San Marino School Board Votes to Change Elections to Even-Year Cycle

The San Marino School Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday evening that will change the established election cycle for board members from odd years to even years, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

By doing so, the board added one year to each of their terms. Currently, the four-year terms of President Nam Jack, Shelley Ryan and Joseph Chang are set to expire in 2017, while the terms of Lisa Link and Chris Norgaard will be finished in 2019. Jack, Ryan and Chang will now term out in 2018 and Link and Norgaard in 2020.

The resolution was drafted in accordance with California Senate Bill 415, which requires school districts to hold their governing board elections on the same date as statewide elections, if holding it on another date has previously resulted in a significant decrease in voter turnout.

Significant decrease in voter turnout is described as voter turnout at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout for the previous four statewide general elections.

“SB 415 was enacted to address the issue of low voter turnout,” Jack told The Tribune. “The legislature determined that one major factor was the timing of the elections – therefore the requirement that local elections coincide with statewide elections. When we looked at the data, it turned out that the legislature was correct. There was a huge disparity between the number of voters between even-year statewide and odd-year local elections. In fact, the disparity on one election cycle was 60 percent. Eighty percent voted in 2008 and only 24 percent voted in 2009. We therefore made the determination to coincide our election at the same time as the statewide November, 2018 election.”

“It seems weird we are voting on something that affects us directly,” said Link. She also said she “appreciated The Tribune’s reporting on the matter to let the community know.”

Since being faced with the issue, the school board has wrestled with the notion of extending its own terms. The board even pulled the item off a previous agenda to allow time for more input.

“I want to emphasize, this is something we needed to do,” said Norgaard. “Our numbers far exceed the 25% threshold.”

After voting on the resolution, the board heard from Dr. Ilene Straus, vice president of the California State Board of Education, who made a presentation on the state’s new student accountability system.

“It’s going to look very different,” said Straus.

“Things will be measured more locally as well as at the state level,” she said.

Dr. Straus said the goal of the new system was to assure that California’s high school students are “college and career ready.”

“San Marino has always valued this,” she said.

The board also discussed and approved Resolution 13, which will provide retirement incentives for the district’s classified employees.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Linda de la Torre said that the district would offer a retirement of 70 percent of base salary. Those willing to take advantage of the offer must inform the district by January 2017 and must retire on June 30.

“It will depend on who expresses interest,” said de la Torre, who mentioned that 43 current district employees are eligible for the program.