Ideally, school boards that oversee districts with demographically diverse student populations are themselves diverse. They’re comprised of trustees with an understanding of and a heart for both well-to-do and paycheck-to-paycheck families, college bound and college averse students, boys and girls, gay and straight, white, brown, black and Asian.
The Kern High School District, the largest 9-12 district in California, is as diverse as they come. But those broad-ranging life circumstances are not reflected in the board’s makeup — not even close — and little on the November ballot affords voters an opportunity to do much about it.
With at least one exception. The five-member high school district board has long been dominated by men. It has been an all-boys club for four years, and the board has not had as many as two women in decades.
Voters should change that now.
That doesn’t mean voters should elect a woman for the sake of electing a woman. That would be almost as big a mistake as never having elected one at all. No, that female trustee should be independent, have a record of proven community service and be representative of the values and priorities of the families in her district.
One candidate on this ballot meets all those criteria: Jenifer Pitcher. And, conveniently for the sake of continuity, she is running for the Area 4 seat, the only available position without an incumbent on the ballot. Phillip Peters declined to run for a second term.
Pitcher has a grasp of the way local governments operate at the ground level, having served with the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government, and she has a deep understanding of the industries that shape the region’s base economy, and therefore local families’ livelihoods, having served as the San Joaquin Valley coordinator for the Western States Petroleum Association and, currently, resource manager at Agriculture Capital.
Pitcher, like other candidates, sees campus safety as an essential component of the job. She advocates for an increased police presence, at least in the early morning and mid-afternoon, and automatic locking doors in classrooms. She also believes the district should take a more active role in helping at-risk students and addressing negative behavior.
Her opponents, retired teacher Janice Graves and mortgage loan officer Bryan Colebrook, would offer unique perspectives — Graves as one who has seen it all from the classroom and Colebrook as a passionate, highly involved parent, but Pitcher has the right combination of qualifying factors.
Mike Williams, who is defending his Area 1 seat against challenger Cynthia Brakeman, also a retired teacher, again deserves voters’ support.
Williams, a trustee since 2010, owns a youth sports center that teaches gymnastics and other activities at two locations in Bakersfield.
His experience and track record give him the edge over Brakeman, a thoughtful, intelligent and motivated former English teacher at Arvin High School who worked for the district for almost 20 years. We hope she sticks around.
Bryan Batey, who represents Area 5, is running unopposed.
The Californian endorses Mike Williams for the Area 1 seat, Jenifer Pitcher for the Area 4 seat and Bryan Batey for the Area 5 seat on the Kern High School District Board of Trustees.