Race, Masks and Contour of Equity Nampa School Board Election


Three candidates with common goals participate in a Parent Group Candidate Forum ahead of the Nampa School Board election. Left to right: Tracey Pearson, Brook Taylor, Jeff Kirkman / Blake Jones, Idaho Education News, October 2, 2021

The race between six contenders to fill three vacant seats on the Nampa School Board has been defined, in many ways, by two archetypes of candidates.

Politically charged issues – primarily opposition to mask warrants and alleged indoctrination of schools – drove the campaigns of three candidates, one in each of the district’s geographic areas. The other three contestants focused their races on issues such as student success and equitable learning outcomes, whether for low-income students or Latinos. The Sign of the Times schism that has emerged has created a trio of one-on-one races that will shape the majority of the five-member board through 2026.

Sarah Riley / Courtesy Sarah Riley

“I think because of the pandemic and the political climate in our country, this non-partisan stance has become political,” candidate Sarah Riley told EdNews by phone Thursday.

Amid this politicization, the upcoming Nov. 2 election has brought race discussions to the forefront, as candidates vie for leadership of a 37% Hispanic or Latino district. But applicants vary widely on how they talk about race and how they think teachers should approach the topic.

Masks and indoctrination

An obvious split in candidate priorities erupted at an Oct. 2 forum hosted by Power2Parent Nampa, a group born out of opposition to mask mandates that has since broadened its priorities to encompass the broader framework of ‘choice of parents”.

Three contestants participated, similarly responding to a series of questions submitted by group members on masks and critical race theory, decrying both.

Candidate Jeff Kirkman, who appears to be white, said that having a critical race theory in schools “is absolutely wrong. It is immoral.

“I asked my son: what do you think of this notion of critical theory of race? … And my son is Black, and he says, ‘Daddy, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.’ He says, “I never saw myself as anything less or responsible for everything that happened in the past.” And for me, that’s the right answer there.

Jeff Kirkman / Idaho Department of Corrections

Tracey Pearson and Brook Taylor have also made clear their unified opposition to mask mandates – the district currently does not have one in place – and critical race theory, amid a nationwide backlash against them. so-called left-wing teachings in public schools.

Their opponents, Chandra Reyna, Sarah Riley and Patrick Tanner, support mask demands in the meantime and have opposed claims of widespread indoctrination. But they did not attend the parent group’s forum, with some citing uncertainties over the forum’s goals or scheduling conflicts in interviews with EdNews.

A Nampa Chamber of Commerce virtual forum on Wednesday facilitated a contrasting tone. Chamber leaders asked about the candidates’ plans to address learning loss and boost academic achievement, as well as their views on resuming the district’s active supplemental tax.

Taylor and Kirkman’s responses on Wednesday often changed to match the new tone and illuminated some policy areas where they separated from their competition outside of masking and indoctrination. Kirkman stressed his desire for greater community involvement in curriculum development, and Taylor stressed the need for unity in a divided district.

Pearson had a scheduling conflict and was unable to attend, a moderator said. Watch the chamber forum here, or read the Idaho Press coverage for more.

Meet the candidates

While applicants may be grouped according to some of their priorities and perspectives on hot issues, different backgrounds and platforms set them apart.

Zone 3 (central-north Nampa)

Tracey Pearson / Facebook

Tracey Pearson is a nurse and parent of three adult children, the only candidate for a childless race at Nampa schools. She moved to Treasure Valley two years ago “to get away from California” and its politics, according to her campaign website. She has staked her campaign against opposition to Critical Race Theory and Comprehensive Sex Education, but she has expressed almost as much opposition to mask warrants, coronavirus vaccines and trunk education standards. common. She has lined up with the local GOP several times, posing in front of Republican Party booths in campaign photos; the self-proclaimed conservative choice was one of many actors to attach political valence to a nominally non-partisan race.

