By Robin N. Kendall
October 9, 2020 (Warner Springs) -- Residents in Warner Unified School District may vote for three out of six candidates for school board in this November’s election. This small district is located in the far northeast sector of San Diego County in rural Warner Springs, California. It serves just over 2,100 students in grades preschool through twelfth grade. In addition to Warner Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, the district operates San Jose Continuation School, All Tribes Charter School and California Pacific Charter School.
The appointed incumbent is Melody Sees who is seeking election. Carolyn Alto-Audibert is a current school board member and serves as the clerk. Melissa Krogh is vice president. Three challengers are Terry L. Cox, Gene Doxey and Byron Anthony Klemaske II.
ECM sent emails to all six candidates inviting them to submit information about themselves and their campaigns. Krogh was the only candidate to respond to our email, She sent in both a heart-wrenching biography and answered our questions.
On the website votersedge.org, Melissa Krogh lists her profession as a confidential secretary/accounting clerk. She currently works for Julian Union High School. She has been on Warner Unified School District Board since 2016.
Krogh said that, “Being raised by a methamphetamine addicted parent is not an easy childhood. Being raised by a meth addict parent while the other parent is in prison is even harder. I frequently get asked what was it that made me chose a different path. Frankly, I don’t know for certain. I wish I had an easy answer, because I want more than anything, to help children break the cycle. I want to help find the answer that will make sense to kids so they can escape the chains of addiction before they get enslaved.”
She credits her success in life from getting, “drug education in school, before the DARE program was even invented. That drug education focused on the effects different drugs had on the human body and the brain function. It was brought in to my elementary school while I was in 4th or 5th grade and they continued to talk about the things that drugs did to the body and mind when I was in 6th grade. And maybe it made more sense to me, because I got to see those effects first hand in my mom.”
Krogh continued, “Growing up, school was my safe place. While I was in school, I didn’t have to think about what I would face at home. Hardly anyone yelled at me, and no one ever beat me at school. Breaks from school, holidays and summer, were miserable; it felt like a punishment to not be on campus.”
In high school, she was asked to write an essay about, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’. She said she could only answer it with what she wasn’t going to be. “I knew I would not be a drug addict. I dreamed of being a teacher, but found the ‘normal’ world scared me and I failed to act from fear of the unknown.”
Now, as an adult, she feels the need to give back to the public education system. She said, “I owe it to the children in my community to advocate for them, their families, and their educational needs. I want to see our youth encouraged to follow a path of productive community. Sitting on the Warner Unified School District’s Governing Board has allowed me to realize my personal commitment to serve the children and thereby give back to my community as a whole.”
Below are Krogh’s answers to ECM’s questions:
1. What are the most significant current challenges facing education in this community? How can the school board address these challenges?
In our rural community, the digital divide is our biggest challenge. The topography of our district creates inequity of access. Our school board and Superintendent had been proactive in getting inexpensive internet via hotspot devices out to families even prior to the switch to distance learning, and has increased the program to get more families connected now.
2. What motivates you to want to serve on the school board? Were there experiences in your education or career that sparked you to do this?
The public education system saved me. I feel compelled to give back to the institution of education because without it, I would have been a statistic.
3. For incumbents, what accomplishments on the board are you most proud of? For challengers, what do you most hope to change?
When I got on the Warner Unified School District Governing Board in 2016, our community had lost faith in our school; families were choosing other education options for their children. I am proud to say that we have had a 50% increase in students from 2016 to current. The campus is inviting and our community is once again encouraged by the positivity and accomplishments of our students.
4. Who has endorsed your candidacy? Please name the most significant endorsements.
5. What is your vision for education in this community? You might answer this in regards to both short and long-term outcomes.
I envision a learning environment where students are encouraged to follow a path that most appeals to their drive, whether into the work force by way of the trades or into college. I want students to see their own success as an achievable goal. I want to continue encouraging a hands-on learning environment.
6. Please discuss your views on how you, if elected, could address the issue of racial inequities in the school district. For example, do you think there is a need for more diversity training?
At Warner Unified, our student population is roughly ⅓ Native American, ⅓ Hispanic/Latino, and ⅓ Caucasian. We have made a concentrated effort to hire a diverse staff that shares cultural and linguistic ties to our students and our community.