In an attempt to hold schools accountable, the Board of Education Improvement Coalition has started to find people for the Board of Education seats.
Allysa Jones, a Kern County teacher in the coalition, stated that they hope to overturn the elections to vote out the incumbents who do not support education. She stated that there has been a trend of policies being pushed that have an “anti-intellectualism” agenda.
“We’re gathering together community members, parents, students, and teachers alike in order to better influence the makeup of these boards in hopes that students can find success in our school districts,” said Jones.
Jones mentioned the politicization of education in outing policies and removing books from school libraries. She stated that this takes the focus off of education.
“We want our schools and our classrooms to be inclusive and supportive for students, and we don’t need our schools to be so politicized,” said Jones.
Ideally, the coalition would like the community to unite to support education, teachers, and, most importantly, students.
Jones mentioned that one thing they’ve noticed is a rise in charter schools and discussed how that affects the schools and students as a whole.
“These schools are taking money away from our public education institutions, and we’re seeing that teachers in these public school districts are now getting paid less,” said Jones. “You know, when you have fewer students, you have fewer resources, and that’s something we’re concerned about here in Kern County.”
Along with pulling resources from the public school, the coalition is concerned with how the charter schools are approved. Jones spoke about the CAAT charter school that was originally denied by the Bakersfield City School District and then approved by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
To better understand and support teachers, Jones said it is important for the districts and the community to listen to teachers.
“I think it would be helpful to listen to teachers. To have us available to make decisions as to how resources are divided. It’s always good to listen to teachers and community members alike,” said Jones, adding that they want to see more parents involved. “We want more parents to be involved in their student’s education.”
More specifically, the resources she mentioned included more paraprofessionals in the classrooms.
“I have several students with special needs. I have also several students learning English as a second language. My district doesn’t provide a competitive wage for these paraprofessionals, so they’re simply not applying for the job. That puts a tremendous amount of frustration on our educators who are expected to do it all,” said Jones.
She continued to explain that this hurts the students because they need the extra attention and support but can’t get it.
Being expected to ‘do it all’ is not limited to the time spent in the classroom but extended to all of the extra hours outside of work that many teachers spend. Jones said she personally works 50 to 60 hours a week, meaning that at any given time, she has to work 10 to 20 hours unpaid.
While she does have a prep period, she stated that is often spent in meetings or covering for other teachers because there are not enough substitutes available.
Additional topics the coalition is involved with is the proposed policy to mandate schools to tell parents when a student prefers to go by another name or gender. Jones said she submitted a public comment about this topic at the last Kern County Superintendent of Schools board meeting.
“To have another policy in place that disenfranchises and invalidates our student’s experiences, that’s not helping. I don’t judge my students. They need to feel comfortable and safe when they come into my classroom, even if they’re not feeling safe at home,” said Jones.
She added that making teachers out their students to their families breaks the trust between students and teachers.
“We can’t expect a student to learn in an environment where they don’t feel safe. It’s a completely unnecessary issue that certain members of the board, especially Lori Cisneros and Mary Little,” said Jones. “They’re advocating for that, they’re pushing for that, and if you go to these meetings, you’ll notice that there are several students that are speaking out against this. The students don’t want this, yet they refuse to listen to them.”
Jones clarified that she is not saying parents don’t have a right to know what is going on with their children. However, it should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“If I feel that a student is going to harm themselves because of the issue, I will reach out, and I will support them as a mandated reporter. But if a student is fine, it’s completely unnecessary,” said Jones. “There shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing forced outing policy.”
There is a misconception amongst the trustees, according to Jones, that she is pushing an agenda in her classrooms or constantly bringing up LGBTQ+ rights in class.
“Really, I’m just trying to get my students to use a comma correctly. It’s over politicizing my job, it’s making it a warzone,” said Jones.
Since COVID, Jones mentioned she is already dealing with apathy among her students, and a lot of them have checked out mentally.
“You can definitely sense a disillusionment and dissatisfaction with what students have. They have fewer electives, fewer clubs to participate in, and I think they realize that comparatively, their experience isn’t as great as generations that came before them,’ said Jones.
She stated that many of them are checked out, feeling helpless, and not planning for their futures.
“So, if I’m put in a position where I’m forced to put my trans students, how is that going to motivate them to develop a better relationship with learning? How is that going to encourage them to grow and see their potential? It’s just going to cause more conflict and break down our student-teacher relationship,” said Jones.
To support students, Jones encourages parents to be involved with their child’s education and reach out to their teachers.
“Develop a relationship with their teachers. Be involved, check grades, send emails, hold their students accountable,” said Jones. “Just be involved and be supportive and work with the teacher. We’re all stakeholders here. We all have the students’ best interests at heart. I think if we could work together better, our students would succeed.”
Jones stated that the coalition loves their students and wants them to succeed. She wants students to know that their teachers support them.
“They are welcome, that their teachers do support them and are here for them,” said Jones. “I want the students to know that no matter what, they need to be themselves, and as long as you stay true to yourself, you’ll find success, and you’ll find happiness.”