Maybe it's not a surprise that Area 5 is getting so much attention this cycle. Enrollment had declined in the area but in recent years, an increasing number of families with young children had moved in, particularly in the western edge around Harris Elementary.

The candidates running for trustee of the area reflect that: most of them have young children who are or will soon be attending schools in the district. That's far from a requirement; with the exception of Laura Guerrero-Salgado, who was recently appointed, none of the current board members has young children in the district.

The trustee boundaries encompass the entire southern and western sides of the district, stretching from north of Truxtun Avenue to Panama Lane and from New Stine Road to Oswell Street. It covers a large swath of the city and a lot of socioeconomic ground, too. The west side of the area includes Harris, Evergreen, Munsey and Frank West elementary schools, and Curran Middle School. The southern side of the area includes Pauly and Casa Loma elementary schools.

Four trustees will face off. Johnitta Clemons announced that she has dropped out of the race and endorsed Brooke Malley Ault.

The candidates listed below are in alphabetical order and responded to questions from The Californian via email.

BETHANY BACHMAN

Bachman got involved at BCSD as a parent volunteer through her two children, including one who is still in BCSD as a fourth-grader at Harris Elementary.

“I have been, and continue to be engaged with both of my children's educational journeys,” she said. “I have the ability to listen to all sides of an issue and arrive at a solution that works best for all involved.”

She said she has a strong work ethic and ran to bring “a strong voice and equitable perspective” and “to show my children that anything is possible” even outside her comfort zone.

Bachman said that when it comes to COVID-19, she wants to adhere to state guidelines and structures set in place for a safe return to in-person learning, but she wants to hear from the community.

“I will always keep an open mind when the discussions come around to the topic of the pandemic,” she said. “Keeping the safety of the students and staff at the forefront of my thoughts and choices.”

BROOKE MALLEY AULT

Malley Ault began her career teaching social studies at Chipman Junior High, and today she serves many former BCSD students in her position as a high school counselor. She’s also worked as an intervention teacher, coach, club adviser and mentor. In total, she’s been serving east Bakersfield families for 12 years.

“As a parent whose own child will soon start his education within the district, I want to ensure that he, and all BCSD students are provided educational equity, are academically challenged, and provided the social and emotional support that all children need in order to become successful adults,” she said.

She says that not all schools can be handled the same way when considering a return to in-person learning, since COVID-19 rates may vary widely in such a large district. She said families deserve to know that proper safety protocol is in place when they send their children back to in-person learning.

“We need a comprehensive plan for universal and frequent COVID testing for all students and staff before determining what schools will open first,” she said. “Protecting our most vulnerable students that are slated to come back first, such as special education students and homeless youth, will be of utmost importance to me.”

Malley Ault has been endorsed by the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association.

IAN JOURNEY

Journey said that he’s running because he says the parent voice isn't represented well enough on school boards often consisting of educators, politicians and union representatives rather than parents.

“I am running because it has become apparent to me that the current BCSD School Board is out of touch with the reality of having young children, both in-school and out-of-school,” he said. “Technically qualified professional parents serving on school boards should be the norm around the country, but unfortunately that is not the case.”

His goals as a candidate include fiscal conservatism, transparency and clear communication with parents.

“I understand that the best outcomes occur when parents, schools and industry work together to develop and implement core curriculum,” he said.

Journey is a court-appointed special advocate with CASA of Kern County, a mentor with CSUB Runner Alumni Mentorship Program and an instructor at Kern High School District Energy Academy at Independence High School. He does have some experience in schools: he has more than a decade of experience in K-12 education facility design and construction throughout California.

Journey is a proponent of opening up schools for in-person learning.

“COVID-19 has shown us we can use online services to teach but it seems abundantly clear that in-person school, especially for the youngest children, is best and offers so much more in social/emotional support and learning,” he said.

He says that he thinks the best plan could involve allowing at-risk staff to stay home to teach students who are continuing to learn virtually. But he believes opening up the schools is safe.

"Looking at the data on COVID-19 and how it relates to children in the 0 to 17 age range, it is clear that kids handle this virus with little complications," he said.

SHANNON ZIMMERMAN

Zimmerman has been in education for 20 years and she describes herself as a fiscal conservative. She says BCSD is in need of an overhaul. She said, “I’m running for BCSD Trustee because city schools are failing.”

She says innovation and technology have been big themes in her career. She led the first rollout of Google and Chromebooks in Kern County. She’s also worked with the Chevron Innovation Lab. She's a proponent of giving families different options for learning.

“I advocate for doing things differently by offering a variety of learning environments and letting families decide what is the best for their students,” she said. “It’s their futures and they deserve a voice and choice.”

Zimmerman’s current role as a teacher on special assignment includes supporting more than 800 teachers in distance learning, and her view of virtual learning isn’t positive. She worries about families on the other end who are struggling with poverty and depression because of distance learning.

“I’m seeing the extreme struggle firsthand of teachers and families trying to make distance learning work,” she said. “It is not working for most.”

She believes students need to get back to the classroom with measures in place to protect student safety and to continue to allow at-risk families and teachers to continue distance learning.