The Kern High School District Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing tonight to gather public comment regarding possible changes to the boundaries of trustee districts.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the district's board chambers, 5801 Sundale Ave., in southwest Bakersfield. It follows a closed session board meeting beginning at 5:05 p.m.
Under threat of a pending lawsuit, the KHSD board decided earlier this month to attempt to redraw voting districts ahead of an upcoming election to provide more equity on the board to Latino communities.
The decision headed off a lawsuit against the district by the Dolores Huerta Foundation accusing KHSD of gerrymandering districts to exclude Latino representation.
Foundation officials have been examining the district trustee boundaries for at least three years, The Californian reported earlier this month. Roughly 65 percent of KHSD's students are Latino; however, the board of trustees is made up of four white men, Trustees Phillip Peters, Bryan Batey, Joey O'Connell and Mike Williams, and one Latino, Jeff Flores. All of them are Republicans.
The decision to get out ahead of the lawsuit came just weeks after Kern County lost a lawsuit to the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, which alleged the Kern County Board of Supervisors' voting districts were drawn illegally in 2011 in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
"In light of the ruling in Luna vs The County of Kern, the board of trustees voted to adopt a timeline to review and evaluate adjusting two majority Latino voting districts as well as overall population in five trustee areas," Trustee President Phillip Peters told The Californian earlier this month.
Peters also said the board was making the effort "proactively in order to avoid any and all potential lawsuits that would take money away from education."
The redrawing of district lines could threaten Trustee Mike Williams, whose district runs from southwest Bakersfield through Oildale and into east Bakersfield.
The decision could also threaten Trustee Joey O'Connell, whose district sprawls from the city limits of Wasco southwest into Arvin, Lamont and Weedpatch. Lamont residents have been calling for a high school to be built in their community, but district trustees have said that such an endeavor is not immediately possible.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to elect representatives who are more responsive to their districts," Huerta told The Californian last week. She said her organization will play an active role in proposing new boundary lines to the district.
The Foundation presented its proposed map at a special meeting on April 9. The KHSD board is expected to offer its proposed new boundaries map tonight for discussion.