Get to know your candidates campaigning for your vote this November

By The Paso Robles Press Editorial Board 

PASO ROBLES — Campaigning continues for candidates vying for the four open seats on Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) Board. 

Candidates by District are:

District 1 

  • Jim Cogan 
  • Chris Arend 
  • Peter Byrne

District 2

  • Joel Peterson

District 4

  • Frank Triggs
  • Sondra Williams 


  • Adelita Hiteshew 
  • Laurene D. McCoy 
  • James “Jim” Irving 

As a follow up to last week’s School Board Candidates 2022 Q&A Part I, each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same list of questions from Paso Robles Press Editorial Board in 150 words or less in addition to their introduction and statement at 200 words. The candidate’s answers in its entirety is provided below, with the exception of Chris Arend, Peter Byrne, Frank Triggs, Adelita Hiteshew, and Laurene D. McCoy, who did not participate.

The candidates are listed by District and in alphabetical order by last name. Please refer to last week’s paper for Part I. 

Describe your top three objectives if you are elected to the school board.

Cogan (District 1): I will work to address pandemic-related learning loss and get our students back to performing at grade level. I will work to enhance our athletics and extracurricular programs so that our students are given the opportunity to compete with their peers in larger programs. I will work to ensure that every student graduates prepared for a career or college.

Peterson (District 2): Keep our district fiscally solvent, making good decisions to ensure there is money for classroom, teachers, and improving student achievement. Make decisions to keep our students and staff protected from those who want to take away protections. Bring a stronger sense of civility and respect among board members, staff, and our community. We need to respect each other and not bring a partisan agenda to board meetings. And build the pool that was voted on in Measure M.

Williams (District 4): 1: Bring the school board back to a place of civility and productive conversations. 2: Amplifying the needs of educators and students to ensure we are providing a quality education. 3: Creating and maintaining greater fiscal responsibility.

Irving (At-Large): Assisting the district in providing affordable housing for new teachers. Ensuring that the district is abiding by the law. Protecting teachers, staff and students from harassment.

In the development of a school district budget, what goals and objectives would guide your decision making?

Cogan (District 1): The primary goal in developing the school district budget must be serving our students. We need to ensure that they are served by the best teachers and staff, that they have the resources and services necessary to realize their individual potential and that they feel safe, accepted, and respected by the administration.

Peterson (District 2): Ensure the district has looked at costs for inflation and ongoing costs for programs. Ensure the district is making sure we have funding models to ensure programs can be effective. Making sure we keep more than minimum reserve in budget.

Williams (District 4): We need to provide our educators and paraeducators with a living wage to ensure retention and their ability to effectively educate our students. We need to ensure our diverse and underrepresented students’ needs are met to be successful in their continued education. We also need to ensure that our children have well maintained campuses and the most up to date educational resources to ensure progression to the next level of education. 

Irving (At-Large): Looking a “zero based” budgeting which will result in an annual review of all programs and construction projects.

What are your financial priorities for the school district? (Examples: reduction in class size, improved technology in the classroom, maintaining current programs.)

Cogan (District 1): The district budget is in the black, but is a mixture of ongoing and onetime funds. We need to spend the onetime funds on limited programs like those aimed at getting students back to performing at grade level and technology upgrades. We need to ensure that there are ongoing funds for maintaining the renewed bus service to the more remote parts of the district, like the lake communities. I will also work to utilize vacant school district land for developing housing for new teachers. 

Peterson (District 2): See if we can add transportation (bussing) back to district routes. add or increase programs to help Cover-19 learning loss, make sure we can afford the construction costs associated with Measure M projects (36th St campus & aquatic center).

Williams (District 4): 1: Ensuring the aquatic facility is designed and developed in a manner that is maintainable and a source of pride for the district. 2: Maintain, and possible expand, the dual immersion program. 3: Ensuring that we are using the funds intended to meet the needs of underrepresented students in manners that are consistent with their actual needs. 4: Maintaining manageable class sizes. 5: Providing the resources that teachers identify they need to ensure a quality education. 6: Improving translation and early intervention tools.

Irving (At-Large): Make sure the District complies with State laws and regulations.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our district on firmer financial footing?

