Three decades of PVUSD tales

New book features retired superintendent

James Baker spent 30 years in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, working his way up from a teacher to superintendent.

Over those three decades, the school district was faced with integrating bilingual education, a teacher strike, a year-round schedule, the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and many other trials and tribulations.

Right in the middle of it all was Baker himself. Now, readers can learn about his experience in a new book, "From the Desk Of: An Administrator's Pursuit of Excellence & Equity in Pajaro Valley Unified School District," penned by his granddaughter, Alexandra Baker.

Alexandra said her 82-year-old grandfather, who she described as being in a "reflective period of his life," approached her about writing the book.

"He approached me because I love writing and we are really close," she said.

The original idea for the book centered around a history of PVUSD during those 30 years. But Alexandra quickly found out that she couldn't write about the history without getting James' own voice in it as well.

"It was his experiences and his life," she said. "I said, 'Grandpa, let's write about you too.'"

The book, which took 18 months to complete, not only includes newspaper articles, but also accounts from James himself, broken up into sections titled "From the Desk of Jim Baker."

James got his start at PVUSD as a teacher at EA Hall School in 1960. He eventually became assistant principal of the school before moving on to principal positions at Mintie White, Valencia and Freedom elementary schools. Later, he was appointed acting superintendent of PVUSD before being named the superintendent in 1981, a position he held until he retired in 1990.

Alexandra, a 2016 graduate of Gonzaga University and Santa Cruz native, said "From The Desk Of" is her first book. Earning her degree in public relations with a minor in writing, she said writing is something "I've been really passionate about."

"I love storytelling," she said. "Everyone has a story and it is important to hear."

After hearing her grandfather's story, Alexandra said she feels the book "barely scratched the surface" of everything that was going on in PVUSD at the time.

"We all go through school and we don't think about who is at the top," she said. "It was really interesting to discover about my grandfather's experience."

Now, James lives in Aptos and keeps busy with wood turning and golfing. He makes an effort to meet every new superintendent that comes to the school district, Alexandra said.

"We are so happy and so appreciative of everybody who supported us," she said. "This is our story. We respect and love Pajaro Valley and think it's an amazing school district that deserves all the honor and accolades it can get."


"From the Desk Of: An Administrator's Pursuit of Excellence & Equity in Pajaro Valley Unified School District" is available at Kelly's Books, 1838 Main St. in Watsonville and Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave.

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