Chandra Reyna / Courtesy of Chandra Reyna

Chandra Reyna is an assistant professor of sociology at Boise State University pursuing a doctorate in the field through the University of Maryland. Reyna dropped out of Nampa High School and completed a GED program after experiencing and witnessing a series of racialized incidents in her schools, she told EdNews by phone Wednesday. A Latinx woman, she races to close the achievement gap between Latino and white college students and thwart disciplinary policies that she says disproportionately affect students of color. Unlike her opponent, Reyna supports Critical Race Theory, which she studied as a master’s student, but says most students – including those from Nampa – don’t encounter academic study until. university, if ever.

Zone 4 (West and South Nampa)

Taylor Creek is a local business owner who has started attending board meetings regularly during pandemic discussions

Brook Taylor speaks at Nampa Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum / Screenshot

protocols like mask warrants made her feel the district was going in the wrong direction, she told the Power2Parent forum at the Nampa Public Library. “We cannot understand how these mandates affect every family,” she said. Taylor advocated for an influx of federal relief money into mental health resources for students and teachers and used his business connections to demonstrate his understanding of a wide range of perspectives in the Nampa community. .

Sarah riley is a pastor motivated to lead through her work with low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities in Nampa, she told EdNews on Thursday by phone. She has partnered with schools to support children who do not have an adult guardian in their life, and she is passionate about continuing that support as an administrator. While she is in favor of masking requirements in the interim, a desire to bolster student achievement led her to apply for Zone 4. She says the debates over masking and indoctrination, which “is not a thing in our schools” distracted the board from “the real issues”, mainly social and academic supports for students.

Zone 5 (South-East Nampa)

Jeff Kirkman is a former prison warden and current Nampa Planning and Zoning Commissioner. Although not an educator by trade, he touted his high school teacher certification to demonstrate his educational background during the election campaign. He also has an undergraduate degree in political science and stressed that his conflict resolution skills learned while working with the Idaho Department of Corrections are important for controversial school board meetings. Like Taylor and Pearson, he voiced fierce criticism of critical race theory, but breaking away from the group, said he would allow socio-emotional learning materials – the subject of a common political backlash – if parents opted for their students in “one class.”

Patrick Tanner / Courtesy of Patrick Tanner

Patrick tanner is Assistant Vice President for Student Registration and Student Services at the College of Western Idaho. Tanner is working on a doctorate in educational leadership, an area in which he holds a master’s degree. It would bring “the intentionality to make all the decisions of the board of directors from the point of view of student success,” he told EdNews on Thursday by telephone. Unlike his opponent, he would temporarily support mask warrants for the district based on current coronavirus conditions. Closing the achievement gaps for minority students is one of his top priorities, he said.

Pearson, Taylor and Kirkman did not respond to interview requests.

Turnover and turmoil

The leadership reshuffle that will ensue when the winners take their seats in January will end a tumultuous 12 months for the board. Over the past year, a rowdy crowd has forced the board to abruptly end a meeting focusing on mask policies; directors raised concerns about the initially controversial staff bonuses; and two trustees faced and survived dismissal votes.

With the expiration of three of the five terms of office of the board of directors, none of the incumbents is a candidate for re-election.

One of the recall targets, administrator Kim Rost, will be replaced by race winner Riley-Taylor.

Rost said she “felt it was time” to step aside in an email sent to EdNews Thursday. “I met some amazing people and thought how very beneficial these people would be as trustees and realized that I will always continue to stand up for children and education, so why not step down and allow others to serve. “

Administrator Betsy Keller is not running for re-election, as is Allison Westfall, the communications director for the Kuna school district.

“Perhaps the biggest lesson of these times is to cherish the time you spend with your loved ones,” Westfall wrote by email on Wednesday. “So I decided after almost 15 years of service in the Nampa School District (11 years as a former communications director and 4.6 years as an administrator) that I could retire. “

Check back next week for more information on this year’s school elections. Read the current coverage of EdNews here:

Blake jones

About Blake Jones

Journalist Blake Jones covers politics and politics of the Idaho K-12 public school system. He has been a lifelong native of Idaho and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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