Of all the current Charter Oak school board members Joe Probst, 66, has served the most number years on the board at 22 cumulative years. The retired speech communications professor from Pasadena City College and long-time Glendora resident has seen the district through many phases over the years, including severe budget cuts, declining enrollment and school closures.
As Charter Oak struggles through ongoing budget cuts, and with midyear cuts expected to hit schools in December, Probst believes all three incumbents should be reelected to the board come Nov. 8.
Probst discusses the issues facing Charter Oak Unified and why he feels voters should reelect him to another term.
After 22 years, why run again?
Because there are things that need to be done, and it’s a time that it will take people who are able to do it. We have a historically functioning board, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new people. Don Davis was elected two years ago. Jane Bock was appointed a little more than two years ago. It’s not a board that has been stagnant as far as membership. But it’s a board that works together well. And I think that there are still places that we can go. We have a mission that we want to work on, academically and curriculum-wise.
I made the decision to run again before I even knew who the opponents would be because I knew we can do the very best job. There are things that we are working on that still need to be done and I feel that we make a very good team. We should keep that team together.
We have a Master Facilities Plan that we are going to be developing. Just as we keep getting older so does the district’s facilities. I feel that I am a viable part in getting that done.
Also, there is going to be continued successful work with our employee unions. If the board were to change, it would be questionable if that would still be the case. I’m proud of the endorsement I received from both employee unions. There is a reason they did not choose an ex board member, or a woman who has a single issue.
What is your view of District of Choice and do you think it’s an option for Charter Oak?
I don’t know if being District of Choice would help us overall. Yes, we lose enrollment to Glendora. But if you look at our overall enrollment, under the system that we have, we get significantly more students than we lose. So our system is working.
I’m a firm believer in neighborhood schools. I believe when you say you’re for District of Choice, you cannot believe in a neighborhood school anymore. Does that mean I’m going to stop a student who says they want to go to Charter Oak and they meet the criteria that exists. No, I’m not going to tell a kid they can’t come here. But if you’re out there trolling for children, I don’t feel really comfortable with that and I don’t think it’s a good thing.
There has been talk about updating or improving facilities. What facility projects do you think need improvements?
One of the things I think we should look at is the cafeteria at the high school. Is it clean enough to eat in? Yes. But if you worked in a really good corporation, that is not what your cafeteria would look like. Children, students should have a good place to eat where we have enough light and it’s attractive.
A lot of the stuff is just old. When we did the bond about 12 years ago and did the research for it, we identified about $100 million in needs. The public passed a bond for $30 million and we received another $20 million, So we spent somewhere over $50 million. But that’s still $50 million of $100 million in needs. Also, the facilities that we built with the bond are now 10 years old and they are getting older. That is why we have to have a facilities plan. We need input from the community and look at the priorities for the future.
What are your priorities as a school board member?
When we did the future plan, we talked about the International Baccalaureate program. If I was to focus on an academic program, I’d really like to get the International Baccalaureate down to the elementary level. I’d like to be sure that our AVID program is as effective as it can be, not just at the high school level but at the elementary level. I’d like to make sure that there are reasonable vocational programs that meet the needs of our students.
You said an experienced board is critical during these tough budget times. With three incumbents seeking all three open seats, do you believe there really is no room for a new member on the board?
If you’re just going use the term “new person,” maybe not. I was a new person once. The other four were once new. The two people that are challenging are not new persons. Mr. Rose was a former board member who was defeated for good reason. He was a person who caused incredible dissonance. He voted against the vice principal position at Cedargrove. He was a disruptive element and I think he would be a disruptive element again. He is not someone that the district should have on the board.
Ms. Shade, I have known her a long time. Until she was running for this position, I don’t remember her saying anything about the school district except she doesn’t like the school that is sitting right next to her.
Many years ago, she asked me if the board could give her part of our driveway and I said no. She is unhappy about the driveway that was built next door to her. She is a one-issue individual and that issue is Sunflower. She is generally wrong about most of the things she talks about….I don’t think these two individuals would be good for the district.