NewsElection 2022

Actions

A closer look at those running for Kern High School District Area 5

Kern High School District Area 5 covers West High School, South High School, and Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield.
South High School
Posted at 4:25 PM, Oct 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-26 23:23:12-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Student safety and success seems like a simple mandate, but Kern County already had some of the lowest literacy scores in the country. In addition, the latest state assessment scores are showing students from grades 3 through 8, as well as 11th graders, shows a further drop in math and language arts. Only 37 percent of Kern County students met or exceeded the standard for english language arts, and only 21 percent did so for math.

Figuring out what changes should be made to better prepare our students for their future is one of the roles of a school board, and this year’s midterm sees three seats up for election on the Kern High School District Board of Trustees. One of those seats is in District Area 5.

Area 5 covers West, South, and Ridgeview High Schools, and the two candidates running for the board seat couldn’t be more different, also meaning they bring different kinds of experience to the table.

According to Ballotpedia, incumbent Bryan Batey is a Bakersfield businessman and the owner of a local realtor’s office. He was first elected to the board in 1994 and served until 2004. Batey was then reelected to the board in 2006. He ran unopposed in both 2014 and 2018.

23ABC reached out to Batey, but he declined to join us for an interview about the race.

Batey’s challenger is newcomer Michelle Shaw. Shaw is a Bakersfield native with a master’s degree in education. She is currently the executive director of Pathways to Destiny, a prevention and intervention program for at-risk young men.

Shaw calls the kids in the program ‘at-promise’ instead of at-risk, explaining the idea that if love and support are in the equation, all students can succeed.

“It is individual. It could be they need a little extra tutoring. It could be they need a little more peer support,” said Shaw. “There is a lot of different ways we can help them.”

Shaw also believes that her experiences building connections with young people through the Pathways project gives her insight into what’s motivating the drug issues on campus.

“I have seen it happen. We are building that relationship so hopefully that can be prevented, because we don’t even want you to start taking any type of drugs,” said Shaw. “Because we want you to know you can be successful. The sky is the limit. You have unlimited possibilities with your life.”

Some parents are concerned that increasing programs directed at student wellness will take away from students in other areas. James Glass is the grandparent of two students at South High School, and says he’s concerned that meetings are interfering with student learning.

“They have meetings every Monday here at the school,” said Glass. “I think that takes away a little bit of the classroom time that the kids should be spending doing homework or something like that.”

It’s an especially important concern, considering that some students are already so far behind academically as a result of pandemic-related school closures.

Ultimately, Shaw’s plan for what she will prioritize as a trustee is straightforward.

“The social-emotional wellbeing of all our kids is the most pressing thing for us. We want to make sure that not only are they physically safe, but that mentally and emotionally they are doing well,” said Shaw.

Election Day is November 8th. From early voting to the final tally, stay connected to 23ABC both on the air and online for more candidate profiles and other voter information.