In a May 19 poll of the board, it voted 5-2, with Place 2 and 7 Trustees Danielle Weston and Mary Bone being the "no" votes, to engage the firm Leon Alcala PLLC to present information regarding the process to explore single-member districts at a future board meeting.
A single-member district is an electoral model used by some types of governing bodies that ties a single officeholder to a district of precincts. Currently, all seven positions on the board are at-large, representing all parts of the district. Under a single-member model, some or all positions of the current board tie to subsets of district boundaries. State law requires that these districts be compact, contiguous and of equal population.
Sarah Leon, an attorney with Leon Alcala, said the practice is common in Texas, and is often used to ensure the board is representative of the whole district.
A school board can move to make at-large board seats single-member districts by board action alone, or constituents can bring a petition to a board, Leon said. A move to single-member districts was previously discussed by board members in 2021, but ultimately the board decided not to move forward at that time.
Place 4 Trustee Cory Vessa requested the item for discussion, according to the meeting agenda, and said the timing of her request was tied to 2020 Census Data that was released in late 2021 due to COVID-19 delays during the meeting.
"If there was a time to consider it, it would be now because we have fresh census data from which to build maps," Vessa said.
However, some public commenters accused the board of considering single-member districts mere months before four of its members terms expire in November as a political move. One district parent, Denise Ray, suggested the introduction of single-member districts as a method of targeting some trustees whose seats will not expire at that time.
Others supported the idea of single-member districts, given the board takes extensive public input into account. Marshall Sprague said he had asked the board to consider single-member districts years ago.
"I still support SMDs, provided that they're implemented in the right way," Sprague said at the May 18 meeting. "The process should be transparent and assure sufficient public engagement."