Q&A with Chris Bausch, candidate for Paso Robles School Board
Questions and answers with Chris Bausch
Editor’s note: The Paso Robles Daily News invited all candidates running for the board of trustees of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to participate in a Q&A to help inform local voters. We will be running them this week as we receive them.
Why are you running for trustee?
I am running for trustee for the same reason as in 2012. Having recovered from cancer in 2010, I was looking for a good way to pay it forward. Similar to today, albeit for different reasons, our schools were in financial trouble. Friends suggested that my background fixing broken businesses could help restore the district. Since our five Bearcats received an excellent education from Paso schools, it seemed a good way to return the favor. How hard could it be? As it turned out, very hard. Restoring sound business practices resulted in financial stability during my first term. Lack of good governance allowed a 10-percent reserve to squandered during my second. The current reserve will be spent mostly on safety protocols when schools reopen. I will draw upon my experience to reduce non-classroom expenses, restore student programs, recover learning lost from pandemic induced closures and keep local control.
What is the school district currently doing well, and what would you like to see improve?
In spite of the pandemic, our district is doing many things well. Thanks to Joey Vaugh, our culinary department has made a remarkable recovery. Thanks to countless hours from our staff and teachers, our distance learning has shifted into high gear from last spring. Collaboration and resolve to do whatever may be necessary for students’ success has replaced the fog that surrounded the temporary closures last spring. Yes, distance learning is a poor substitute for in-person instruction and must be improved especially digital connectivity at our schools. Our dual immersion program for distance learning can be improved. The good news is that our board and superintendent support changes recommended by teachers and staff to improve learning outcomes. Excellent programs, such as elementary thru high school athletics, Skills USA, theater, choir among others were halted due to COVID-19 but will be restored. Our Crimson Newsmagazine has endured. Recovery will happen.
What is your position on re-opening classrooms and protecting students from COVID-19?
As soon as it is safe and practical to do so, Paso Schools should be reopened. Paso Robles has made good progress from the purple to the red tier. Using funds allocated from the CARES Act to implement and follow public health guidelines should result in schools opening sooner than later. Based on both parent and teacher/staff surveys, I believe there can be appropriate accommodations made for those who want to stay home, for those who want to return to campus and for those who think a hybrid model works best for them. Some of our high-need students are already starting to return, pre-K and Kindergarten will be back soon. Practices for fall sports are underway. A waiver to reopen schools is being worked on as are negotiations for a hybrid model of learning. Small group labs for dual-enrolled courses might be able to meet this month.
How can the school district better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities?
Paso schools can better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities by using every penny received to its highest and best use. The simple answer is to convince Sacramento to prioritize full and fair funding for all students. California boasts the 5th largest economy in the world but ranks 38th in the US for per-pupil funding. We are 40th in terms of taxable income spent on education, 45th in student-teacher ratios, and 48th in staff/student ratio. These appalling numbers will only get worse due to COVID-19. The governor and legislature must spend more on education. Over 80-percent of Paso’s nearly $85 million budget already goes to salaries and benefits. How do we attract the very best teachers and staff without sacrificing programs, curriculum, maintenance, etc? One way might be to use surplus property that we already own to build self-sustaining affordable housing for employees.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about your candidacy?
During my first term, I collaborated with employees, especially teachers, enhancing our CTE/Career Technical Education, VAPA/Visual and Performing Arts, DI/Dual Immersion, and Counseling programs while eliminating deficit spending, balancing the budget, and building a 10-percent budget reserve. Roblans narrowly approved Measure M to rebuild our oldest schools, update elementary sites, and build an aquatics complex. My second term was more challenging. While elementary athletics, CTE, SkillsUSA, student safety, academic rigor/A-G, GATE and VAPA were either restored or significantly enhanced, a lack of good governance and a failure to provide accurate budget projections led to over-hiring, massive deficit spending and purchasing pools may never be built. I alone tried to prevent nearly $7,000,000 of the budget reserve from being erased. Recently, I succeeded in preventing an attempted raid on Measure M construction money for salaries. Tough decisions regarding re-opening, possible school consolidation, staff reduction require the fairness and experience I have earned.
About Chris Bausch
Chris Bausch is a business consultant and Realtor. He graduated from the California School Boards Association’s MIG/Masters In Governance program. “I bring a unique understanding of effective governance, school finance, educational code, bylaws, commonsense, reason, fiscal restraint, and, when needed, righteous indignation at board meetings,” he says. “I’m not afraid to speak out, ask tough questions, represent the concerns and suggestions of parents, students, teachers, businesses or voters, especially taxpayers.” He has volunteered at his church, local schools, city, county, Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association, and Rotary Club. Since 1988, he has owned several local businesses, employing more than fifty people.