When Karen Osmundson rented a house at 995 San Miguel Canyon Rd. in North Monterey County five months ago, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustee thought she had picked a new home within the school district she has represented with gusto for the past four years.
She may have been wrong.
A demographer working on redrawing election boundaries believes Osmundson moved to the wrong side of the tracks, or in this case, the wrong side of the road.
The southern boundary for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District is across the street from Osmundson's home.
“This is a surprise discovery," said consultant Dean Waldfogel of Decision Insite. "We didn’t expect to get into this … but the facts are the facts, and it’s very difficult to deny.”
Osmundson was notified Sept. 21. The news devastated her. A week later, at Wednesday night's school board meeting, she was incredulous.
"I don't understand it," said Osmundson, who represents District 3 on the board.
Her landlords, who live next door, were told by a school district official that their children should attend Watsonville High and Pajaro Middle, two PVUSD schools. Other neighbor kids also are enrolled in the school district.
"Why would my house be the only house that's not in the district?" Osmundson asked.
On Wednesday, Osmundson was allowed to vote on board matters with the caveat that her votes may be discounted in the future if the official word is she's out of bounds.
The options are few: Move back in-district and be reappointed to the position in October, or fight for a redrawn boundary map, a process that could take up to a year.
Some challenge the findings, and Osmundson, who remained at her seat on the board all evening, said she wants to consult with the district attorneys in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Trustee Sandra Nichols, a friend of Osmundson, presented a file of attendance maps she had gathered for the schools closest to the embattled trustee: Hall District Elementary, Pajaro Middle and Watsonville High schools. All put Osmundson's home within those school boundaries.
Her landlord and neighbor, Cari Furtado, also was in disbelief.
“We’re on the same dirt, the same land,” she said. “It’s pretty hard to see this happen ... Karen does a lot for the children, and she earned this.”
A similar problem arose a decade ago when it surfaced that then-District 3 Trustee Dan Hankemeier actually lived in the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District. At that time, the county tax assessors said they made errors on their maps, and PVUSD's boundaries were redrawn to include Hankemeier's home.
Osmundson lived within District 3 when she was elected but moved in the spring, because of her ex-husband, she said at the school board meeting.
No one has accused her of trying to deceive the school district; she gets school board mail sent to her at the San Miguel Canyon Road address.
"Everyone I talked to thought I was in the district," Osmundson said.
Waldfogel admitted his staff first thought Osmundson's location outside the school district was a mistake on their end. But they checked and double-checked the data.
Tax assessor records, Google maps and parcel maps agree, Waldfogel said. He stood behind what his staff determined.
“We got the same answer every time," Waldfogel said. "...This is a mistake that needs go away."