On Saturday May 12, Greenfield residents celebrated murals that were added to the community building in Rexland Acres Park over the past year. Responding to a call from the Arts Council of Kern in August 2017, community members were asked for input on mural content. Following many months of work by artists Carlos De Guzman, Jorge Guillen, and Garrett Memering, community members’ concepts were unveiled in completion.

Building Healthy Communities South Kern’s Education Justice Collaborative launched a media campaign to inform parents how the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) impacts their children. The campaign encourages parents to be familiar with their district’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and provide feedback about the plan, which outlines how dollars will be used to student outcomes, to their school district. Look for our ads on billboards, local buses, and digital signs!

Yesenia Ocampo from California Walks, along with youth from South Kern, were selected to present at this year’s American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual conference. Their presentation “Youth Voices for a Healthy, Safe, & Active California” fits squarely with APHA’s conference theme this year: Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now”. They will be sharing local work at an event with more than 12,000 attendees! Congratulations!

Joining over 21 localities across California, the City of Arvin signed-on to an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief that was filed on Friday May 18, 2018 urging the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California to uphold Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, and two related State laws against an attack by the federal government.
At its May 15, 2018 meeting, the Arvin City Council authorized Mayor Jose Gurrola and the City Attorney to sign-on to the brief, which was co-authored by the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office, the City of Oakland, and the County of Los Angeles.
Speaking on SB 54’s impact on Arvin’s public safety, Mayor Gurrola said, “President Trump and Attorney General Sessions’ anti-immigrant policies and attacks on SB 54 further undermines the public’s trust in our criminal justice system and makes law enforcement’s job more difficult. I’m proud to join leaders from across the state to stand up for our values and public safety against the ill-advised attacks from President Trump.”
“The people in our city, our state, and the entire country deserve to feel safe regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. Ensuring that everyone feels safe and comfortable enough to reach out to law enforcement when they need help is essential to public safety everywhere. If our national government refuses to see the importance in this, it is up to the rest of us to do what we can to make it happen,” said Arvin City Councilmember Jazmin Robles.
Other geographies signing the brief included: City of Albany, City of Berkeley, City of Culver City, City of Davis, City of East Palo Alto, County of Marin, County of Monterey, City of Morgan Hill, City of Mountain View, City of Palm Springs, City of Richmond, City of Sacramento, City of San Diego, City of San José, City of Santa Ana, County of Santa Cruz, City of Santa Monica, County of Sonoma, City of Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and City of West Hollywood.
An estimated 1 million Californians drink unsafe water at home, school, or in public places. Californians deserve water that is safe to drink, free from toxins. Kern County residents have joined forces with other Californians across the State to reach that goal. On May 11, the Dolores Huerta Foundation hosted an event in downtown Bakersfield in support of Governor Brown’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. And last week more than 100 San Joaquin Valley residents meet with Sacramento legislators to share their stories about how unsafe drinking water impacts their families and their communities.
Governor Brown has asked the State legislature to enact a statewide tax on drinking water to treat unsafe wells and treatment systems. The proposed tax is expected to be voted on this summer and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The projected cost per person would be $11.40 each year.
On Wednesday May 9th, the US Census Bureau and California Complete Count staff hosted a Regional Readiness Assessment Convening at the Beale Library. Rolling out the timeline for the 2020 census, the speakers shared changes in the administration of the census, the need for local organizations and individuals to collaborate to ensure hard to reach populations are counted, and employment opportunities for local residents.
At this point, the focus is on outreach to hard to reach populations, starting with assembling a diverse network of local organizations that will work together with their respective constituencies to get the word out that every Californian needs to be counted. Without an accurate count, California and Kern County will not receive adequate funding for public services such as schools, health care, and infrastructure. Even our voice at the national level is impacted because the Census count determines how many Representatives California has in Congress. In addition, many Census-related job opportunities will be available for Kern residents over the next two years; ranging from management positions to door-to-door neighborhood canvasing teams. For the first time, an electronic version of the census will be available, allowing individuals to complete the information on-line. Stay tuned as we near 2020!

By Ja’Nell Gore, South Kern Sol

Every year, some local high schools have assemblies recognizing Cinco de Mayo – a holiday largely ignored in Mexico, but held up in America as a day to celebrate Mexican culture with piñatas, tacos and a lot of alcohol. Meanwhile, throughout the whole month of February, my high school has done nothing to commemorate Black History Month.

