RISD district map

As the Richardson ISD school board works to implement a plan transitioning to its new 5-2 hybrid single member district form of representation, a conundrum has emerged regarding Lake Highlands trustees. Which trustee will be slotted into District 5, made up mostly of homes in Lake Highlands, and which will be assigned to an at-large district?

The board began evaluating three transition plans at a work session Monday night, and it was clear most members were surprised by Dr. Kristin Kuhne’s announcement that she, like fellow Pearce-area resident Katie Patterson, would not seek re-election. Lake Highlands resident Jean Bono then said she, too, was unlikely to run again.

Shocker.

That leaves Justin Bono and Karen Clardy from Lake Highlands, Kim Caston from Pearce and Eron Linn from the Berkner area to continue serving under 5-2. Clardy and Linn have announced they will be on the ballot in November of 2019, and Caston and Bono said they enjoy serving but aren’t ready to announce if they will run again.

Board president Justin Bono presented three plans, and the major variation involves whether District 5, mostly made up of homes in Lake Highlands, will be up for election in 2019 or in 2020. Put another way – does Karen Clardy get to represent Lake Highlands, or does Justin Bono?

Of course, all RISD trustees commit to representing ALL RISD homeowners, students, parents and teachers, and that is critical to the success of the district and the students in it. No question. And a new LH candidate could certainly emerge. But one trustee who lives in LH will be elected as the District 5 rep, and another will run as an at-large trustee. That candidate’s campaign is likely to be more difficult, more time-consuming and more expensive.

Plans 1 and 2 assign District 5 to Clardy’s current Place 3, up for election in 2019, and Plan 3 assigns District 5 to Justin Bono’s current Place 6, which goes to the polls in 2020. The other differences primarily relate to whether Caston’s current Place 2 becomes District 1, with mostly Pearce-area homes, or Place 7, an at-large district. Caston has been elected until 2021.

The new 5-2 single member electoral system is being implemented after the January settlement of a lawsuit by former trustee David Tyson. Tyson sued under the Voting Rights Act, alleging that the at-large form of governance resulted in an “egregious achievement gap” and denied minorities in RISD a voice in decision making. Two new “opportunity districts” have been created, comprised of mostly minority voters, and they will elect trustees in 2019 and 2020.

Trustees did not settle on a single plan or even eliminate one of these three, so they won’t be ready to adopt a plan by vote at Monday night’s general meeting. Discussion will continue in the coming weeks. You may watch video of their discussion here.