Cogan (District 1): Because PRJUSD is partially funded by average daily attendance, the biggest threat to the district’s budget is declining student enrollment. To address this decline, we need to make the district one of choice for families and for great teachers. We have lost students, because we have lost some beloved teachers and staff. I will work to make sure that our parents, students, teachers, and staff once again feel supported by the school board. I will work to enhance and promote our amazing career training, athletics, and academic programs. We need the district to make the news for the right reasons again.

Peterson (District 2): Because of the emergency Covid funding over the past two years, and decisions of the district, the district is in a very strong financial position. Continue to be diligent in budgeting, decision making, and projections. 

Williams (District 4): 1) Continue with a close monitoring of the budget reports in monthly meetings. 2) Ensure that upcoming projects using one time funds do not have high costs to continually maintain. 3) Ensure we are not creating excessive staff positions or new programs with one time funds that are not fiscally sustainable.

Irving (At-Large): I do not know enough at this time about the details of the current fiscal situation to comment, but it is important that the District manage its resources carefully while planning for the future

Do you think there should be a police presence on the high school campus?

Cogan (District 1): I support the current resource officer program and the partnership we enjoy with the Paso Robles Police Department.

Peterson (District 2): School resource officers add a very positive influence to the high school. In past years, this has been a cost split with the City of Paso Robles. There are ways to make this a positive and influential attitude on campus. 

Williams (District 4): I wish that it wasn’t a need, but I am so incredibly thankful for the Paso Robles Police Department and the School Resource Officers we have. They truly care about the success and wellbeing of our students. They try to get to know students outside of disciplinary settings, and build relationships based on trust when kids need the support most. They have an incredibly important job on our high school campus. 

Irving (At-Large): Only if requested by staff. 

What do you think is going well right now in the school district?

Cogan (District 1): I am excited about the many examples of student leadership in the areas that affect them the most. I was thrilled to see the school board appoint a student representative to the board. 

Peterson (District 2): Because of the emergency Covid funding over the past two years, and decisions of the district, the district is in a very strong financial position. Continue to be diligent in budgeting, decision making, and projections. 

Williams (District 4): I think that the school district has amazing trade programs offered to high school students, and that more should be done to highlight that. I also think that this district has produced some amazing student advocates, fantastic athletes, and talented artists over the last few years. Despite the adversity that these students face, they embody what I feel is the Paso Spirit of perseverance and pride in their actions. 

Irving (At-Large): A good question. I’d like the teachers and staff to tell me what they think is going well, and what is not.

Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system? And Why?

Cogan (District 1): I see myself as a representative of parents and students who will work within the school system to ensure that our students are getting the services they need and taxpayers expect. As a parent, I recognize that our most important constituency is our students. The school system exists to serve them and that is why my campaign slogan is “Students First!”

Peterson (District 2): I see myself as a representative of our community, and this year, in area 2 which is north Paso Robles and San Miguel. 

Williams (District 4): I see myself as a community representative. I have had the great honor of being beside members of this community in both the best and worst moments of their lives. I also have spent time volunteering in this community, and listening to their needs and hopes. I hold this community with high regard, and I think that to be an effective board we need to focus on ensuring our children have the best education possible for their future success. My goal is to be a community advocate for this on the board. 

Irving (At-Large): Both. I believe there are many who are concerned about Trustees, who are not trained educators, trying to tell teachers what they can and cannot teach, while also guiding teachers and staff in putting aside their personal beliefs to focus on their responsibility to help develop and educated and informed citizens.

Why should the residents vote for you?

Cogan (District 1): I have no political agenda, which sets me apart from my opponents. I simply want the best for our students. As an active parent, I have skin in the game and will be accountable to other parents and students. I have far and away the most experience serving the community and deepest understanding of the district’s programs and budget. My opponents like to talk about the work they will do to get up to speed on what is happening in the district, but I will hit the ground running. 

Peterson (District 2): I am running unopposed (and will not be on the ballot). I am here to represent our students and be a role model for civil and respectful local government. 

Williams (District 4): Residents should vote for me because I care far more about their and their children’s needs. I understand the frustrations of a working parent, I care deeply about the mental health of these developing kiddos, and I firmly believe that we are better together than we are divided. It’s time to put our children and their success before divisiveness and hate. 

Irving (At-Large): Only if they are concerned about current divisiveness in our community.