With experience as both a teacher and administrator, PUSD school board candidate Sean Baggett feels he has the right mix of experience to guide district through tough economic times, and he says might have to start with a little off the top.
Patch spoke with Sean J. Baggett, one of three candidates vying for Seat 6 on the PUSD board, about just why he decided to run and what changes he wants to bring to the district. Asked why he decided to run for the seat, Baggett tells a story that’s more personal than political. He says the district is troubled, especially when it comes to the junior high and high schools.
“My daughter is getting ready to start in PUSD over at Hamilton Elementary, and my neighbor's kids went through Pasadena schools for elementary school too,” Baggett said. “But now their child is getting ready to start junior high, and because they lack confidence in the junior high, now I’m looking across the street and their house is for sale,” Bagget said. “They’re actually moving out of Pasadena by the end of the year.”
This, says Bagget, is his primary reason for running for a seat on the board. He feels that the junior high and high school in the district “need some attention” in order to give the district a more “cohesive feel.”
Having worked in education for more than 16 years, Baggett started out as a teacher and moved into administration at the L.A. County Office of Education where he currently serves as the director of special education for the county’s community day schools. It was upon taking this job that Baggett says he began to implement some needed reforms to the local education system.
“I ended up running a tight ship, eliminating a lot of the processes and just saving a lot of money,” Baggett said.
Perhaps it’s quotes like this that have allowed Baggett to be singled out by the Pasadena Patriots-the local branch of the Tea Party-as the candidate of choice for fiscal conservatives.
But Baggett is quick to point out that this election is non-partisan and that while he’s happy to have endorsements from groups like the Patriots, he maintains no affiliation with any political movement and has made an effort to reach out to voters of all political stripes.
“I think maybe my opposition is trying to paint a partisan picture,” Baggett said. “I understand that it’s just politics, but I’m just having a great time meeting people from different areas in this town.”
While he thinks there is plenty of room for cost-cutting within the district, he wants to do everything he can to protect monies that go directly into the classrooms. Instead, he sees the district’s administrative costs as a primary target for cuts.
“You can never spend too much money on a kid in the classroom,” Baggett said. “I’m looking at the budget here in PUSD and I do see a sense of top-heaviness.”
Baggett said he believes there’s plenty of cost-saving measures to be done within the district administrative offices, rather than in the classrooms.
“Last year, close to 160 teacher were laid off,” he said. “However, while there were a few administrators let go because of other issues, not one could I find that was laid off due to a reduction in force. That sounds to me that he students and the teacher took the brunt of the hit from last year’s budget.”
Administrative costs aside, Baggett also takes issue with the district’s use of independent consultants, something he says has put significant strain on finances. Instead of farming out decision making and planning to high-priced consultants, Baggett says there is “more than enough talent and knowledge” already within the district.
“I feel a lot of the district administrators can consolidate their roles and responsibilities,” Baggett said.
Citing a continued decrease in district finding based on average daily attendance, Baggett says his solution is to create high schools that are “merit-based” and “have some rigor” so that the district can bring back into the fold many of the students who have left for private schools.
“We need to get more students back into our schools in order to make [the district] viable,” Baggett said. “The biggest crisis I see in the district is the continually declining enrollment.”
Baggett is running for the Seat 6 on the PUSD board against candidates Tom Selinske and Gaylaird Christopher. While early voting started on Monday, Feb. 22, the district-wide election for the PUSD board will be held on March 8.