BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — This upcoming election multiple school board seats in Kern County are up for grabs. Kern High School District, Bakersfield City School District and Panama-Buena Vista Union School District are just some that have a long list of candidates running this year for a seat.
Carol Lloyd is the Vice President and editorial director of Great!Schools, a national website that offers data and information on public and private schools for K through 12th grades. She said one of the first things parents should know is school boards hold a lot of power when it comes to your child's education.
"I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding about how important school boards are. As a result, they sometimes function as insider clubs that make a lot of decisions and wield a lot of power but don't necessarily reflect the broad concerns of the whole community," said Lloyd.
She also said that parents are becoming more activist because of events like the COVID-19 pandemic which could be a risk factor for school boards this election.
"I think a lot of school boards and school districts are going to be more receptive to the public message because a lot of parents are talking about or actually voting with their feet. They're disenrolling, they're using online programs, they're moving to different school systems, they're moving across the country. That kind of disruption is going to make a lot of school boards think okay, we need to listen to our community now," said Llyod.
Choosing a school board candidate can be hard but here are four things to be aware of when you consider a candidate. The first thing parents need to know is that candidates should be nonpartisan and focused on the best interests of the students.
Lloyd told 23ABC, "They are all supposed to be nonpartisan. Underlying that is the idea that they're supposed to keep in mind the best interests of the children. Not any one political party, not a certain kind of platform."
Second, parents should look for a candidate who has some knowledge of the school system or are willing to put in the time of learning how the system works.
"School districts are pretty complex and even though they can be very small and just reflect a small town they are complicated government entities. So, you want someone with some knowledge or willingness to put in the time to understand it," said Lloyd.
She also added that activist parents shouldn't be afraid to get involved and even run for positions themselves.
"I went looking for districts across the country where an average parent ended up becoming a school board member and it was pretty infrequent. It should be something that is kind of the norm like an activist parent who is really involved in the school but it doesn't happen as often as one would think," she said.
The third component voters should look for in a school board candidate is someone who is forward thinking and innovative. Finding a candidate who can evolve the school system and improve areas like instruction and student outcomes is important said Llyod.
"I think that school boards need to be understood in terms of their potential to innovate and to move our school system forward. So, if they're just there for checks and balances that's fine but they're also there to set a vision, to push forward."
Lastly, candidates should be representative of the communities they will serve and reflect diverse beliefs and values.
"So, it's really an opportunity for parents to not only say, who do I want on my school board, but are there people who have my values and reflect my concerns as fellow parents in the community? So, I think it's a real opportunity for parental involvement," Lloyd said.
For a full list of school board candidates on the ballot in Kern County this election head to the Kern County Elections website. If you are looking for more information on specific candidates try searching for their campaign Facebook page and campaign websites.