Lesli Bjerke

Coeur D'Alene School District
Zone 4
Email Address:

Candidate Responses

What do you believe is the fundamental role of education?
Public schools should provide students with a strong well rounded academic education, with an emphasis on life skills education; skills students will need to be able to pursue their dreams and succeed in the next chapters of their life. The job of the public-school system is to promote academic integrity and excellence; critical thinking skills and the deciphering of facts, data and statistics should once again take a front and center position within the academic approach.
How would you promote rigorous academic instruction and excellence in your school district?
First, I would seek to thoroughly review the current curriculum and remove any impediments to returning to a more classical style of instruction, while working to support teachers and parents in the process of transition. I am very confident in my ability to study and learn from many sources, as I had ample opportunity to do this while I was an educator. Data and studies were used constantly to help improve our reach to students of all academic levels and abilities. Although I haven’t been in the classroom since 2016, I am passionate about working hard to make our schools a place of integrity and excellence, again.
How do you define Critical Race Theory? When implemented in school policies and curriculum, do you think Critical Race Theory differs from simply “teaching history?”
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a Marxist ideology that teaches that white people are oppressors and are to blame for racism, sexism, and every other “ism”. Every other race is considered to be the oppressed. This theory promotes racism and teaches children to judge others based solely on their skin color. This teaching is the exact opposite of what Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream” portrayed, where the content of someone’s character is what really matters, regardless of skin color. As far as its correlation to teaching history goes, unless it is the history of Marxist ideology and the history of Critical Theory, in which CRT is derived from, it would be considered antithetical to the teaching of actual history.
How do you define Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? Would you encourage the implementation of any SEL model in your school district? If so, which model and why?
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a set of complex issues related to providing “culturally responsible learning,” and designed to be “anti-racist,” but is just another vehicle for the ultimate promotion of Critical Race Theory, which is anything but anti-racist. To answer this question appropriately and responsibly would take a few pages, at least but, in short, it moves education away from academics and in the direction of teaching our students about equity and social justice. And, for that reason alone, every aspect of SEL should be eliminated from all CDA school curriculum.
How would you respond to the Idaho State Board and Department of Education’s recent dissemination of resources such as the SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools, which argues that schools should adopt anti-racist practices, focus on social justice, and conduct staff-wide implicit bias trainings? Should teachers be required to attend these kinds of trainings?
More of the same theme here – “social justice,” and “implicit bias” are just fancy words to disguise the origins of the same Marxist ideology, with the intent of creating division among students and teachers along racial lines. Any roadmap to reopening should be established on the basis of eliminating any form of requirement that involves adopting so called “anti-racist” practices, social justice and implicit bias training; these requirements are merely being used as a leverage to continuing the teaching of CRT and SEL. These types of trainings have no place in preparing educators for the coming school year; this time would be better spent focusing on lagging test scores and strategies for their improvement.
Should your school district be required to teach a sex education curriculum? If so, should this curriculum include instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity? Should parents and guardians be required to provide consent before their children participate in any sex education curriculum?
I believe that a consistently structured and universal teaching of sex education should be required from a purely biological, physiological and sexually transmitted disease standpoint, and altered for age appropriateness; elementary v. high school, etc. But, by no means should this education incorporate non-biological ideologies reflecting that there are more than two genders or, any education that would validate that a child has a choice in determining his / her sexual orientation. These matters are to be the realm of the parents or designees, i.e., doctors, pastors, etc. Based on some recently recorded occurrences, where teachers have taken it upon themselves to customize or elaborate outside of the defined curriculum, I feel strongly that the default for parents should be opting in, before their child be exposed to the sex education curriculum; this will be failsafe to the longstanding practice of opting out, where much can be lost in translation, when making such requests.
How should school districts respond to the Idaho School Boards Association’s recommendation that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify?
Here is a simple solution to a simple issue: biological male students use the male restroom and, biological female students use the female restroom. No student should have to navigate this self-created conundrum. Although I believe we should seek to make accommodations for all students, we should not impact one group to make an accommodation at the expense of another; there is no end to this type of circular logic.
Do you support mask mandates in schools as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy? Do you support implementation of any other policies or practices designed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19?
I believe in a non-political and truly scientific approach to handling the effects of COVID-19, which does not include the masking of school children; there has not been a reputable study indicating such a practice is beneficial and, on the contrary, many studies point only to the negative effects of doing so. This is a highly charged debate, even among members of the medical community. So, under these circumstances, I will always defer to the freedom of choice. As to other mitigation strategies, we need to return to what has served us in the past: awareness of good hygiene practices, hand washing, etc. and, keeping sick children out of school.