Schools should be doing something to show appreciation, or even just acknowledge the evolution of black history – but at Bakersfield High School, nothing like that happened last month.

I would have loved to attend an assembly where they focused on my culture and history, opening the eyes of kids who know little about it.

And this desire of mine isn’t uncalled for, especially in a district that has acknowledged it engaged in a years-long practice of disproportionately suspending and expelling minority students, including African Americans. The district was sued, settling the lawsuit last year for more than $670,000. Among the settlement terms? The district must recognize Black History Month and allow students to celebrate.

Instead of taking initiative and organizing such a celebration, they are leaving it up to students. Considering that most students have never planned a school event (or don’t even know they have the option) why would they ‘leave it to the kids’?

Building Healthy Communities Kern in partnership with South Kern Sol youth media, have launched a new youth-produced webcast. “In the 661” will present stories, current events and good work happening in the community- all through a lens of health and racial equity.The show not only gives youth the opportunity to learn about what it takes to produce a video segment, but it also gives young journalists the opportunity to lift up issues that matter to them and might otherwise go untold.

There’s a lot of good work happening across the community, but rarely do organizations or residents who are working to improve community health have the opportunity to amplify their voice via mainstream media.

This show gives residents and organizations the opportunity to examine health in interesting and innovative ways. Health doesn’t only happen in a doctor’s office. Health happens where we work live and play. Health happens when people tap into their power, work together and change the odds in their neighborhoods.

The show will be aired weekly on “In the 661’s” Facebook page and will be shared widely on Building Healthy Communities Kern’s website and social media platforms.

The new show is produced by South Kern Sol youth reporters, Alejandra Alberto, Dean Welliver, Marilu Cisneros, and Veronica Morley and hosted by former KGET news anchor, Kiyoshi Tomono.

By Dean Welliver, South Kern Sol

The Third Annual LGBTQ Youth Summit hosted by the Kern County LGBTQ Youth Roundtable was held this past Saturday at Cal State Bakersfield. The summit offered middle school and high school aged LGBTQ youth a space where they could be themselves without judgement, make new friends, and learn about the resources that are in the community to support them.

“The goal of the event is to bring the LGBTQ community of Kern County together and to ensure young people who identify as being part of the community do not feel isolated,” said Gloria Garcia, lead organizer of the event and LGBT Community Worker at California Rural Legal Assistance.

To Julian Melendez, a senior at Foothill High School, the LGBTQ Youth Summit provided an opportunity for LGBTQ youth to connect to their culture.

“It gives a lot of youth a lot of information that they didn’t receive in school and this way we interact with our own gay culture we are more in tuned especially because in Bakersfield there isn’t very much pride,” said Melendez.

Melendez also noted the importance of having an event like this in Bakersfield.

“I feel like it is important having it in Bakersfield because it does much to combat the conservative nature of Kern county and I feel like it raises lots of awareness for these types of issues,” Melendez said.

Read more from South Kern Sol here.

Parents, students, teachers, and community advocates were among the attendees who packed the Kern High School District (KHSD) board chambers on the evening of Jan. 30 for the district’s second community forum on school climate, a condition of the discrimination settlement agreement, which requires KHSD, among other things, to hold two community forums a year where administrators must present data related to suspensions, expulsions and involuntary transfers. The agreement also mandates that the district celebrate Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month and allow students to celebrate these events.

Sahar Durali, directing attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, which took part in the suit settlement answered a few questions about the progress the district has made with regard to school climate.

BHC-SK: This is the second KHSD community forum on school climate. In an over-arching sense, what progress has been made with regard to the lawsuit settlement? What needs to be improved?
SD: The district has made some progress with respect to reducing suspension, expulsion, and transfer numbers. However, the data released at the community forum demonstrates significant disparities still exist in discipline of students of color, especially African-American students. It appears the district has also moved forward with a more comprehensive implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), and more staff are being trained on PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts. However, KHSD board members have not been trained, and have not indicated whether or not they will participate in any trainings related to PBIS, implicit bias, and social emotional learning concepts.
The district should do more to reduce disparities in discipline. Additionally, during the forum it became evident that some schools still have alarmingly high suspension rates, especially for African-American students. Moreover, school climate surveys reveal that students of color feel especially racially harassed and isolated. The district should do more to address the racially hostile environment these students are facing.
BHC-SK: Now for some specifics with regard to the settlement: Why is KHSD not leading celebrations of Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, especially when these celebrations are so meaningful to create a healthy school climate?
 
