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Meet Your PUSD Board Candidates: Gaylaird Christopher

Christopher is running for Seat 6 against incumbent Tom Selinske and challenger Sean Baggett

Gaylaird Christopher, the Pasadena architect who is running for Seat 6 in Tuesday's Pasadena Unified School Board race, wants to see the district make better use of adult volunteers who want to help out in the district.

Christopher said he first became interested in the school board after Superintendent Edwin Diaz spoke at his church to make a pitch for volunteers to help out in the schools.

About 100 people showed interest in becoming a mentor to a student or a tutor, he said, and 50 of them began the process of being fingerprinted and having background checks and going through other district procedures to become volunteers, as well as other necessary training.

By the time it was all over, Christopher said, there were only four volunteers left.

"It was a somewhat frustrating experience," Christopher said.

In addition to doing a better job of working with volunteers, Christopher said the district needs better financial transparency, not so much with Measure TT, but in the district's annual operating budget which Christopher says is hard to research in the documents the district has made online.

He also said he believes the district erred in voting to close two Altadena schools in November, and said that he thinks the school board in general needs to be more receptive to the public and more respectful with dealing with each other and with school administrators.

Christopher has three adult children, all of whom went to public school in Upland.  He has worked in Pasadena for more than 30 years, and moved to the town after his kids got through high school. 

On the vote to :

Christopher said he believes the board should have looked for other solutions to keeping the schools open.  He said that low enrollment is the district's main problem- as he pointed out, thousands of kids who live in the district's boundaries attend private school.

As long as schools are being shut down and teachers are being laid off, the district will never attract those students back, Christopher said.

He added that he believes that the current system leaves students separated by income level, and prevents them from being exposed to the full range of income level and class that they would experience in normal society.  He said he believes that students of all income levels would benefit from not being separated from people who are not exactly like them.

Board member Tom Selinske, whom Christopher is running against, voted in favor of closing the schools.

Parcel tax measures:

Christopher voted for and supported the successful 2008 Measure TT, but opposed Measure CC, the 2010 measure that was voted down.  He said that he believed that unlike TT, the district did not adequately explain what projects it would do with the money, and said he actively campaigned against the measure as a result.

Selinske was a supporter of both measures.

Equality of spending across the district:

Christopher has called for more financial transparency and has made a specific issue of .

He said that he believes that spending more per child is not necessarily going to improve the district, but said he would like to have a better idea of exactly what the district is spending its money on across the district.

mister altadena March 06, 2011 at 03:03 AM
The current system allows for open enrollment. A student from a lower socio economic background can apply to attend a school in higher socio economic neighborhood (& vice versa) That would appear to allow students of all income levels to mix at schools. Some schools have higher rates of "local/neighborhood" students attending their local/assigned school. When that happens the school is less able to accept students from outside the school's "zone". I'll have to check out Mr.Christopher's website to learn more about his plan to mix students of different income levels.
Gaylaird Christopher March 08, 2011 at 07:07 AM
Open enrollment is a good option for students and families who have resources which allow them to make a choice. For example latest enrollment figures from the District show that 2,728 students live in the Muir HS attendance area. Only 973 students decide to go there. If 65% of students assigned to attend Muir are opting out are the remaining 35% of the students choosing to stay there out of choice or necessity?
mister altadena March 08, 2011 at 03:03 PM
You pose a rhetorical question unless you know the answer. I'll ask you this, if Muir has a student population of about 1,200 and 973 are from the attendence area, are the other 200+ going to Muir out of necessity or choice? On top of that, if 65% of the students in the Muir attendence area are opting out, then, at least, 65% of the families in that area have the resources to drive to other neighborhoods. Other than having the ability to drive (and having a vehicle), what other resources are needed to be in another school? What about bussing? Isn't that still an option for those students who, via open enrollment, are accepted into schools outside their attendence area? I'm just not sold that exposing students "the full range of income level and class that they would experience in normal society" is a foregone conclusion for success. I thought PUSD did this decades ago and this is what took scores down across the district. If I'm wrong, so be it but more students in a particular area would go to their neighborhood schools if the schools were places parents wanted their children to go. Mixing everyone up and thinking scores will go up isn't my recipe for success. I get diversity, I'm in Altadena, we have that here. You're in Pasadena, right?
Adam March 08, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Mr. Christopher- I see that you are an architect and I see from your PEN questionnaire that you favor charter conversions and a return to K-8 schools. Can you pledge in no uncertain terms that you will not send one penny of pusd money to design or construction firms in which you or anyone you know holds a personal interest?

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