BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The 2022 midterm election is just 15 days away, with early voting underway for about two weeks now. Elections will include seats on the Kern High School District Board of Trustees. Area 4, which stretches from Stockdale up to Centennial and some of downtown Bakersfield, has four candidates vying for its one seat.
From bullying to drugs on campus and low test cores whoever wins the Area 4 seat will be at the forefront of how local schools address these problems.
The second pair of Area 4 candidates are incumbent Janice Garves and the youngest candidate in the race, nursing assistant and recent high school graduate Martin Higuera.
Garves was a teacher for 43 years prior to being elected to the board four years ago. She says campus safety is her first priority.
“My first one is safety. I want the campuses safe for the students and the teachers, so they have a safe place to go, a safe place to learn, and they feel comfortable in their classes,” said Garves.
Garves says there are a handful of disruptive kids at eery campus, and that she wants to see no conflict in any schools. She explains that if staff can make everyone feel safe, it will reflect in student success. Garves also points out that the safety issue is not only happening here in Kern County, but also across the state and nation.
Garves emphasizes that she brings an educator’s perspective to the board.
“It has always been businessmen before, and so now as an educator, I did know what was going on and I decided to do that,” said Garves.
Garves also responded directly to the fentanyl concerns in the district.
“It didn’t start in Kern High School District, and it didn’t start in Los Angeles. It started nationwide and we need to stop it, and I don’t know how,” said Garves. “It is tricky, because the kids get into things that I don’t like, and they bring them to school, and I don’t like it.”
Martin Higuera, who just graduated from Centennial High School last year, says he still feels the pulse of the students.
“I was actually part of a group of students that pressed the board back int 2019 to address instances of discrimination on campus,” Higuera said. He added that despite the initial support, the student committee was canceled and now he is looking to sit on the KHSD Board to make sure student concerns are addressed.
When it comes to parent concerns like fentanyl, Higuera says he wants less law enforcement and more medical professionals on campus to address it.
“We should have trained medical professionals that also train other staff to use life-saving drugs like Narcan to prevent overdoses on our campuses,” said Higuera.
Higuera is also concerned with safety on campus, but says he sees the safety risks to students coming from more than just a handful of disruptive students.
“Brutal security and police forces we have on each of our school sites,” said Higuera. “We have had multiple viral videos from our school sites circulating around the internet showing our security and police office brutalizing and traumatizing students in the Kern School District.”
Local business owner and parent of a high school student and an elementary school student Aly Zepeda says she is concerned about fentanyl, but is also prioritizing what schools can do in response to bullying and mental health issues, given the news of recent incidents out of Arvin.
“Do more parent and in-service teaching for teachers to spot it out before it happens,” said Zepeda. “And maybe create a safe space for people to go to and let it be stopped right away.”
Although Zepeda says she has no issues with the curriculum being taught by KHSD, other parents have expressed concerns about things like critical race theory and ethnic studies being taught in the schools. No programs like this currently exist in Kern County schools, but state law will soon make ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all California high school students. Both Higuera and Garves say they are in favor of it.
“Considering that our community is a majority-minority community, it is important that we are studying the struggles of these minority communities through ethnic studies programs,” said Higuera.
“To leave out a certain element of our society and learn about it and not be with pride about their accomplishments is terrible,” agreed Garves.
Election Day is November 8th. For all the latest information about voting, the local candidates, and the issues that matter to our community, stay connected to 23ABC both on the air and online.