Payson Unified School District board member candidate Buzz Walker knows the good, the bad, and the broke of working for elected officials.
Walker, who is perhaps better known as Payson’s water czar, is running on a platform of improving, or at the very least maintaining, the district’s vocational training and alternative education. He also wants to close the high school’s campus, but questioned if the money existed to do it.
New plans will slam into budget limitations, he said.
“Any thoughts that anybody is going to go in there and do something glorious like money is going to rain from the sky — ain’t going to happen.”
High school officials have expressed concern that they do not have adequate personnel to enforce a closed campus. The school board has advocated for the closure, citing reasons that vary from safety concerns to making money on food services.
Walker said his experience working for the Payson Town Council gives him experience in dealing with the politics of voter-decided positions.
Payson Unified School District needs many things, depending upon who one asks — a fence around its high school campus, a new building for its agriculture program, a cafeteria that fits more than 80 students.
Walker, who is from Illinois originally, came to Payson 36 years ago to work for a water company.
He is a big proponent of the district’s alternative school, Payson Center for Success, calling it a “super, super facility.” Alternative schools educate students unable to thrive in traditional classroom settings.
The students educated there often have responsibilities like taking care of a parent or supporting a child, tasks beyond the average high school student’s burden, Walker said. “It’s tough being a kid,” he added. “To succeed in that atmosphere, they need all the support they can get.”
To that end, he suggested expanding the school — it has a waiting list — into the district’s current office space once it relocates into the Rock Building near Julia Randall Elementary.
Walker said he believes that the county-run Payson Education Center saps finite resources. “That money should be going to the school district.”
The district can’t force the education center to combine with the Center for Success, Walker said.
“The county superintendent of schools is given pretty broad latitude to do things like this, even if it’s not in the best interest of the local school district.”
Supporting staff, however, is free. “One thing you can do even if you don’t have money, is support the administration, and attract and retain a quality staff,” Walker said. He believes in supporting that administration when they make “appropriate changes.”
“You don’t get in there and worry about the color of the pencils they use.”
Although he supports the agriculture program — all vocational programs, in fact — Walker says the money to expand facilities does not exist right now. He advocated lobbying the legislature to “not be so stingy with money for schools.”
“They need to prepare kids to go out and get jobs, not to go to college. Not all kids want to go to college, or need to go to college.”