John Baker for SSFUSD Board of Trustees Q&A

South San Francisco, CA   September 8, 2014

John Baker head shot

John Baker


Everything South City would like to extend our thanks to John Baker as he shares more information on why he is running for School Board and what he would bring to the table if elected.   There are 3 open seats on the School Board. Please remember to vote in this November election.


Everything South City Questions for SSFUSD Board Candidates


1. Do you have, or have you had, children that attend(ed) our SSF public schools? If yes, what was the best experience your child(ren) carried with them after that course/teacher/experience?


When my son started kindergarten at Los Cerritos Elementary, he had a daunting time. He has a mild disability and had difficulty relating to his class peers. As a result, my son’s first year in school was difficult. My wife (Claire Ramsey) and I actively engaged the District in finding appropriate placement. To its credit, the District found a good spot for him as part of a San Mateo County Office of Education program in which SSFUSD participates. Working together we found a strong program that would build on my son’s strengths while adjusting to his weaknesses. In the five years since then, my son has opened up and his problems are now mostly the typical ones for a child of his age. He’s made friends, kept up academically and improved behavior-wise. By helping us find dedicated and patient special educators, the District has helped enhance my son’s quality of life.


2. Why should the community at large vote in this election for SSFUSD Boardmembers?

John Baker with his children

John Baker with his children


Schools are the lifeblood of the community. Whether or not you have children, the schools affect you. They affect your property values, the quality of local businesses once kids get into the workforce, and the reputation of the community as a whole. If you have children, then the schools are even more critical, obviously. Community members owe it to themselves to educate themselves on the candidates and vote, because actions of the school board will have an effect on the community as a whole, not just the schools.


3. What is your number 1 concern about our schools and what is your plan of action to address this?


Our students are becoming test-takers, not learners. The emphasis on testing scores has led to our students not getting the broad-based education that they deserve. Our teachers feel pressured because test scores are often being used to judge them, not gauge students — as a result subjects other than English and math are suffering as instructors “teach to the test.” Humanities, arts and vocational training are falling behind. Heck, during the last school year only four of nine District elementary schools even managed to meet the meager 200 minutes of PE the state requires over two weeks. I will concentrate less on the output of scores and diplomas and more on the outcome of turning out good, well-rounded students who are ready to contribute to our society. I will push for the hiring of a district grant writer in order to pursue science, vocational arts and humanities grants so the District can afford to go beyond the narrow focus on testing.


4. Our community has been upset over the lack of retention of good teachers and principals. What do you see as the problem and how would you rectify that?


The South San Francisco Unified School District has had a hard time attracting and retaining young teachers, many of whom can find a position in a district down the Peninsula paying many more thousands of dollars per year. While there is little room in the budget for significant pay raises, perhaps some special incentives could be found. For example, the District has three shuttered campuses. Perhaps at least one of those could be developed into below-market rate housing for District teachers and classified employees. But it is not simply a matter of pay. Some teachers have confided they feel a distinct lack of support from the upper administration. I will work to ensure that there is indeed two-way communication and a less-bureaucratic hierarchy in teacher-administrator-board relations.


5. What is the #1 thing that makes you best qualified for this position on our School Board?


I have extensive experience in the public policy arena, from formulation to evaluation, thanks to my unique combination of advanced education, professional development and community service. This experience will help me adjust to the rigorous demands of being a school board member.



6. There has been much controversy over the electives being offered at our High Schools. What courses do you believe to be the most beneficial to our students?


Outside math, English and social studies, I also see room for keyboarding, computer coding and auto shop. Also, culinary arts, ROP job experience, and wood shop. All are as important, in their own way, as the subjects on the high school exit exam.


Not every graduate wants or needs to go to college, but every graduate will need job skills to function in today’s world. Our District needs to avoid wholesale cuts to programs such as those above so students who aren’t going to college (or need to work while going through it, as I did) have practical skills and able to support themselves early in life.


7. Due to limited space, Candidate Statements may not express all that you would like our community to know about you and your goals. What else would you offer? What makes your platform different from the other candidates?


I believe the voters should look for the candidate with: successful experience in policy making and budgeting; a long history of community service; and a broad-based education that would allow them to adapt to unpredictable circumstances. It would also be beneficial that the candidate be a parent with a child currently in the School District, particularly a parent that has direct experience in making sure that underserved children receive a Fair and Appropriate Public Education. I believe I meet those criteria.


For more information visit on John’s campaign CLICK HERE

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[…] there are 3 seats open, Everything South City will formally endorse one candidate only, JOHN BAKER. After following John Baker the past few years, we have found John to be someone who can think […]