The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees reviewed the steps required to transition to a single-member district system versus the board’s current seven at-large member board during a workshop Tuesday.
As it stands, all seven Killeen ISD board members are elected to at-large seats, meaning voters can cast a ballot for multiple school board members as long as the voter lives anywhere within KISD’s boundaries.
If a single-member district system is implemented, voters within not-yet-designated electoral voting districts would elect a school board member to represent their designated voting district, versus voters selecting seven at-large candidates.
Current KISD board members live primarily in southern Killeen, Harker Heights, and in one case, Belton, leaving some residents to question whether students who live in northern Killeen have equal representation in the school district’s highest decision making authority.
“We want to bring more citizens in this process, not exclude more citizens,” Killeen resident Oliver Mintz said during the public comment period of the school board workshop Tuesday. “If you look, there’s nobody north of Veterans (Memorial Boulevard), there’s nobody that lives there. There’s nobody that represents there or the western side of Killeen where some of our greatest minority populations live.”
Mintz, who has advocated for single-member districts at previous board meetings, said KISD’s legal consultation on single-member districts focused solely on potential negative ramifications of such a plan and not what could improve under such a system.
A powerpoint presentation by law firm Thompson & Horton LLP detailing how a school district transitions from at-large to single-member districts was included in the board’s workshop packet Tuesday.
“I think that presentation largely missed the mark. Not that it was factually incorrect, but it looked at it, and presented to y’all, from the wrong side of the issue,” Mintz said Tuesday. “I would propose to you that the problem is not that you would implement it incorrectly. There are many, many districts that implement it correctly. They’re not getting sued left, right and center. That is not the concern. The concern of the district ought to be that if you do not implement it, that poses a far greater risk of a lawsuit than if you implement it incorrectly. I think that’s the simplest way that I could put it.”
Superintendent John Craft said the district is waiting on census data to be released from Bell County before the board can move further in the single-member district process.
“Really, the next step, once the census data is received will be for the board to discuss the hiring of a demographer as well as a legal team,” Craft said. “So again Thompson and Horton has presented the overall process. I know both David Thompson and Lisa McBride have worked through redistricting matters, but that doesn’t mean necessarily they’ve been hired to conduct this work.”
Longtime board member Marvin Rainwater said the district needs to ensure the community understands how such a transition to single-member districts would play out.
“I just hope we do everything humanly possible to let the community know about this process,” he said. “For one thing it’s incredibly complex and even the attorneys who spoke last time said you can’t meet all the standards.”
Third-generation board member Cullen Mills asked what would could spark a lawsuit if the district didn’t go the single-member district route.
Craft responded to Mills, reminding the board that he is not an attorney but speaking generally.
“I think in any form, again I’m not your attorney, I’m just speaking very generally, but any form of, in essence, what is referred to in a legal sense as deliberate indifference, in other words, just electing to do nothing,” Craft said could bring about legal ramifications.
“At this stage, we’re awaiting census data, and then there will be next steps if the board elects to go forward with hiring a legal team and hiring a demographer and establishment of a committee and public forums,” he said. “That’s all going to be part of the process, but it is going to be a process in which it’s going to have to be outlined in a plan that will need to be approved by the board of trustees.”
Longtime board members Shelley Wells, Susan Jones and Corbett Lawler are up for election in May.
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