There are several good reasons to consider adopting a geographic system of representation for the Mesa School Board, not the least being that the board sadly does not reflect the city's growing ethnic diversity. The district's enormous size is another compelling reason.
As the Tribune's Daryl James reported on Monday, Brazilian immigrant and longtime Mesa resident Carmen Guerrero lost her bid to become the sole Hispanic member of the school board, even though about a third of the district's students are Hispanic and Guerrero received considerable support in west Mesa.
That's unfortunate, because Guerrero not only is well qualified overall but had pledged to address educational issues unique to minority families. Also troubling was a whispering campaign, including anonymous letters to the Tribune, that criticized her and even erroneously questioned her citizenship status.
The Mesa School Board, like the district it oversees, enjoys a well-earned positive reputation. But as the district continues to shift demographically, new challenges arise in serving the educational needs of each and every student.
Some of those challenges may be especially acute in certain geographic areas.
Mesa city government has benefitted from the shift several years ago to district representation. About that same time the Mesa Unified School District also was subdivided by the board into three sub-districts, each to be overseen by an assistant superintendent who could home in on the issues unique to that particular area. It was a smart move that has helped keep the district's central office in close touch with neighborhood schools even as the district continues to grow.
Another good reason to consider district representation is the high cost of waging a campaign in the huge district, which puts well-qualified candidates of limited means at a distinct disadvantage. Campaigning in a relatively compact district would allow candidates of limited means to get their messages to voters and to concentrate on issues that might be unique to their geographic area.
One possible way to introduce geographic representation to the Mesa School Board would be to elect one member each from the district's existing three sub-districts and two members at large. It's an idea whose time has come.