Questions and answers with Jim Cogan
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 was encouraged to run by community leaders like Dee Lacey and Joel Peterson, because of my experience, priorities, and values. I want to ensure that the decisions made by the school board are focused on what is best for our students. I want to raise the level of public discourse about the district and enhance public trust by improving communication so that we can develop solutions together. My priorities include:
1. Getting students back in the classroom as soon as it is safe for them, teachers and staff.
2. Ensuring fiscal responsibility by increasing revenue and building reserves without raising taxes.
3. Retaining and attracting great teachers, because our students deserve the best.
4. Protecting and enhancing extracurriculars, electives, and career training programs (like Skills USA). These programs enrich our students, teach them life lessons, and prepare them for tomorrow’s job market.
5. Improve communication with the community to increase transparency and promote the public’s trust.
What is the school district is currently doing well, and what would you like to see improve?
The district has improved distance learning immeasurably from the spring. The current administration has made tough decisions to get the budget back in the black and is exploring opportunities to reuse vacant properties. I would like to see the district improve communication. There are two things that most people know about the district and that’s there have been budget problems and when school is in session traffic on Creston and Niblick is terrible in the morning. Few people know that the budget is in the black and we have a projected 10-percent reserve right now. We need to get the word out and work with the community to improve traffic flow around schools.
What is your position on re-opening classrooms and protecting students from COVID-19?
I support re-opening classrooms based on need. Some students need in-person instruction to be successful and we should prioritize serving those students because others are successful with distant learning.
How can the school district better serve students and meet its budget responsibilities?
We need to fulfill the commitments made in Measure M. We can complete the aquatics center after increasing revenue by developing vacant land for rental housing. Some of that housing should be affordable and reserved for teachers. Teacher housing is an incentive that would attract new teachers and help ensure that they are part of our community, which we know through countless studies benefits students and the community as a whole. In addition, we need to ensure that the administration is right-sized for the district. Some of this work has already been done, but we must always prioritize classroom instruction and extracurriculars over administration. Finally, we need to ensure we are providing our students, all of our students with a free and appropriate education.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about your candidacy?
My 20 years of public service in city management means that I will not have the steep learning curve other candidates will experience. I am running to put my experience to work for our students. My children attend schools in the district and we have been very pleased with the professionalism and dedication of their teachers and the amazing programs that have enriched their lives. I will make decisions based on the benefit to our students. I love this community and volunteer my time to serve, because I have been inspired by the dedication of all Roblans who make improving our community their personal responsibility.
About Jim Cogan
Jim Cogan grew up in New Hampshire and moved to California in 1999. He has served in management with the cities of San Jose, Menlo Park, Ventura and Paso Robles. He co-founded an agricultural technology accelerator in Paso called 805AgTech Ventures, “because I think that agricultural technology will be a driving industry in the near future and will create good-paying jobs that will allow our kids to stay here as adults,” he says. Cogan has coached youth sports for seven years. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce and as an elder at Highlands Church. “In my spare time I like mountain biking, BMX riding, snowboarding, wakeboarding, four-wheeling, riding motorcycles, restoring cars and playing sports with my kids,” he says. He and his wife Shannon will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary next week. They have two children in PRJUSD schools, and “are so happy to have made Paso Robles our home.”