BY JORGE BARRIENTOS Californian staff writer email@example.com
A new system for electing school board candidates will debut this November in some big local districts, affecting how hopefuls campaign and what area of town the victors will represent.
The four largest school districts in Kern -- Kern High, Bakersfield City, Panama-Buena Vista Union and Greenfield Union -- will operate under a "by-trustee-area" system, in which the district is divvied up and voters choose among candidates living in their area, like with Bakersfield City Council.
Before they operated under an "at-large" election system in which all voters in the district choose among all the candidates. They made the change to avoid potential lawsuits, give minorities better representation and to cut election costs. Richland School District is also new to the by-trustee-area system.
Here's a rundown of some of this year's most contested local school board races, including those under new systems:
Bakersfield City School District: Two seats are up for grabs. For Trustee Area 5 -- which includes parts of south and southwest Bakersfield -- Valerie Munoz, a school counselor, will go against Fred Haynes, an author and retired BCSD principal and teacher who ran for a BCSD seat in 2004. That seat is vacant following current Trustee Rick Van Horne's move out of the district.
For Trustee Area 3, incumbent Bill McDougle will try to keep his seat -- which he's held since 2008 -- from challenger Ronnie Cruz, a site supervisor. Trustee Area 3 includes central Bakersfield.
Panama-Buena Vista Union School District: Five candidates are vying for three seats in the new Trustee Area 2, which includes much of southwest Bakersfield. They are incumbents Bruce Bair and Linda Brenner; Dolores Dee Whitley, retired educator; David George, retired educator; and Dean Haddock, psychologist and vice chair of the Kern County Republican Party.
El Tejon Unified School District: Eight candidates are competing for two open seats. Voters in the Frazier Park-area school district have been concerned about the future of the district, which has struggled financially in recent years.
Among recent actions in El Tejon Unified, district officials hired an outside consultant to study the idea of closing a campus as the district loses enrollment. This school year is also the first under a new plan that charges students for bus transportation.
Five are competing for a full-term El Tejon Unified seat: Vickie Mullen, legal assistant; Bob Anderson, retired; John Fleming, retired detective; Linda Sheldon, accountant; and Lark Shillig, small business owner.
Three others are competing for one short-term seat: Dean Crabb, power lineman; Timothy P. Schantzen, senior network engineer; and Scott Robinson, firefighter.
McFarland Unified School District: Seven candidates are seeking one of three open seats. They are: Kaye Breyer, incumbent; Luis "Angel" Turrubiates, carpenter; Tim Gonzales, coach; Ramon C. Melendez, truck operator; Eliseo M. Garza, counselor; William Isaacs, incumbent; and Reynaldo DeLeon, incumbent.
DeLeon was the focus of a lengthy criminal investigation until last month when drug and extortion charges against him were dismissed because a witness who brought the case to the attention of police had gone missing. DeLeon was McFarland's public works director at the time of his arrest, but no longer works for the city.
Here are how a few other school board races are shaping up:
* Four candidates are vying for one of two open board seats in the Oildale-area Standard School District. They are incumbent Steven Ruettgers; Chuck Sears, feed consultant; Vanessa Mazer, parent; and Carrie Rufing Freeman, bookkeeper.
* Six candidates are vying for one of two seats available on the board for Rosamond's Southern Kern Unified School District, which in recent years has been calling for controversial changes -- like charging for bus transportation -- in dealing with budget cuts.
* Wesley Crawford Sr. is seeking a seat available on the Kern County Board of Education. Crawford -- who has run unsuccessfully in recent years for seats on the Bakersfield City Council, BCSD, Kern Community College District and for state Assembly -- is competing against incumbent William Barnes for the Trustee Area 5 seat, which includes Bakersfield City and Greenfield Union school districts.
* Three candidates are vying for one seat on the Kern Community College District board. Rose Marie Bans, the incumbent, hopes to keep her seat from Ruben "Ruby" Hill, a retired fire captain, and Marco Flores, Jr., a student.
* The typically contested Kern High School District board seats will not be contested this year. Incumbents Bill Perry and Chad Vegas will keep their seats.