Voting Rights Lawsuit Upholds Pasadena ISD’s At-large Election Process

Voting Rights Lawsuit Upholds Pasadena ISD’s At-large Election Process
Posted on 05/02/2014
Pasadena ISD received confirmation this weekend that the US District Court ruled in favor of the district’s at- large election process for the election of members of the Board of Trustees. 

“The Board is obviously pleased that the court ruled in our favor for the second time in the past 17 years,” said Jack Bailey, Pasadena ISD Board of Trustees president. 

The suit, filed in 2012, challenged the at-large election process used in Pasadena ISD to select school board members. The plaintiff asked the court to mandate a shift to a single-member election. A single-member election process would require the district to be divided into geographic precincts or districts and select a board member from each precinct to represent the people of that geographic area. 

The seven members of the Pasadena ISD Board of Trustees are chosen for four-year terms by eligible voters who reside within the boundaries of the district.  The district has been governed by a Board of Trustees since the district’s inception in 1898. The district has always provided for the election of board members on the basis of at-large representation. The next board election is scheduled for May, 2015.

“We believe it is the responsibility of every board member to represent every student in our district regardless of race, ethnicity or the neighborhood where they live,” Bailey said. “We’ve tried to do that to the best of our ability."

Biggerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta, an Austin-based firm representing the district, emphasized that the court’s opinion provides a thorough analysis of the evidence provided at trial and the relevant legal standards. As a result, Bob Heath said, “It reaches the conclusion required by the application of the law to those facts.” 

Bailey said the district chose to fight the lawsuit because, “We believe there are educational benefits in an at-large system, which require board members to have a district-wide perspective.  We could not in good conscience agree to the idea presented by the plaintiffs that our community will not support a candidate for the board simply because of race or ethnicity."

Pasadena ISD serves over 54,000 students from a culturally rich and diverse community. The district’s mission is to provide unlimited opportunities for all the children who attend Pasadena schools. 

“The Board recognizes its responsibility to the entire community and does not want the lawsuit to hurt what we’ve spent years building,” said Mariselle Quijano-Lerma, board member since 2009. “We encourage everyone in our community to continue to work together toward a common goal of providing the best education for all the children of the district.”

Pasadena ISD has developed an educational system of high regard, a system in compliance with state and federal mandates, and praised for the quality of its schools by parents, teachers, students, former students and leaders of the community, of business and in government.

“We are thankful that the Court’s ruling will allow us to maintain an election process that encourages child-focused, thoughtful citizens to seek office and serve the children of our community,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kirk Lewis. “With this behind us, we will remain united in doing what is right for all kids.”

Pasadena ISD is an urban district with five high schools serving students living in Pasadena, Houston, South Houston, Pearland and various unincorporated areas. The diverse population of students include 82 percent Hispanic, 7.4 percent white, 6.7 percent African American and 2.9 Asian. Seventy-nine percent of the students are economically disadvantaged.