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Tuesday November 8, 2016 — California General Election

Napa Valley College DistrictCandidate for Trustee, Trustee Area 1

Photo of Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker

Librarian/Communications Specialist
2,935 votes (41.1%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Ensure institutional plans are data-driven, contain measurable goals, and are based on realistic budget forecasts and prioritize facility needs based on the same.
  • Help more students reach their educational goals whether and reduce the amount of time needed for them to do that by expanding high demand programs (ie. career technical and STEM)
  • Help the college become a valuable community partner by using stakeholder input and demonstrating the Board understands the importance of transparency and accountability in building community trust.



Born in Houston, Texas, Jennifer grew up in the city of Dallas. While working toward her Bachelor’s in History at Southern Methodist University she took a part-time job with the Dallas Public Library where she discovered a passion for working with people. Following the completion of her BA she enrolled in the Master’s program at the School of Library and Information Science at Texas Woman’s University.

After receiving her MLS she took a position with the Lewisville Public Library in children’s services.

During her tenure there she worked to increase partnerships between the library and local schools and businesses, built new programs and services, and participated in implementing process reengineering to make the library more efficient and effective successfully increasing program participation by over 300%.

Five years later Jennifer accepted a supervisory position with the Fresno County Library and relocated to California. Here, in addition to leading the team for the children’s department at the central library she worked with a team of professionals to coordinate and deliver services to 32 locations throughout the county. She was also responsible for the purchase of Spanish language juvenile materials for these locations and had the opportunity to visit Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico on two occasions to represent Fresno as a buyer at the International Book Fair known as FIL.

While working in Fresno Jennifer decided to pursue a second masters and enrolled in the Public Administration program at Fresno State University. Graduating at the top of her class, she was invited to join the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Shortly after completing the degree, Jennifer was offered a position with the Solano County Library as a branch supervisor. She relocated to Woodland, California so she could take the job in Vacaville. Three years later she took a position as Library Director for the City of St. Helena, bringing her family to Napa.

Under her leadership the St. Helena Public Library received numerous awards including designation as a Star Library (a national distinction awarded annually by the publication Library Journal) for seven straight years. In 2014 the library was selected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be a Best Small Library in America finalist.

In 2014 she was accepted in the Leadership Napa Valley program, graduating with Class 28 in May 2015. Also in 2015 she took a new position working as Communications Media Specialist for Napa Valley Unified School District.

While working for the city of Lewisville, Jennifer met her future husband Anthony Halstead, also a librarian. They have been married for eleven years and have two sons who are elementary students in NVUSD schools.

Previous to having children, Jennifer volunteered regularly at their local animal shelter. Now she enjoys volunteering in the classroom and at her computer. For the last five years she has volunteered in the classroom every week, reading with students. When her younger son entered kindergarten she took on administration of his school’s website.

While working in St. Helena Jennifer received a federal grant to create an online community calendar. The calendar,, administered in partnership with Arts Council Napa Valley and Napa Valley TV, is the first of its kind providing bilingual information about community programs and events throughout the Valley. Jennifer’s practicum team in Leadership Napa Valley undertook to develop a new feature called Napa Loves Napa. This integrated feature of identify events that support local nonprofits and community service organizations. Jennifer continues to serve as a founding partner in the Napa Valley Now coalition.

For the last decade Jennifer has been very active in the library community across the state and nation. She has presented at professional conferences and served as chair of regional boards representing public libraries in Northern California. For the last five years she has participated as a committee member and chair to plan the annual California Library Association conference. In 2015 Jennifer was elected by her peers to serve as Secretary on the executive board of the California Library Association, a three-year term.

From Jennifer: My formal education and the continuing education programs I have participated in since completing my formal education are directly tied to public administration, leadership, and education. I have Masters degrees in Library Science and in Public Administration. I have participated in a number of leadership programs related to my work and in 2014 I completed the Leadership Napa Valley program. As a librarian both on the front-line and in administration I was heavily involved in the development and implementation of many programs and services for the public. Examples of these include lifelong learning and cultural series, early literacy, family literacy and adult literacy programs, computer technology and digital citizenship training for formal students and laypersons, etc. I have had the good fortune to work in a number of communities and in every one I actively worked with staff, organizational and community leadership, and outside organizations to increase offerings to the public that met the needs of local citizens of all ages. I also have had opportunity to do the same at the state level working with the California State Library and the California Library Association to implement state-wide programs and to train and provide resources to cohorts in other communities to implement programs that meet the needs of their constituents. I have also served as a professional mentor to five different individuals working in the field.




Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I believe quite simply that education is the cornerstone of democracy. Education is the pathway to individual success and a healthy economy and competitive workforce.  Education also instills a sense of responsibility and concern for the problems and injustices of society. Public education protects our collective future by training people to be citizens. I fell in love with the public library, open to all, free to all—a place of lifelong learning and freedom to explore. The community college is another fundamental component of public education that offers opportunity to all. It is a place to begin. For young people it is a place to think, form opinions, and learn to apply knowledge. For older students it is a place of starting over or self-improvement.

Institutions like Napa Valley College need to be protected so we can continue to provide vibrant, quality, affordable education options for all.

I believe it is extremely important to demonstrate that the College can be a valuable partner in cultivating and nurturing our community and economy. To affect this we need to engage stakeholders within the College and in the community. The role of the college in the community is multifaceted. Much like the public library, my first love, the community college as an institution should have something for everyone whether they be a young person just stepping into the role of college student, someone pursuing a career in trade, a business owner hiring a graduate, a parent looking for affordable education options for their child, or an older adult interested in learning something new…the community college should be Napa’s go to resource to launch people into their next phase of life.

While canvassing neighborhoods I always ask people I speak to, “what connection do you have with the college?” Many respond that they have taken classes, have children who are taking classes or, like my own, will attend in the future. Some have mentioned they work for the college or have. More often though the response is “none” and that concerns me. I hope that in the future fewer and fewer people will have that response. At the very least, our local citizens should know that they pay for the college with their property taxes and will therefore always have a connection—I want it to be one in which they can share pride and confidence. I would like to see the College work more closely with our local school districts, nonprofits, and community service organizations to create more programs that ensure incoming students are college-ready and prepared to be successful as they pursue higher education and that graduating students have the skills and connections they need to be successful entering the workforce.

While working with the rest of the board to set policy, provide fiscal and administrative oversight and evaluate the president may be the primary job of an individual board member, I believe it is also the role of board member to set a tone of collaboration and partnership with the different groups who are also a part of the decision-making process…bring them to the table, make sure they have an opportunity to be heard, and that they know their participation and perspectives are valued and will be reflected in the decision-making process. I think as a board member and representative of the college in the community it is most important to be available and open. A board member can be a facilitator and someone who encourages communication and engagement between the different constituent groups within the college. This means actively honoring both the letter and spirit of the shared governance system. I think board members also have a responsibility to build bridges between the college and the community. All these things together feed into the process of developing a shared set of goals and vision for the institution that all the different groups can collectively work toward.

As a Trustee I would aspire to work with my fellow Board members, the College President, and community stakeholders to affect the following:

·         Increase the number of students who reach their educational goals, whether they be to earn a certificate or an associate’s degree, or to transfer to a four-year institution, and decrease the time needed to attain these goals.

·         Expand career technical education programs that align with 21st century jobs.

·         Demonstrate that the College can be a valuable partner in cultivating and nurturing our community and economy.

·         Advocate for underrepresented students and close achievement gaps for low income students, first generation Americans, English learners, and other nontraditional students.

·         Build a cohesive leadership team that will attract and retain quality administrators and faculty.

·         Develop short- and long-term institutional plans for the College that are data-driven and in line with realistic fiscal assessments and forecasts.

·         Work with our local school district, nonprofits, and community service organizations to create more programs that ensure incoming students are college-ready and prepared to be successful as they pursue higher education and enter the workforce.

·         Engage stakeholders within the College and in the community to better communications, build trust and foster new partnerships.


Additionally, with regard to finances and the budget my priorities are:

• Addressing concerns related to pension liability to ensure the college has a long-range financial plan that accounts for the CalSTRS/CalPERS increases through 2021.

• Building the reserve to a minimum of 12% or the equivalent resource to maintain payroll for 2 months.

• Make student success top priority. Funds, whether they be for faculty and staff salaries or for technology updates or new equipment, should always be allocated with students in mind so all expenditures can be traced to the classroom.



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