5, which includes North Sunnyvale. “In the past 50 years, there has never been a Latino or a North Sunnyvale resident on this board. In the 40 years since the closure of Sunnyvale High School, North Sunnyvale residents have not enjoyed the same access or quality of high school educational resources as the rest of this district. Our residents deserve the same access to educational resources as South Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Altos, and San Jose residents.”

Opponents of By-Trustee Areas

Many Monta Vista and Lynbrook area parents expressed frustration with Trustee Areas, across multiple FUHSD meetings. Numerous public comments showed concern that the change would put Monta Vista or Lynbrook at risk of being closed, in order to make way for a Sunnyvale school. FUHSD currently has five high schools; it is unlikely to be able to afford six. During public meetings, several parents stated that it takes only three out of five board members to close a school. With the Trustee Area system, Southern FUHSD would be at risk of not having enough board members to vote against such a move, if it ever arose. 

Many parents also stated that the change to Trustee Areas was made without their consent. All community outreach meetings occurred after the decision was made, asking residents to “choose a map” for Trustee Areas, rather than provide input on the Trustee Area decision itself. “By-Trustee Area will undercut the ability of every voter to have an impact, since we can only vote for one trustee every four years,” stated Councilmember Liang Chao. 

Next Steps

FUHSD now faces the challenging task of managing the needs of multiple parent groups. The District continues to reassure parents that it “has no plans to close schools”. However, it also refuses to definitively state that it “will not close schools.” Ultimately, this lack of certainty is leaving many questioning the district’s motives.

How To Get Involved

There are many ways local residents can share their opinions on the move to Trustee Areas. Most immediately, there are two remaining Map Hearing Schedules. These are held during the regular board meetings at the District Office (589 W. Fremont Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94087).

  • March 20, 2024 (6 P.M.)
  • April 24, 2024 (6 P.M.): This is the final map hearing where the board will approve a final map of Trustee Areas, as well as which areas will be up for election.

Attend an FUHSD Board of Trustees meeting.

View the presentation made during the Monta Vista High School Community Outreach meeting.

Email:
DO STAFF: RACHEL_ZLOTZIVER@FUHSD.ORG 
BOARD & DO STAFF: TRUSTEEAREAS@FUHSD.ORG

Those opposing the transition can sign the Change.org petition.

One thought on “Local Parents Protest FUHSD Transition to Trustee Area Voting

  1. Hi there! I have the honor to be the unnamed Sunnyvale City Councilmember representing District 5. This post is solely in my personal capacity, and not on behalf of the City, my colleagues, or any other organization.

    For decades, North Sunnyvale FUHSD students and families have suffered unequal treatment. They face challenges no one else in the District has had to. Ever since the devastating and unjustifiable closure of Sunnyvale High School forty years ago, our students have had to commute the longest distances to get to school—up to six miles or an hour and fifteen minutes on public transportation. The district does not provide school busses. This has predictable impacts on student achievement and participation as well as family life.

    North Sunnyvale residents pay the same taxes. We consistently vote for the bond measures, which only pass by the support of Sunnyvale voters. We then watch the district take that money and pour it into elite, quasi-private institutions to which we are denied access, while failing to address the needs of our communities.

    There is a higher proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged residents and Latino residents in North Sunnyvale, yet in fifty years, no Latino representatives have ever served on that Board, nor have any residents from north of the Caltrain tracks. Is it any wonder why North Sunnyvale’s concerns have gone unheard, our needs unmet?

    Now my constituents are standing up to demand fair representation in accordance with the California Voting Rights Act. They have been spurred in large part by Sunnyvale’s successful switch to district elections, which has produced the most diverse and representative Council in our city’s history. The District, to its credit, has listened. The process has been transparent and has actively solicited public input from all members of the District community. There is no legitimate reason to delay it, and doing so would immediately expose the District to a costly lawsuit and serious legal repercussions.

    The demands of North Sunnyvale residents are simple: equality and fair representation, without delay. Nothing more, nothing less. And we will accept neither substitutes nor delays.

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