Bill Farris

Spotlight on the Candidates: SSUSD Board of Education

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Bill Farris“I believe I bring the perspective of the businessperson to the board. No other board member has that specific perspective,” said Bill Farris, incumbent running for one of two four-year seats on the Sierra Sands Unified School District’s Board of Education.

“I also have a 26-year history as a board member, which allows me the vision of what’s been done and what plans there are for the future. I believe I have been a positive contributor to the board and believe I can continue to be.”

Farris has owned, managed, operated or worked at small businesses in town since 1972. He owns and operates Farris’ Diner and Italian Gardens, as well as the local Ashley Furniture HomeStore.

He sees the board’s greatest challenge as the area of finance. “We are facing a crisis in public education in many areas of the state and nation. California has not been able to identify a consistent funding model for education, particularly K through 12,” he said.

“We were already having serious issues in this state before the economic crisis, so the challenge is how do we see that education gets the funding that’s needed to provide education for our kids and so that we don’t have to face an annual crisis in funding.

“Every year there are greater expectations of what schools should provide for kids. Every year there is a new challenge, things like discipline and identifying special needs. The trick is, how do you balance this with the available resources?”

To meet these challenges, he said, “I believe the first thing to do as a board is what we’ve already done. We’ve identified the income level we’re allotted and made appropriate adjustments so that we can stay within that level. Then we have to advocate both locally and at the state level and become involved in the decision-making process so that what we’re allotted is appropriate for what the expectations are. That’s where networking is critical.”

Farris served on the Professional Governance Standards Task Force, which put together a set of governance standards that has been accepted by California School Boards Association members across the state.

“The purpose is to help local lay boards to be most effective in their governance,” said Farris. “I bring that expertise to our team. Over the years, I’ve been a key element in helping us build a strong and effective team. I think we have an effective board now.

“I have also developed a very strong network at the county and state level in my service as delegate to the statewide Delegate Assembly and also with Kern County School Boards Association. That allows a strong network to understand how other districts build networks and how to address issues and resolve problems.”

Among his contributions to the board are team-building skills. “Each person is only a single member of the board, and what’s important is how the board operates as a whole. I think my experience has allowed me to help build that team.

“Also, a fiscally conservative approach to our budget has allowed us to be in a more secure position than those districts that surround us. I’m very proud to have been a part of that. I’m also very proud of the current superintendent and administration team who have in turn put together a very high-performing staff for the district.

“I would like to continue the advocating efforts within that network, with the hope of effecting change in the funding model for public education locally.”

Farris and his wife, Cherie, have lived in Ridgecrest since 1969. They have 12 children and 11 grandchildren. Their youngest daughter and five of their grandchildren attend district schools.

“We have a wonderful community, and I think our public school system is a key elementary to the strength of this community,” said Farris. “I can’t take personal credit for that, but I’d like to think I had a contribution.”

Story First Published: 2012-09-26