The Chehalis School Board will ask voters this November to allow it to dissolve its five existing directors’ districts in favor of three designated district seats and two at-large seats in an effort to better facilitate citizen participation within the legislative body.
Board members passed Resolution No. 20-21-014 unanimously after discussion at their regular school board meeting Tuesday. The resolution instructs the regional service district to submit the ballot measure to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office.
The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to the resolution.
“I think it’s really important for the school district,” said board member J. Vander Stoep, who characterized the current directors’ district model as restricting “qualified people who could serve on the school board.”
“It would be as if you had a business and you were required, in each block of Chehalis, to hire one person. Well, maybe the two best people are in the same neighborhood,” Vander Stoep said.
Chehalis, per Washington state law, currently requires school board candidates to run for the seat that corresponds with the directors’ district in which they live. If approved by voters, the measure would do away with that concept for two of its five seats.
The measure also allows the board to redraw its three directors’ districts proportional to new census numbers, said board member Larry Petersen, who called the measure a good opportunity to broaden the eligibility for interested candidates.
Petersen noted it was particularly good timing for them, too, with new 2020 U.S. Census numbers expected in the coming months. School boards are required by Washington state law to prepare for the redivision of the district no later than eight months after receiving new census numbers.
“The whole board was in favor of that and we had talked about it a few years ago,” said board member Vicki Daniels, who noted that discussion died back then due to lack of support. “I’m glad we’re moving forward.”
Vander Stoep said redistricting from five to three directors’ districts ultimately leaves candidates with more options. Though more candidates will likely run in a single race, redistricting will allow them the ability to choose between running in an at-large or district race.
The ballot measure will need a simple majority in order to be approved.
Petersen said redistricting would take place in early 2022 if the measure passes in November.
According to a Washington state law on the dissolution of directors’ districts, if passed, “at the expiration of terms of the incumbent directors of such school districts their successors shall be elected in the manner approved.”