Last night (September 24th) I attended the Glenwood/Laurin PTO meeting and last week I was at the Pleasant Valley PTA meeting. There were some questions posed that I would like to address here:
Do I have children or grandchildren in the BGSD? No. Several grandchildren will be in a couple of years. I do have grandchildren in the Vancouver SD.
Why am I running? I’ve been concerned for the last several years about the lack of communication between the school board and the public. Several years ago there were actions that were not honestly communicated to the people. I’ve been trying to make an impact in the background for some time without any success, so I decided to run in an attempt to have more influence. I’m also trying to make sure that children get the best possible education and the only way to do that is to get elected.
What’s my meeting attendance history? Board meetings are held on Monday nights. In the past those have been a challenge for personal reasons. Starting in May of this year I made a change so I could attend the meetings. I’ve attended every board meeting and virtually every work session since then. Prior I worked through the District 4 Director on a frequent basis providing materials and information. I’ve also been active in a number of groups in the background working on various issues. (Note: I’ve asked the board to add an alternate evening so people with Monday conflicts could attend. To date they haven’t made any change)
Why do I think that I can make a difference without knowing all the history, people and way things have been done? By coming in with fresh eyes, not being tied to the past, by not being “vested” in the past and having no agenda other than to create the best possible education system I offer more opportunity for change and improvement than the incumbent. So, not having a “past” is a positive.
What do I see as important issues for the Battle Ground School district and School Board?
Battle Ground Challenges
1) Insufficient class rooms and schools – Until just recently the board has done little to plan for the future (the FIT is a step in the right direction) but we have dug a hole. We will need class rooms for all day kindergarten in the next 2 to 3 years; housing construction is adding to overcrowding and there is little that can be done to many existing campuses to resolve the issue.
2) We need to consider any and all options to solve our challenges. That means we can’t prejudge solutions and have to consider things like:
a) Should we explore a 4 day school week program?
b) Is there a way to work with surrounding school districts to handle students in areas where we don’t have room until we build new facilities?
c) Do we need to change school boundaries again? Bus children further to other schools? (I don’t think this would go over well)
Capital Bond – If the FIT makes a recommendation for a new bond in November and the board accepts that suggestion and approves it in December they (the board) can go to the public in February or wait until November. Making a case for the bond between mid December and early February is ~6 weeks over a major holiday when people will be seeing bills and planning for their taxes. I don’t think the case can be made and get the bond passed easily. I would suggest (yes it would delay new projects ~8 months) that we delay until November and use the time to find land, plan and make the case to the voters that this is needed. Given that taxes will increase people need to be sold on the bond.
School construction costs – How can we get schools exempted from paying prevailing wages for construction costs? That increases the construction cost by an estimated 2x or more according to some contractors. If we could get the State Legislature to find a way to make that change we may be able to build twice the space for the same money for the space needed for ½ the cost. Is it possible? We need to find out.
1) We need to regain the trust of the people by doing a better job sharing information as well as reaching out on a regular basis to make sure lines of communication are open. I would propose to use the district’s email contact list to solicit input as issues that have far-reaching implications arise.
2) My investigation shows that there is NO watchdog for school boards. As such it’s incredibly difficult for people to know if policy’s are being followed. To me that means that having board members who are dedicated to adhering to policy’s is critical (which has not always been the case).
3) School Boards can and should do a better job staying on top of legislation (State and Federal), take stances on issues, identify other school boards who are like-minded and then work with them and the legislature to change and/or implement laws that meet local needs. Being proactive is the key.
4) Local…local…local. We need to retain as much local control as possible over all aspects of education.
1) We need to hire the very best we can find, pay them well and allow them to do what they do best…teach. Micro managing isn’t the answer. If we can’t trust teachers to adjust and make modifications based on the needs of the students we have an major issue. (Yes we need a framework and guidelines but flexibility must be included)
2) The T.P.E.P. (Teachers Performance review system) is, in my opinion, a poor method of measuring and assessing performance. It’s cumbersome, tries to hold teachers accountable for things they can’t control, consumes too much time and is demotivating. The school board should step back and find a replacement (and then implement it) that focuses on identifying and measuring what the teachers can impact.
The SBAC, PARCC, WASL, SAT, ACT and other high stakes tests consume incredible amounts of money ($2 billion+ per year nationally) with little value to show for the time, effort and cost. Those tests are not predictive of performance (many colleges and universities are dropping the tests). GPA is predictive. We’ve gotten so wound up in testing that we lose copious amounts of time in real teaching and we place incredible stress on teachers and students, all for what? We must completely re-evaluate what we are doing and pare it down to what is really useful and helpful.
Common Core – Having and setting high goals and standards is not only reasonable but necessary. Locally CAM is an example of a rigorous program. Having the federal government use money to entice states into following a plan that is ill-conceived, has not been tested, uses so much testing that it reduces class teaching time, forces changes in curriculum to train for the test and a host of other reasons is wrong. We need collaboration, we need to use the best possible tools but we also need to retain control over education. Everyone is NOT the same. Here’s a chart that I think does a good job of describing the Facts vs. the Myths of CC:
Finally, I’m running because I think we need new ideas, to ask tough questions, challenge the way we’ve always done things, look beyond our local issues and deal with legislation before laws become reality (that are problematic). Will I rock the boat? Yes. I promise to challenge the status quo.