Four candidates are vying for three seats on Independence’s Owens Valley School Board. They had their chance to make their case last Saturday to a packed crowd in the American Legion Hall.

Incumbents Allie Whisler, Nina Weisman and Joey Peterson want to keep their seats; Alisa Lynch is the challenger. Peterson was absent due to medical issues but submitted responses to the prepared questions. The forum started with the traditional opening statements

Weisman was initially appointed to her seat; this will be her second term. She has a Bachelor’s
degree in geography from UCLA, worked for the Forest Service and has a teaching credential.
“I’ve seen how important my research skills are,” she said. “I want to continue supporting the
district.”

Lynch also has a teaching credential and comes from a long line of teachers on the west side of
the mountains. Her primary concerns are safety and mental health.

Whisler comes from a Bakersfield farm family. She ran for the board in 2018 because “she saw
things she didn’t like.” She admitted “it’s hard to separate the role of parent from her role as a
board member.”

Peterson was also first elected in 2018 and brings fiscal and managerial experience. She noted
Independence is a diverse community and everyone deserved equal respect.

Question: What is the role of the board, its duties and responsibilities?

Lynch: The board shouldn’t be a rubber stamp for the administration. She talked about the
intangibles, the inherent dignity of students, parents and teachers.

Whisler said she was told, when first elected to the Board, to “do what’s in the best in interest
of the district,” to do what’s best for the students and respect parents’ choice.

Peterson said the role of the board was to guide the district to meet its goals. Board members
should gather information, do independent research and have no bias in its decisions.

Weisman was succinct. “We oversee the district,” she said, outlining the duties of hiring and
overseeing the Superintendent.

Question: How does the district receive funding?

All of the candidates knew the district was Basic Aid (funded through local property taxes) and
received grant funding for specific programs.

Question: What constitutes an educated person and what is the purpose of free education?

Peterson’s definition was the ability to gather facts and question logic as well as the skills and
knowledge to be a successful adult, adding that sports were an important part of the mix.

Weisman stressed problem solving and critical thinking. “Education provides the tools to
achieve a quality life.”

Lynch saw the role of education to help students “personally and professionally fulfill their
potential”. She stressed the importance of “seeing the dignity in each student.”

Whisler also agreed education was more than time in the classroom and that real world life
experience was important. “All students should have a robust learning experience.”

Submitted questions: If there is another health emergency, will you follow mandates?

Weisman and Lynch would follow health mandates. Whisler said there needed to be parental
choice.

Question: How well did at-home schooling work?

Lynch: You have to look at the whole spectrum. Schools with technology did well, but there’s
the issue of social and emotional wellbeing. However, nothing else matters if you’re not safe.

Whisler: the outcome wasn’t acceptable.

Weisman: “It saved lives,” but there were a lot of issues: no structure, isolation and the fact the
issue was politicized. “We can use what we learned in the future.”

Question: Do you support replacing gas vehicles with electric?

Whisler: No, the limited range is not practical.

Weisman: Longer range vehicles are coming. We should go all-electric as soon as we can.

Lynch: We shouldn’t rule electric vehicles out. With climate change, we should consider the
world we’re leaving the next generations.

Question for Weisman who lives outside of California part of each year.

Weisman said she was in Independence most of the school year but in Alaska for 4-5 months.
“I’ve been at all or most of the meetings and events. It hasn’t been an issue.”

Lynch suggested Weisman bring back something for the students from her stays in Alaska.

Question: What is your opinion on teaching racial, cultural sensitivity?

Weisman taught school in the 1990s. “The lower grades had materials on race and culture,”
adding that such material should be in the classroom.

Lynch always had an interest in other nationalities. “We’re doing a disservice if the kids think
everybody is just like us,” she said. She added that she had once been in a group of non-whites
and understood the feeling of not belonging. “We need to teach history as it happened.”

Whisler agreed that racial and cultural diversity should be taught. “We can’t whitewash the
past.”

Question: How would you define freedom of speech and what is your opinion on censorship and book banning?

Lynch cited the only limit on free speech should be “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Books
should not be banned; parents should explain and talk to their children about the content.

Whisler and Weisman agreed.

Question: What skills that are the basis for active citizenship should also be taught?

Whisler: In addition to the core curriculum, students need to be financially literate. “We need
to prepare them for what’s coming next,” she added.

Weisman said there was a lot involved—empathy, history, the value of volunteering, political
science for informed voters. “Critical thinking is important for educated citizens,” she said.

Lynch went further. “Students need a wider horizon, a sense of their place in the world.