This year our community is fortunate to have twelve candidates up for election to the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to fill four open seats on the board. This number of candidates creates many options for voters but also creates a level of confusion about the issues facing the PRJUSD, most importantly, which candidates are most qualified to address these impending issues. It may appear overwhelming to choose from such a diverse list of candidates, and we may fall back on name recognition or endorsement from outside groups to assist in our selections.
While it is true that the district, under the leadership of a previous superintendent, experienced significant financial problems. That individual was replaced by the current Superintendent, Dr. Curt Dubost. Under his leadership and with the guidance of the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, combined with a highly competent Chief Business Official, Brad Pawlowski, those problems have been addressed, and fiscal responsibility continues to be a top priority of this administration.
There are four candidates running as a slate focused on addressing past financial issues that are already under control. If you include returning school board members, electing this group as a slate with such a narrow focus is dangerous for our district and threatens the retention of key district personnel, and ignores the diversity of issues facing the district, especially as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19.
When you are considering the qualifications for a school board member, ask yourself where their priorities appear to be. Are they parents with children currently in the district who want to work to make the district a stable environment that benefits students and faculty? Do they have a background in education or community engagement? Do they bring a unique perspective that can add insight to the issues? Are they likely to communicate well with the general public? Are they solution-oriented with experience in building consensus for decision-making? Will they independently be committed to doing the preparation required to make informed decisions? Are they curious and willing to seek input and guidance from those with a clear understanding of the district in order to be innovative and community thought-leaders?
One of the primary jobs of the school board is to provide direction to the superintendent on a variety of issues which affect the district. Certainly, financial oversight is important, and having school board members who see this as a priority is important as well. However, we also need board members who value the quality of educational programs, well-maintained facilities, highly qualified teachers, sports, and other extra and co-curricular activities, to name just a few. These areas are equally important. We need parents with skin in the game. We need people who have dedicated themselves to education. We need a vision for our schools and the board members with a commitment to achieve that vision.
It is also vital that each board member arrive at their decisions as an individual board member after examining the issues while building consensus with those board members who may have differing opinions. Block voting by school board members leads to poor governance and limited oversight.
We have many qualified candidates to choose from, and they should all be applauded for stepping in the arena of an elected office. However, a potent mix of vibrant personalities, informed viewpoints, diverse experience, and background can make all the difference in finding success governing as a board.
In conclusion, as you prepare to vote, the undersigned members of your community encourage you to take a hard look at the candidates and thoroughly understand what each has to offer. Ask yourself who appears to be interested in working to improve the district and move forward with the best interest of the students, faculty, staff, and community in mind. As voters, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and select the strongest, most qualified candidates. Well designed school systems positively impact the entire community. Please choose wisely – our children, the future leaders of tomorrow, are counting on you!
Sincerely Paso Robles Residents,
Dr. Patrick Sayne
Joel Peterson, as a private citizen
Stephanie Ulibarri, as a private citizen