JCSD School Board Election 2023: The People Have Spoken

JCSD School Board Election 2023: The People Have Spoken

Johnston’s four progressive candidates won the election for school board decidedly, ushering in a new age for the district.

The role of a school board member is a difficult and thankless position, a board member needs to be a strong leader and well educated to best support the district. The winners of this election meet these requirements and are as follows: Lya Williams (14.51%), Jason Arnold (14.46%), Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher (14.41%) and Jennifer Chamberland (14.18%). These four candidates won the election against the four conservative candidates by an average of 1,362 votes. The results of this election signify a lot about the community of Johnston and will greatly impact students, teachers and the community as a whole.

“The community is ready to refocus on students and what students need and aren’t willing to allow some of the more decisive and political stuff interfere with education,” said Jessica Dowell, Johnston teacher and parent.

“The community is ready to refocus on students and what students need and aren’t willing to allow some of the more decisive and political stuff interfere with education,”

— Jessica Dowell

The results of this election spoke volumes about the state of the community. The people of Johnston are tired of discriminatory legislation and radical conservatives imposing their beliefs upon students. The community is ready to usher in a new age for Johnston Schools, an age where the district works to better the lives and education of students, an age where teachers are enthusiastic about their job and are supported by the board. The election is over, now we must welcome the new age and accept the change that accompanies it.

The outcome of this election has a noticeable relation between candidates who had a strong plan of action and how many votes they got. The progressive candidates had detailed plans of action on their websites and multiple issues they wanted to address, whereas the conservative candidates had little substance on their websites, only addressing one or two issues and no plan to fix those issues.

People want a candidate who has a plan and is prepared to take on the role of a board member; the progressive candidates won because they were running on more than one issue, they have a plan they want to execute, and they will be active on the board for the entirety of their term. In the 2021 school board election, the conservative candidates ran solely on their policies surrounding masks and the pandemic, so once the pandemic died down they no longer had anything to do on the board. The community noticed this, they want people who are on the board to improve the district as a whole, not just one issue.

Of the progressive candidates, Chamberland had the least amount of information immediately available to the public about her stance, as a result of this she received the least amount of votes out of the progressives. This spells out a lesson for those running for a board position: have a publicly available plan that addresses numerous issues across the district, and your chances of winning will increase drastically.

Students can expect numerous changes to occur as a result of the new left-leaning majority on the board. The new members of the board stress that students are the most important stakeholders in the district. The district exists to provide students with a quality education and thus should focus on improving students’ lives and education. Most improvements for student life will be as a result of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles being reimplemented in the district. The board will likely start by beginning the long overdue process of hiring a DEI director; a position solely dedicated to ensuring DEI is implemented across the district. One of the things a DEI director may do is conduct a DEI audit to locate what issues the district has with DEI.

Once the issues are identified the DEI director will likely work with the board to set goals that they can work towards. Two of the new board members, Arnold and Williams, have expressed a wish to remove Student Resource Officers from schools, hoping students will feel more comfortable without an armed police officer on campus at all times. Other than DEI, students can expect improvements to STEM programs in the district as well as more opportunities for real-world experience in the community. Students’ lives will change because of this past election, hopefully entirely for the better.

Teachers are also deeply affected by the results of this election. The new board seeks to support teachers more, protect their rights and listen to them. With the recent passage of S.F. 496 and other similar legislation, teaching is becoming increasingly more lucrative. Teachers are at risk of losing not only their job but also their teaching license due to these arbitrary laws about “explicit materials” which the Department of Education has provided no guidance on which materials are safe and which will cost them their living.

Teachers need a board that will support them through these times of censorship. The new board promises that they will support teachers and listen to what they believe is explicit. Teachers, as employees of the state, have very limited rights when it comes to bargaining or striking. Teachers are prohibited from striking and recent legislation has limited their bargaining ability even more. They need a board that supports their rights to unionize and speak up about issues. The new board promises to do just that, support teachers’ bargaining rights and give them the power to speak up.

“I remember from that back and forth we had with masks and our return to learning in the fall of 2020 and she (Jennifer Chamberland) was someone on the board who explicitly reached out to staff. I remember we had an email from her that said something along the lines of ‘I need to know more from the staff in a variety of buildings. Are you comfortable giving me your feedback?’ and that was sent to at least some staff in every building so that she had as much information as possible to make an informed decision,”

— Jessica Dowell

Teachers are the most unrepresented stakeholders on the board, no member of the board is a teacher nor do teachers get a representative, the board needs to listen to teachers as they have first-hand experience of the effectiveness of policies and the state of the schools. The new members wish to not only listen to the teachers more but also have offered the idea of putting a teacher representative on the board. Teachers need support and representation and the new board agrees and hopes to improve teachers jobs and lives.

Local elections significantly impact the lives of the residents, far more than the other elections, and this recent school board election signifies that. This election had large stakes and the outcome came out favorable to the most important stakeholders, the students and teachers. Hopefully, students and teachers will start to be treated more equitably, will have more support and more opportunities. Local elections are important, the outcome can vary greatly if a portion of the population doesn’t vote. If you’re going to vote in any election, vote local.

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