Last month marked the term’s end for two Ramona Unified School District Board members. Bob Hailey, who served for 12 years, and Dr. Christopher Smith, who served for four, both completed their service to the community via the school board.
Hailey, a semi-retired engineer, originally joined the board to have more control at the local level. At the time, he had students in the school system.
“There was a lot of interference by legislation and it would usurp parental prerogatives,” he said. “Because of my interest in vocational education. I wanted to get involved.”
Now, three terms later, he notes that his passion for the position has waned slightly. He believes that it is most certainly a job for those who are passionate, as there can be many challenges that members face — from setting policy to the fiscal responsibility, and just making sure administrators have the tools they need to run the best schools possible. This can be especially tough in the times of budget cuts and state mandates.
Hailey’s governing was characterized mostly by his fairness.
“I carried no agenda,” he said. “It was always what was best for the district. It was important for all issues to be treated fairly and I believe we all should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”
“He has a reputation of being a level-headed board member,” said Superintendent Dr. Bob Graeff. “He was fair minded, he always examined both sides, and he was the voice of reason. It was always what was best for kids, not for adults.”
Hailey’s career was also instrumental in the support of the district’s vocational programs, notably the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at Ramona High School. Three years ago, the program was almost eliminated due to its decreasing size, and Hailey helped drum up community support. The result was a jump in members from 60 to now more than 100 and it is the single most improved ROTC program in the Navy.
Hailey still hopes to be involved in helping when he can but has turned his focus to community planning and land use.
Smith, a computational biologist for UCSD, decided not to run for re-election because of the demands of his current career.
“It takes 120 percent to be on the board and I consider it very important and right now my work is taking up more time,” he said.
Smith also is busy raising his children, who are currently in the school system.
During his tenure, Smith was largely focused in the science arena.
“Chris was a big contributor in the area of science and academics,” said Graeff. “He was key in the small grants that were awarded and the support of our science programs.”
He started his service after attending a school board meeting and disagreeing with one member’s vote.
“I thought I would throw my hat in,” he said. “That member I disagreed with and I are very close friends, and we ended up agreeing on the end product, but at the time I wanted to be a part. I decided to walk on and become a board member.”
Besides his contributions in science, Smith was valuable in making sure administrators had the freedom to try new things and govern their schools as they see fit.
“I do think that was my biggest accomplishment,” said Smith. “I wanted to give them the flexibility to advance good education, not to all fit in the same box. It is something I feel very passionate about.
“If they need to try something new and innovative, we wanted them to try it. If it didn’t work, they just moved on, but they got the chance to have that control because they know their schools best.”
“Every new program RUSD has is because of their support,” said Graeff. “Test scores are only going up, we have built two new schools, there has been many campus improvements at OPMS, RHS, and RE.
“So many positive aspects have come from their service.”
Replacing Hailey and Smith on the board are Dr. Dan Lopez and Dawn Perfect.