Filing deadlines have closed and the school board candidacies are settled for the November general election. Here’s how local ballots shaped up:
Kern High School District
A self-described Godless liberal, a former high school principal and a local businessman are running for two seats on the Kern High School District Board of Trustees.
Joey O’Connell and Jennifer Bloomquist are running to take the place of outgoing Trustee Chad Vegas, who is not running for reelection after 12 years on the board.
Vegas told The Californian this month that he supports O’Connell, who has three children attending KHSD schools. Vegas’ children attend private Christian schools.
“As a school board trustee, I will put the safety of our students above all else. I will seek parental involvement, demand transparency, work to minimize suspensions and expulsions by supporting positive behavior solutions and fight for the retention of quality teachers,” O’Connell said in a statement.
Bloomquist said if elected she would work to change the dynamics of the board, which she said creates an environment that has contributed to a series of follies that have generated bad press.
“The board probably didn’t have direct influence,” Bloomquist said of a recent scandal involving KHSD police officers allegedly misusing a police information database system. “But I’d say it’s the atmosphere that is brought in by the board that results in unwise decisions like this.”
Librado Vasquez, a former principal at East Bakersfield High School, is running against Jeff Flores, who is chief of staff for Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard.
Vasquez could not be reached for comment before press time.
Bakersfield City School District
Three members of the Bakersfield City School District Board of Trustees will run unchallenged.
Ray Gonzales, Lillian Tafoya and Fred Haynes are all up for reelection, but by Friday’s filing deadline, no one else stepped up to run.
This is Tafoya’s 20th year on the board, Haynes’ fifth and Gonzales’ second.
Panama-Buena Vista Union
JP Lake, a Bakersfield native and co-founder of a local government watchdog group, announced his candidacy against Dean Haddock, the Kern County Republican Party chairman who sits on the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District board.
“For years, I’ve been working to address the achievement gap for our schools and I want to continue raising awareness and promoting shared accountability for common sense education policies and practices that are transparent and that put students first,” Lake said.
Lake is the owner of Rain For Rent, chairman of the Kern County college preparatory school and co-founder of Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government.
Lake is endorsed by Kern Community College District Trustee Romeo Agbalog and 34th Assembly District candidate Vince Fong.
Haddock, a psychologist, said if re-elected he would continue working to improve special education throughout the district.
“The main reason I decided to run again is to help the district make the special education programs as good as they possibly can for the kids who have those kinds of needs,” said Haddock, who added that he was a school psychologist for 30 years. “They’re going to need my help.”
Also running to unseat a sitting trustee is Victor Morones, a behavioral intervention teacher who applied for a board seat this year when longtime Trustee Linda Brenner resigned. He was passed up for Greg White, an agricultural sales representative.
Morones said he doesn’t think a majority of board members are “sufficiently putting the kids’ best interest at heart,” but he declined to name which ones. He also criticized some board members for not being vocal enough during meetings.
Haddock denied accusations he’s using the school board as a springboard to higher office, or to push a Republican Party agenda, as at least one candidate and several other faculty leaders suggested this year.
“If I was using it for a platform to do something else, I’d be doing that and not this. This is a really good fit for me,” Haddock said. “I was raised really poor and my education made the difference in my life and my family’s life, so I want the kids here to get the best education they can.”
SCHOOL UNVEILS ARTS CENTER
Bakersfield Christian High School will unveil a new multi-million dollar fine arts center Thursday as it kicks off the 2016 school year.
The 12,000-square-foot center houses a theater with a lobby, choral and band rooms with practice facilities, two spacious art studios and a gallery display hallway.
More than half of BCHS’ approximately 500 students enrolled in at least one visual and performing arts class last year.
KERN COUNTY COLLEGE NIGHT
The Kern County Superintendent of Schools office and Kern High School District are hosting the 17th Annual Kern County College Night next month.
The event, which draws thousands of students and parents, encourages attendees to explore higher education options.
Representatives from more than 100 public and private colleges and universities will be available to speak to attendees, and breakout sessions will be hosted on a variety of topics including how to obtain financial aid, how to prepare for college athletics and how to write a personal statement.
Counselors from the Kern High School District will also be available to answer student questions.
The workshop runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept 12 at the Rabobank Convention Center.
Harold Pierce covers education for The Californian. He writes in this spot every Thursday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.