Q&A with Dorian Baker, candidate for Paso Robles School Board
Questions and answers with Dorian Baker
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 decided to run for school board after witnessing the poor governance of our school district by the prior board and superintendent, during which time the fiscal health of the district was decimated; there were improprieties in hiring practices and purchasing; there was intimidation of staff members resulting in a lack of trust that continues to this day. Promises that were made to the community were broken, such as the aquatic center that wasn’t fully funded, and students enrolled in programs that had to be cut. Students suffer as a result of poor discipline standards, because teachers are not properly supported, this needs to change. I will stand up for greater local control of schools so that our community, instead of Sacramento, can more fully determine our curriculum and policies. These issues need to be corrected because poor governance and poor fiscal health negatively affect the education of our students.
What is the school district currently doing well, and what would you like to see improve?
We have amazing, dedicated people on staff who work tirelessly to put our students first. Likewise, we have outstanding facilities, that need to continue to receive proper maintenance. I know from experience that it is often the maintenance and custodial staff that is cut when economic times are tough, this needs to change. It’s not right to try to balance a budget on the backs of those who are paid the least. I’d like to see our staff receive the support they deserve, and although we are in a tight financial situation, there is much we can do to foster better working conditions for our teachers and staff. I believe we lose more teachers to stress than to financial concerns. Certainly we can seek to mitigate this.
Our students are our greatest priority. We have many wonderful programs, especially at the high school; Skills USA and CTE, for example, provide excellent career opportunities, as well as life skills, that benefit students regardless of career path. Elementary students often miss out on opportunities to receive their share of special opportunities. The arts, which is what makes school fun for young learners, is not fully supported. It is put in place when times are good, and pulled away when money is tight. We must find a way to consistently provide an arts education to all of our elementary students at all school sites.
What is your position on re-opening classrooms and protecting students from COVID-19?
Currently, we are limited by state requirements, however, I would encourage staff to pursue every avenue available to fully open, with a distance learning option for students and staff who remain at risk. I fully support opening safely, with proper safety precautions in place.
How can the school district better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities?
We need to get our fiscal house in order and then remember that our students are our priority. With responsible management, we can fund our schools in a responsible and sustainable manner. We must be realistic about the forecasted drop in enrollment, and do our best to offer programs that will attract students to our district, making a commitment to keep those programs once implemented.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about your candidacy?
I do my best to be thoughtful and fair, to treat people with respect and dignity, and to put in the time and work needed to do a job well and to the best of my ability. If elected, these are attributes that I will bring with me to the board. I will be accessible to the public, both willing and wanting to represent the will of the people, with honesty and transparency.
About Dorian Baker
Dorian Baker and her husband built their home in the North County about 40 years ago. They have one PRHS senior and three grown children who all went through Paso Schools, and then on to the colleges of their choice. She received a BS in Journalism from Cal Poly SLO, as well as an elementary teaching credential. Baker’s employment experiences include teaching in Paso Robles Public Schools, primarliy grades 1-3 at Virginia Peterson Elementary, for 25 years, and then moving over to San Miguel to help open Almond Acres Charter Academy, where she taught 2nd grade until her retirement in 2017. “Teaching school along with membership on various leadership, curriculum, and hiring committees throughout my professional career, gives me first-hand knowledge of how our district works,” she says. “In addition, raising four children in Paso Schools, being a long time volunteer with Paso Robles Girls Softball League, and attendance (and often speaking) at many school board meetings over the years qualifies me to run for a seat on our school board.”