This year the hottest race in the Rosedale Union School District is for a seat that will only last two years. But it’s an open seat with no incumbents during a year when more residents are paying attention to decisions being made at the district level. Six Rosedale residents have stepped up to throw their hat in the ring for a board that oversees a district that serves 5,783 students.

Earlier this year the district made the switch to electing at-large trustees — meaning they could come from anywhere in the district — to electing trustees who came from five geographically specific trustee areas. Now the district is in an interim moment where some of the positions are still at-large positions and some are area positions.

However, no one who actually goes to the polls will be voting for an area trustee. Why? Two incumbents, Michael Spickler in Area 1 and Gary Moore in Area 5, are running unopposed and won’t even appear on the ballot.

The one seat on the ballot opened up when trustee Barbara Mettler moved away and resigned her position. Blaine Geissel was appointed to the position in January until this election. It’s an at-large position that will become a trustee area in two years, along with the seats held by the other two current board members Patty Young and Leigh Ann Cook. Those are Areas 2, 3 and 4.

This year’s candidates, who have made their residence public, seem to be in a prime position to run for those seats in two years.

The Bakersfield Californian emailed questions to all the candidates about their backgrounds, qualifications and why they're running. Every school board member was also asked about what will guide their decisions about whether to bring staff and students on campus or whether to keep students at home for virtual learning. The state has restrictions on reopening schools under its COVID-19 tier system and guidance for those that do, but many decisions are left in the hands of school board members.

Some candidates flipped the question on its head by suggesting that they push Sacramento for more local control at home — with an eye on opening sooner and with fewer restrictions.

Here are the candidates running, listed in alphabetical order.

David Eggers

A Bakersfield native, Eggers graduated from West High and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a business owner in Bakersfield. He said he wants to “give back what our local school system and community has given to me.” He touts an endorsement from former educator Donna Hylton.

He has two children, one who is an eighth grader at Rosedale Middle School and one who is a sophomore at Liberty High School. His wife teaches sixth grade. He said he understands “the challenges of virtual learning due to the COVID-19 drama” firsthand and hopes to “assist in finding solutions to the distance learning mayhem.”

“Bottom line,” Eggers said, “I believe our students should be back in school with a safe and structured learning and teaching environment.”

He said his background in business will serve him well on the board.

“As a business owner in Bakersfield, I demonstrate daily the ability to envision, strategize, and resolve difficult decisions,” he said.

Gabe Garcia

Garcia decided to run for the school board because he sees it as “community service.” He points out that he has a record of community service and volunteering that includes being a mentor in the Bakersfield College MESA program and the Taft College Energy program.

“I’ve had so many great teachers and coaches growing up, and I would like to give back,” he said.

But what happens in the Rosedale School District is also a very personal issue. His wife, a registered dietitian, grew up attending schools in the district, and he has three children currently enrolled at Independence Elementary. One of his children has a disability, and he vows to make sure every family gets the education they are entitled to.

“I want representation on our board that represents our community and has the best interest of students, parents, teachers, and staff at heart,” he said. “Too many critical decisions are made without input.”

He believes his experience working at a Federal Land Management Agency for the past 18 years will serve him well on a board.

“I lead a large organization and have experience in the management of high-profile oil and gas operations, natural resources, law enforcement, and wildland fire management,” he said. “I also have extensive experience in balancing multimillion-dollar budgets, working with partners, and holding people and organizations accountable.”

Garcia said that through his work managing wildland fires this summer, he learned about COVID mitigation measures to keep firefighters and personnel safe.

“I feel students and parents should have the choice of being on campus,” he said. “We cannot be so risk-averse that we are unable to make the best decisions for our students, many of whom are struggling in our current environment.”

Gary Kraucyk

Kraucyk’s roots in Rosedale are deep. His parents live in the district, he and his siblings graduated from its schools and his three daughters are all either attending or have attended its schools. He said his family has learned, lived, and worshipped in the Rosedale community since 1988. He said he intently listens to and values his neighbors’ opinions.

“I’m running to safeguard conservative values that Rosedale holds dear,” he said. “We raise kids to be God-fearing, patriotic citizens. I will stand between Sacramento’s crazy mandates and our kid’s classroom experience.”

Kraucyk has worked in education since 2003, which he said has given him the skills and ideas to represent the district that he knows well.

He describes his decision-making process to return to in-person learning this way: “I study things out, get the best information, pray, and act. Faith in God and love of family guide my decisions. I want everyone back safely at school as soon as possible.”

Joshua Porter

Porter believes his experience as a current parent in the district, an educator and an administrator gives him a perspective that would serve the board well.

“Understanding the stress and frustration that parents, school staff and administration are facing inspires me to look for creative solutions,” he said.

He believes that his experience with technology and curriculum in a large school district will be useful in helping Rosedale navigate its challenges.

“My background implementing technology and curriculum along with the involvement in operations of a large school district, is what makes me the best qualified to represent the Rosedale Union School District,” he said.

In his current position as human resources administrator for the Kern High School District, he works as a member of a health and safety work group that he thinks will be helpful as Rosedale creates its plans to return to school. He said the safety of students and staff should be a top priority.

“I will rely on all resources at my disposal to make informed decisions, including input from staff, students and parents,” he said. “It is imperative that we have everything in place including personal protective equipment, technology, hybrid options and proper protocols for the return to the classroom.”

Rosa Lara Rios

Rios has a background in finance that she would bring to the board. She has a bachelor’s in Business Administration, and a Master’s in Public Administration that she uses in her job as the finance director for the city of Delano.

“Throughout my career I have worked and learned to collaborate with all stakeholders from elected officials to members of the community,” she said.

Though she has a background in finance, her interests in running for the board are broader.

“I am running because I care for the future of our youth,” she said. “My efforts as a board member would center on financial literacy, innovation, and social equity.”

She has a son enrolled at Independence Elementary as well as a toddler and a teenage stepson. She understands the struggles of virtual learning firsthand.

“As a career mom I know the challenges we are all facing during this pandemic via virtual learning and will listen to all stakeholders from top officials to members of the community and will make the most educated decision as it comes to making sure students and faculty return to work safely,” she said.

Laurel Sheffield

Sheffield said that her career has been spent helping children and their families with their challenges. Now she wants to help make decisions about Rosedale schools based on “common sense and fiscal sense.” She has an undergraduate degree in International Business from Cal Poly, SLO and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from CSUB.

She has two grown children who both attended schools in Rosedale from kindergarten. While her children were growing up, she spent time volunteering both inside and outside the classroom. She said now that her children are grown up, it seems like a good time to give back to the school community.

“I now have the time, energy, dedication and commitment to use my skills to help the children and families of Rosedale Union School District,” she said.

She is an advocate for not just opening schools but pushing policymakers to loosen restrictions at the state level.

“In walking door-to-door talking with parents and even meeting some former Rosedale students now grown and raising a family, I have found they want their kids back in school,” she said. “The feedback is that it has been tough on everyone — parents, students and teachers. I believe we push as hard as we can locally and at the state level to safely open these schools.”

Sheffield touts endorsements from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Vince Fong.