School district wants trustee board changes, cuts to Edwards representation

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A public hearing on the reorganization of the Muroc Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees is scheduled for Jan. 25, 7 p.m., in the Base Theater.

The school district requested the reorganization, citing problems with continuity on the board and difficulties filling the Edwards positions for a full four-year term. The request is to change the representation to one seat for each area and two at-large seats, to be filled by vote from the trustees. Presently, the board of trustees has five members - two from Edwards, two from Boron and one from North Edwards.

The hearing is a chance for Edwards residents to voice their concerns and opinions to the Kern County Committee for School Organization.

"This school board issue is one that's very important to us from the standpoint of taking care of our military families," said Col. Jeffrey Mayo, 95th Mission Support Group Commander. "It's a huge thing for our military families, and we certainly want to maintain our voice."

Of the slightly more than 2,300 students enrolled in the Muroc Joint Unified School District, nearly 1,700 attend school on Edwards.

"Our voice (on the board of trustees) has to be strong, because we have 70 percent of the students," said Deanna Collins, vice president of the Desert High School Parent Teacher Association.

The current representation on the board of trustees, two of five seats, gives Edwards 40 percent of the voting voice.

1st Lt. Brian Hall, Edwards PTA and school board member, said he wanted the position on the school board to help keep it heading in the right direction for generations to come.

"I want to represent the kids, parents and base in making a better future for tomorrow's child," he said. "The base needs its fair share of representation. I don't believe the community is aware of the problems which can be encountered by the constant moving and changing schools of the children."

To represent Edwards on the board of trustees, members must be over the age of 18, California residents, registered to vote in the state and a resident of the school district. Because many military members aren't California residents, eligibility for the positions is limited. However, many military spouses are able to fill these positions.

"A spouse who is commercially employed in California is theoretically considered a resident, and could register to vote and have a voice," said Kathy Stahlman, a Desert High School PTA member. "It's not that hard to register, and you can always switch back to your home state when you leave."

Generally, a civilian spouse is a resident if they live in California for other than temporary purposes, either with or without the military spouse, according to the 95th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate's office.

The board of trustees plays a key role in the district's decision-making process, affecting a whole spectrum of issues such as school closures, realignments, class sizes and curriculums.

"A lot of things have gone on during my nine years," said Chuck James, president of the Board of Trustees and representative for North Edwards. Some of the decisions he has been part of include: approving new curriculum and textbooks; picking the right superintendent; determining whether certain teachers get tenure or not; approving the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program, its expansion and capping it; upgrading technology; and modernizing the schools.

"For the most part, [these decisions] have been and are a positive influence for the students," he said.

Bud Burrows, secretary for the Kern County Committee for School Organization, said once the public hearing is complete, the committee will weigh the facts, and can make a decision on the reorganization that very evening. If this happens, the changes will go into effect. If the public disagrees with the committee's decision, the voters in the district have the option to petition a challenge. If five percent of the district's voters sign the petition, the committee must hold the decision and it will be put on the next ballot and decided by election.

"The perspective you get from the military is important because the students here make up about 70 percent of the district student body," Colonel Mayo said.

"We've maintained that balance (on the board of trustees), and I certainly think we need to continue to do so. That's why we're going to speak with the committee when they come out on the 25th and urge them to keep the status quo."

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