Local Politics

Saturday, Jul 19 2014 03:00 PM

School board races already drawing candidates

BY LAUREN FOREMAN Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

School board members and trustee hopefuls in Kern County have sent candidacy announcements, created election Facebook pages and filed nomination forms in hopes of securing a spot on the ballot for school board elections Nov. 4.

Five days into a 20-day period for prospective board members to officially establish candidacy for all districts, the Kern High School District already had one contested race and two newcomer hopefuls -- both hailing from Kern County Board of Supervisors camps.

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WHO'S RUNNING -- AND NOT -- SO FAR

Incumbents up for re-election and new contenders wanting first tries on Kern County school boards plan to run for one of 25 open seats on eight boards surveyed by The Californian.

Most incumbents up for re-election have announced plans or filed paperwork to again fill the board roles they hold currently.

The exceptions were:

* William Perry, a two-term KHSD trustee, who retired June 23;

* Pauline Larwood, a four-term trustee in the Kern Community College District, who announced in April she would not seek re-election in November; and

* Cheryl Palla, up for re-election in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, said Saturday she does not plan to run. She has served on the Panama district's school board for 20 years.

 

CANDIDATES WHO PLAN TO RUN INCLUDE*:

 

Kern County Board of Education

Area 1: Ronald Froehlich

Area 2: Jim Bartleson

Area 3: Mary Little

Area 7: Donald Cowan

 

Kern Community College District Board of Trustees

Area 1: John Rodgers

Area 1: Rick Wright

Area 2: Mark Storch

Area 5: John Corkins

 

Kern High School District Board of Trustees

Area 1: Mike Williams

Area 2: Jeff Flores

Area 4: Martha Millerand Anna Laven

Area 5: Bryan Batey

 

Bakersfield City School District Board of Education

Area 2: Pam Baugher

Area 4: Andrae Gonzales

 

Fruitvale School District Board of Trustees

Tina Stout

Richard Traynor

Michael Ferguson

 

Norris School District Board of Trustees

Cy Silver

John Genter

Jeffrey Stone

 

Panama-Buena Vista Union School District Board of Trustees

Keith Wolaridge

 

Rosedale Union School District Board of Trustees

Latricia "Trish" Froehlich

John Blaine Geissel

Barbara Mettler

 

* All are incumbents except Flores, Laven and Wright

 

Source: Kern County Elections Division, Californian research

Jeff Flores, chief of staff for Supervisor Mike Maggard, is campaigning to fill the vacated Area 2 seat of former KHSD Trustee William Perry. Perry retired June 23 from a board post he had manned since 2008.

Flores -- running unopposed for the seat as of Friday -- said he wants to see better representation for east Bakersfield, more ethnic diversity among KHSD teachers and administrators as well as more transparency about how the district is addressing what have been historically high expulsion rates.

"I'm not happy with the direction of the district," he said.

KHSD AREA 4

Anna Laven, field representative for Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, is also running with specific changes in mind.

She said she wants to address disciplinary practices in KHSD, improve availability of vocational education and help students prepare for college.

Laven is running against incumbent Trustee Martha Miller in Area 4.

Laven worked in higher education for almost 13 years overseeing services for students with disabilities at Cal State Northridge and serving as a student affairs officer at UCLA.

Both she and Miller were raised in Bakersfield.

"I am a mother and educator who understands the local needs of our community," Laven said.

Miller, a retired school teacher of 36 years and KHSD board member since 2010, said she helped pass a  "monumental" spending plan known as a Local Control and Accountability Plan, championed special education programs and advocated for the district's hiring of the first female assistant superintendent in KHSD -- Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Brenda Lewis.

In short, Miller said she's running again because her time in office thus far has been "very worthwhile."

Miller is one of three incumbents running in KHSD.

SPACE ON THE BALLOT

As of Friday, the other two trustees -- Mike Williams and Bryan Batey -- were running unopposed like many incumbent board members throughout Kern County districts.

There are four board openings in the Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) area, Kern Community College and Kern High School districts; three in Fruitvale, Norris and Rosedale Union school districts; and two in Bakersfield City and Panama-Buena Vista Union school districts.

Several of the seats are not currently contested. But interested candidates still have time to bid against incumbents.

The period to file required nomination forms and candidate statements, which began Monday, ends Aug. 8.

This year's slate of incumbents includes both candidates with decades of experience and those running in their first and second elections.

Three board members up for reelection in the Rosedale Union School District would, if voters back them, be entering their ninth year in office since first elected in 2006.

Richard Traynor, a Fruitvale board member, was first elected in 1981.

And Cy Silver, a Norris board member appointed to his role in November 2013, will run in his first election Nov. 4.

Though experiences vary, the job responsibilities of school board members are similar.

TO BE A BOARD MEMBER

Board members are community representatives who, along with a district's superintendent, make up the governing body of a school district -- Robert Meszaros, KCSOS spokesman, explained.

Board functions include outlining long-term district goals, overseeing development and approval of district policy, establishing budgetary priorities and ensuring accountability to the public.

Boards evaluate superintendents, monitor district progress toward goals and serve as judicial or appeals bodies.

A new school funding formula developed to give local districts more control over how they spend state funding has heightened the role of school boards, who ultimately decide how those state funds are used to maximize student achievement, Steve Sanders, KCSOS chief of staff, wrote in an email Friday.

There are 47 school districts in Kern County.

"Everything that happens at a local school district ultimately falls under the leadership of the board," Sanders wrote.

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