Just four years after the Woodland Hills School District overhauled a decades-old voting system, the school board by a 6-1 vote Wednesday approved another significant change in the voting process.
If the board's action is approved by Common Pleas Court, the new voting system would eliminate the option for candidates to run for at-large, districtwide seats and, instead, allow three board members to be elected from each of the district's three regions.
The regions, formed in 2010 under the initial voting revisions, are made up of four municipalities each. Region 1 consists of Churchill, Wilkins, Chalfant and Turtle Creek. Region 2 includes Braddock, Rankin, Swissvale and Edgewood. Region 3 is made up of Forest Hills, Braddock Hills, North Braddock and East Pittsburgh. The original voting plan, which had been in place since the district's formation in 1981, consisted of nine separate voting regions.
Under the district's current system, candidates can run for both at-large and regional seats and, if elected to more than one seat, candidates would choose which seat they preferred to fill. Elected board members then appointed candidates for the remaining empty seats.
In the 2013 election, board member Fred Kuhn won three seats and board president Mike Belmonte two. As a result, three directors -- Jeffrey Cobbs, Colleen Filiak and Selena Johnson -- were appointed by the board in December. Ms. Filiak had been serving on the board but failed to win re-election in the primary. Mr. Cobbs and Ms. Johnson did not run in the election.
Not everyone is sold on the change.
Before the meeting, Mr. Belmonte said he believes the current voting system "makes the most sense," and cited a notable increase in candidates running for board seats in the 2013 general election.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Mr. Belmonte said. "As soon as the system changed, people felt like they had an opportunity."
He said allowing candidates to not only represent their region, but the entire district, is reflective of the district's efforts as a whole of integrating people from differing areas and backgrounds to work toward a common goal. He cast the single vote against the plan.
"With our current system, it reflects more what we asked of our children," he said. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, or what you look like, you can vote for anyone."
Residents have shared their concerns with the current system, board member and Woodland Hills parent Tara Reis said before Wednesday's meeting, mostly because of candidates having the option to run for more than one seat, and the subsequent appointments that "take the choice out of constituents' hands."
"With our last election, one-third of the board was appointed by us, not constituents," Ms. Reis said.
District officials hope to have the petition approved by the court before the next school board election in May 2015. Six seats will be on the ballot.
Clarece Polke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1889 or on Twitter @clarepolke.