Regardless of who wins four seats on the Tehachapi Unified School District board of trustees in the Nov. 8 election, four new board members are set to be sworn in on Dec. 13. This is because the redistricting of the administration areas earlier this year by design and decision of the board resulted in no incumbents living in the four new areas of directors up for election.
Voters in administration areas 2, 3, 4 and 6 will choose their representatives on Nov. 8, and new directors will be seated at the regular board meeting in December.
The four directors leaving the board are Chairman Nancy Weinstein, Vice Chairman Jeff Kermode, Rick Scott and Joe Wallek. Directors with two years remaining in their terms are Tracy Kelly, Tyler Napier and Clerk Jackie Wood.
Weinstein concluded her year as board chair — and her four-year tenure — with comments in a Nov. 2 interview.
A Bear Valley Springs resident whose daughter is a senior at Tehachapi High School, Weinstein has lived in Tehachapi since 2007. She is the director of environmental health and safety for Virgin Galactic in Mojave and also an adjunct professor at the School of Business and Public. Administration at California State University, Bakersfield.
She previously served on school site councils at Cummings Valley Elementary School and Jacobsen Middle School and was elected to the council in 2018.
Longtime board member Mary Graham previously held the seat Weinstein won four years ago but did not seek reelection.
At the time, the district was in the process of hiring a new administrator as Superintendent Susan Andreas-Bervel had resigned earlier in the year.
Weinstein said she thinks her professional background could be helpful to the district. She ended up on the interview team that helped select Stacey Larson-Everson as the district’s new Superintendent of Schools in 2019.
“What interested me about being a board member was the need to hire a new superintendent and the issues in the district office that required strong management,” she said. “The first goal was to hire a new superintendent and then put in place staff to lead the district and support the superintendent.”
The new superintendent was selected in April 2019 and her appointment became effective July 1 of the same year. Weinstein said she believed Larson-Everson was the right choice.
“We definitely have a great superintendent,” she said. “So much has been accomplished and much more is in the works. It takes time to develop teams with new leaders and make them work to their full potential. Our superintendent has done an excellent job in this regard. Much has been accomplished.
She said Larson-Everson has taken positive steps to improve programs, including developing a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) strategy to improve student outcomes and an overhaul of the special education program — and that the district now begin to see results.
“It all started with the right staff and a commitment to improving the culture of the district,” she said. “Strong communication with all stakeholders is key.”
Just months into Weinstein’s midterm on the board, the district has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated school closures.
The hardest part of dealing with the pandemic was the conflicting information, she said.
“We had conflicting information from the state, the CDC, and public health,” she said. “There was no playbook,” Weinstein said of the tough time. “We were facing the same challenges that businesses and individuals had with the evolution of information.”
Weinstein was elected president in December 2021, while the school board was still holding meetings via Zoom. In-person teaching had resumed, but there was much conflict over vaccination, testing and masking related to the pandemic.
The board heard from about three dozen members of the public at its Feb. 22 meeting, mostly parents asking the board to end mandatory mask requirements.
The following week, after THS students refused to wear masks, many with the support of their parents, the superintendent closed local schools for several days and sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, urging him to donate immediately give parents a choice regarding masking. their own children.
The school board was able to meet in person on March 8 — for the first time in nearly two years. And soon after, the governor lifted the masking mandate for public schools.
Yet the district faces learning loss related to the time students were absent from class or engaged virtually.
Weinstein said it was easy to guess what the council could or should have done, but what matters is that the district got through it.
“Nobody wants to be on a school board during a pandemic,” she said. “But we had to face it and deal with it. It fell on our watch.
But the pandemic-related conflict wasn’t the only challenge the board faced during Weinstein’s presidency.
In May, the board embarked on an effort to avoid potential litigation and change the way school board members are elected.
The redistricting process resulted in seven new trusteeship areas. Only individuals from each zone can vote for a director to represent that zone – and directors must live in the zone they represent.
Previously, the district had three zones with two administrators from each zone and a general. And voters across the district were able to vote in every election.
Weinstein said she thought it was a big change to make, especially when she realized that three of the seven council members lived in Bear Valley Springs (the other two are Kermode and Kelly).
She was also part of the majority that supported reducing the size of the school board from 7 to 5, although the reduction was not approved by the Kern County Committee on School Board Reorganization.
Despite the conflict, she said she believed the painful redistricting process was worth it.
“We did it for the greater good,” she said.
And as for the future, she plans to stay involved with the schools as a new county committee member. And she hopes the new council will be forward-looking.
“A lot of time can be wasted looking back and dwelling on the past,” she said. “I hope that in the new year the board will look to the future and focus on the best interests of the students and planning for the future needs of the district.”
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: [email protected].