Sitting in his relaxed light blue polo, Joe Walker was composed and down-to-earth, completely not flaunting his authority, during the Voice’s first personal interview with the Board President on August 15. With a warm smile, Walker told us to make ourselves comfortable, and after exchanging a few words, we gradually gave in to his amiable demeanor.
Walker’s term on the Board ends in December, giving him 4 more months left as President. When asked if he would continue, he told us that he would like someone else to take his place.
He mentioned the time where he, upon hospitalization due to a tumor, had to conduct his meetings from the hospital bed.
“They would have signs stuck outside the doors saying that there was a meeting going on inside,” he chuckled, seeming to retrospectively regard the situation with good humor.
He had also served 5 additional months, due to former President Mukesh Luhar’s leave, and was “not ready” for it all. The briefness of the remainder of his term does not affect his productivity. He elaborated on the many goals he currently holds.
His first goal is to help out the new superintendent, Dr. Chelsea Kang-Smith, who he highly acclaims, saying that “hiring her [was] the best thing that TC decided to do.” He also wishes to strengthen his relationships with the Board and the public.
Walker is extremely proud of Temple City’s education system as a whole. Throughout the interview he passionately praised the schools multiple times. “Your parents came here for the education, not the bridal dresses,” he jokes.
He also emphasized on the success of the CLC, or as it is newly renamed, Sears Community Learning Center. “I always ask graduates, ‘do we prep you for college and life?’ and the answer is always a yes.”
Walker assures us that all of the people on the school board are there for “the right reasons,” which interestingly enough do not include money, fame, or power. He informed us that the position does lack perks such as not being able to get sons the football team due to lack of reserved parking spaces, but did not seem to be complaining.
Unlike some other districts which may regard the Board as a stepping stone to headlines, he stressed that the TC board is entirely there for the people.
He also addressed a few flaws in our education system, including the inclining enrollment rates. We had a few questions in mind: why should inclining enrollment rates be a problem? After all, isn’t the prime goal of opening a school to attract more and more students? Walker explained to us the concept of Average Daily Attendance, in which attendance rates become harder to balance; in other words, the quality becomes difficult to maintain in the face of exponentially growing quantity.
The toughest part for Walker as President was getting to know how schools are run. He discredited a common myth of our generation; teachers do not, in fact, write our tests right before issuing them and alter the level of difficulty according to their current moods.
“Nothing happens by chance. When the teacher gives you a test, you have to understand that it’s not E-Bayed an hour ago. In reality we’re dealing with very creative people, and it’s all planned out.”
Now, most people would find being a father and maintaining an entire city’s education system to be quite an amount of work. However, Walker doesn’t stop there. In his spare time he works as a crime analyst for the sheriff’s department, a job that he explains is overly dramatized by CSI.
He also volunteers at the hospital in Alhambra. Despite balancing all of these jobs at once, he still admirably maintains a very relaxed manner. In his leisure hours, Walker spends time with his family and his 6 chickens, immerses himself in history books, and blogs avidly.
This article was written by Sophia Chang. It was published in the Temple City Voice on September 3, 2008.