James Bennett, 52,
Hotel Del Coronado facilities manager
Candidate Lakeside Union School District
Why are you running for school board?
What are your top three priorities if elected?
1) Bring a back-to-basics approach to education. Lakeside youth deserve a quality education focusing on core principles such as math, writing, reading, and science without the influence of political agendas or propaganda. Teaching our kids skills that are valuable in their future education should be our top priority. This will elevate Lakeside schools’ quality of education and make them more competitive in the open market to attract students to the district thus increasing enrollment.
2) Parents and families of students have more rights than the school when it comes to decisions about health, religion, and societal beliefs. School has no place for those things and parents should be able to make their own choices for their students and teach their kids these things in the privacy of their own home.
3) I believe that all students, faculty and staff have value and worth because we are all children of God. We should frame our debates and decisions around this core principle to ensure that all people have a seat at the table and the decisions are made based on this core belief.
With studies showing students are behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what would you do on the policy level in ensuring students behind are able to catch up?
Lakeside School district can assist with catching students up from the shutdowns by removing school curriculum that is not essential to teaching students as mentioned above. We should remove barriers and obstacles from teachers, so they are free to teach on the basics.
Are you a proponent of armed teachers in classrooms as a way of addressing school safety for students, parents, and staff?
The safety and security of staff and students should be our highest priority. If someone doesn’t feel safe, then it is nearly impossible to have an environment where learning can take place. I am a proponent of gun ownership, and I am against schools being designated universally a no gun environment. I would advocate for more trained and armed law enforcement on campus when school is in session. Guns are a valuable tool for law enforcement and all Lakeside schools should have campus police funded and available.
How can the district support homeless students?
As mentioned before, all students have value and worth. If a student is homeless, we should first advocate for county assistance to get them off the street. Secondly, we can support homeless students with opportunities for learning through after school learning centers, partner with community groups like Youth Venture Lakeside who can assist with after school meals and assist these students with after school programs. We should help these students to find safe and supportive environments after school.
Under what circumstances is it appropriate to ban books from school classrooms and libraries?
Banning books and silencing free speech is something I do not support. Free speech and contradictory views are an important part of a student’s learning process to develop the ability to develop their own beliefs. If something is deemed inappropriate by a student’s parents or family, then we can assist to direct a student to alternate resources, but a ban of books is not the answer. In the classroom, once again, Lakeside curriculum should be focused on teaching basic skills and should not provide curriculum that is geared toward social engineering.
What past board efforts would you amplify or grow, and are there any which you would phase out?
Lakeside School District has done excellent work with flexible learning such as DREAM which is a partial homeschool program for students. I would like to see that expanded. I also think that we can do more with vocational training for students in order to prepare students who are not planning to attend college. Lakeside Schools can also continue to grow their agricultural programs. We should also continue to phase out programs and curriculum that are not part of the back-to-basics approach mentioned earlier.
What policies or processes would you propose to support student life such as anti-bullying training, efforts to reduce student vaping and drug use, and extracurricular events?
Bullying and violence should never be tolerated and students who are physically aggressive or threaten other students in any way cannot be tolerated. These students should be counseled, and an attempt made to alter their behavior. If the student is not willing to alter their behavior, then they should not be permitted to attend. The other students should not have to be afraid to attend school because of the actions of others. Other issues like vaping, drug, use, and alcohol use while at school should be handled in a similar way.
Lakeside Union is well-known for its multi-language immersion and STEAM programs. Do you feel there is equity to these programs throughout the district, and if not, what would you propose to give all students access to these programs?
Lakeside School district has been and is equally inclusive and welcoming to all students. I believe in giving all students the same opportunities, but I do not believe this will result in an equitable outcome. All students do not perform or learn equally. Our job as a school district is to provide equal opportunities to all and not to track equitable outcomes.
What is it that makes the Lakeside Union School District special to you, and why?
Lakeside School District is special because it is so closely connected with the community of Lakeside. Lakeside is a very special, small, and tight community. The school district should exist to teach kids how to be productive members of that community through teaching math, science, reading, writing, art, and vocational skills. I have supported and ministered to many Lakeside students through Youth Venture Lakeside and the kids are special people with unique gifts and talents. Lakeside School District helps to foster these in students.