Hi, my name is Jessica Dougherty. You might not believe it but I’m very shy. I cover it by being bubbly, smiley, and nice. I am a mother of two boys, a substitute teacher, Literacy Specialist, an artist, and an archaeologist. I have been lucky to live in Baker for seven wonderful years. I received a BA from Sonoma State University. When I was a kid I was a struggling student, I disliked reading, I was dyslexic and stumbled over words — so I understand how hard school can be. I feel that everyone deserves an education that is equal, equitable, and balanced.
Previous experience as an elected official or in a public service capacity.
While I have not previously held a publicly elected position, I have worked in government in varying capacities including career positions with National Park Service, Sonoma State University, and the University of Hawaii. I currently serve as Director for the Baker County Community Literacy Coalition and have consistently participated in multiple Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) including elected roles of Vice President and President. Through these combined experiences I became proficient in interpreting and applying policy requirements and gained a thorough understanding of broader regulatory frameworks and overall governance structures. I continue applying these skills in my professional capacity and I look forward to the opportunity of working with local elected officials and to supporting Baker 5J District staffs, the broader Baker County communities, and our Baker County kids in providing outstanding educational experiences.
How do you think the current school board, and the Baker 5J District, has done in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s clear that 2020 was a crazy year, and 2021 is essentially not much different. Given the tumultuous year, I believe the Baker 5J District has done an outstanding job of providing our kids with exceptional educational opportunities through adversity. For one, the District was able to successfully engage the students through distance learning and invested in the right technologies to meet the demands of virtual classrooms. And they accomplished this without applying undo pressure on our kids and their families. Secondly, as the district transitioned back to in-person learning, they emphasized keeping our kids and communities safe by following established health standards. The Baker 5J District staff members also provided support and concern for students’ overall well-being in addition to promoting academic growth.
The District staff has been mindful and considerate of the challenges we all faced over the last year (and more). Families in Baker County have been affected by these challenges differently and many continue struggling for relief from the overwhelming events and unprecedented conditions of the past year. Baker 5J District has been committed to supporting these families, to ensure there is equity for all Baker County families and that no one “falls through the cracks.” These challenges will likely persist, and because of the district staff’s continued support we will prevail.
And lastly, I appreciate and am personally thankful for all the District’s sustained efforts: they have engaged families and students to keep us all updated and safe; they have proven resilient to changing needs, demands, and uncertainty; and they have continually adapted to these strenuous conditions so that we not just survive, but can thrive and ensure brighter days and years ahead.
Discuss two issues that you believe will be vital for the school board to address over the next two to three years.
The school board will face many challenges over the next few years. Of these many challenges, aging facilities and staff recruitment and retention will likely be some of the more critical issues the District will need to address in the coming years. One of these issues is currently being evaluated by Baker County citizens through ballot Measure 1-108. Whether or not the measure passes, school facility maintenance within the District needs to be addressed on an annual basis through the budget process.
The District also needs to focus on its educational delivery mission, including hiring and retaining qualified teaching and paraprofessional staff. These positions are integral to delivering quality education and overall student well-being. In order to recruit and retain these essential positions — including substitutes — the District should consider overall compensation to these professionals.
Taken together, these issues also offer tremendous opportunity. The school district can provide a safe and effective learning environment that is responsive to the changing technologies of our times. It can also continue delivering quality education by retaining our valued teaching professionals and by incentivizing recruitment approaches. Combined, these strategies will provide a challenging and rewarding academic learning experience for our Baker County kids.
Discuss ways you think the school district could improve, and how you would approach trying to make those improvements?
Similar to the number of challenges that face our school district, there are also many ways in which we can improve. These improvements include actions that can happen in the near-term and offer immediate improvements, and other longer-term strategic improvements that may take years to implement. Improving the traffic circulation for our neighborhood schools is one example of a short-term improvement. The school district has already begun some of these improvements by developing the additional staff parking area at Brooklyn. The district is also in the planning phases and evaluating traffic conditions at South Baker. These ongoing and planned improvements offer the opportunity to improve traffic conditions in the nestled neighborhoods that surround our school campuses.
Technology in our schools (both a mid-range and long-term improvement) offers both solutions and some continued barriers for our Baker community. Communication between the district and the community is not always effective and user-friendly. The district is using newer technologies to communicate with parents. However, it’s not always effective and many community members are not as proficient with these communication channels, and more traditional ways of communicating are not always available. The district can improve its overall communication and messaging with the community by increasing transparency. This would apply to all the many issues, concerns, and developments that happen on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
The way to approach these improvements for me, personally, is by being on the Baker District 5J School Board. I look forward to exploring solutions for the many challenges in our district and to working on the many ongoing and proposed improvements. I would approach communicating with district staff and community members openly, sincerely, and with compassion.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Baker City Herald for offering candidates this opportunity to provide some personal background information and to offer responses to these thoughtful questions on the pressing issues in our district. Thank you!