SD: The District agreed to recognize Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month under the settlement. At the last two community forums, the District indicated it was recognizing these months by allowing students to celebrate them. Dr. Brenda Lewis [KHSD Assistant Superintendent of Instruction] also stated that the district had alerted administrators that they should permit students and student organizations to put on events. At no point did the district communicate that individual school sites or the District were leading their own events.
We believe this narrow interpretation of the settlement is at odds with the spirit of the agreement and the District’s stated commitment to improve school climate for African-American and Latino students. By putting the burden on student clubs and student organizations to put on celebratory events, the District is sending an explicit message that Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are not a priority and are not worthy of District resources and staff time. Additionally, based on the District’s communications, we suspect that at schools where student clubs are not active, and no student initiates celebrations, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are simply not being commemorated. It is standard practice for schools statewide and nationwide to put on events during these cultural months, and a commitment to celebrating Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month could go a long way to build trust and repair relationships with the Latino and African-American communities.
BHC-SK: As part of the agreement, the school district is required to train teaching and non-teaching staff on implicit bias. During the forum an attendee asked whether the KHSD board would be required to get this training as well. Do you feel that training the school board is important? Why or why not?
SD: Training the school board on implicit bias would demonstrate to the community that the Kern High School District is engaging in self-reflection and taking a meaningful step forward to eliminate bias at the highest levels of leadership.
BHC-SK: The district has been successful at reducing expulsions and transfers rates, but we still see disparities when it comes to African-American students. What should KHSD do to address this?
 
SD: The settlement identifies the need to address racial disparities by requiring that the District address bias and implicit bias through training, review of policies and development of the behavior matrix. Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Dr. Eddie Fergus were identified in the settlement agreement because of their expertise in this area, along with Dr. Nancy Dome. Their recommendations must be implemented by the District in a meaningful manner to make sure that these disparities do not continue.
BHC-SK: In a survey conducted by the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the percentage of African-American students who felt isolated and/or harassed at school due to their race or ethnicity in the 60 days prior to taking the survey jumped from 16 percent in 2016-17 to 19 percent in 2017-18. Clearly, KHSD needs to improve how it treats African-American students. Any specific suggestions, even beyond the settlement?
 
SD: Under the Local Control Funding Formula, school districts must create specific goals for numerically significant student subgroups in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At the KHSD, African-American students are a numerically significant subgroup. The district could follow in the footsteps of other school districts to create more targeted, comprehensive programs that create supports specifically for African American students. Additionally, the district should work with its commissioned experts, Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute and Nancy Dome of Epoch Education, to identify the root of the expressed isolation of African-American students, and to work to eliminate harassment of these students by other students and/or staff. Both Rachel Godsil and Nancy Dome are leading experts in addressing implicit bias and racially hostile educational environments and could work closely with the district to create solutions at all levels.
BHC-SK: KHSD is a diverse district. Results from the CHKS suggest that the administration and staff have not done enough to embrace that diversity and ensure that all students are valued for who they are and the rich personal and cultural experiences they bring to the district. The settlement agreement addresses the training that staff may need to address these issues. How can KHSD address these discipline disparities?
SD: One way that KHSD could probably address discipline disparities and create a more inviting school environment for African-American students and other students of color is to ensure school staff are representative of their student body. The district made a commitment to recruit and hire a diverse staff in both the settlement agreement and their LCAP, which is the document that lays out their priorities for each school year and the budget expenditures related to those priorities. In fact, the LCAP specifically created a goal for hiring teachers that reflect the student demographics. However, of the new hires for the 2017-18 school year, 62.6% were white, 26.3% were Latino, and 2.6% were African American. In comparison to the demographic makeup of the student body, which is approximately 22% white, 65% Latino, 5.9% African-American, 2.6% Asian, 1.3% Filipino, and 2% identified as another race, the District is falling drastically short of their goal!

Read more about KHSD’s Forum on School Climate from South Kern Sol here.