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Why am I running for the FRHSD Board of Education?

This is perhaps the first question people ask candidates for office. Yet, in my opinion, it is the least revealing, because the answer should be essentially the same for all of us - because we want to work to provide this next generation of young people with a quality education that is affordable to our community.  Of course, that is my goal, but voters should instead ask what we believe about education and taxes.  Here is what I believe.

I believe in merit pay for our staff.

I believe the majority of education professionals also support merit pay because they have nothing to fear from it. They are well-trained, eminently competent professionals who would welcome salary increases they have earned, as well as the incentives that a merit based salary system includes. 

I believe in merit pay based on student growth, not mere student achievement. Marked growth for students is the goal of education and is an individual indicator of success. Just because a child has not reached proficient or advanced proficient on state assessments, does not mean he/she has not grown in conceptual knowledge. Mastery of a skill, not simply a number on an "achievement" test, is the test of a teacher who has achieved success with and for his/her students.

I believe in the preservation of reasonable seniority rights provided they are connected to staff performance and quality educational services. 

I believe merely rewarding someone for their staying power and not their meritorious length of service is outmoded. Likewise, being forced to promote, retain or rehire someone of lesser qualifications merely because they have seniority over a more qualified candidate is not in our children's best interests.

I believe in educational choice, whether it is your district public school, private secular school, private religious school, another district's public school, charter schools, vouchers, or homeschooling. Our State Constitution and education laws support a parent's right to choose what educational setting is best for his/her children. 

I believe that competition based on choice benefits students by keeping everyone on top of his/her game, with professional development, creative learning opportunities, and keeping abreast of technological advances.

I believe in the instructional autonomy of our teachers and in giving staff the training, resources and support they need to give students the best educational advantage possible, within the confines of our taxpayers' ability to pay.

I believe in leadership that has the philosophical approach to its staff that says, "What can I do to help you help your students?"

I believe in establishing and supporting policies that foster that philosophical belief.

I do not believe in standardized assessments, but I understand that the State mandates them and I will support those mandates. 

I believe there is too much of an emphasis on mastering the standards than on acquiring knowledge, and especially on acquiring the skill of learning how to acquire knowledge on your own - those critical thinking skills that are fundamental to college or career readiness, and that grow and evolve with use, unlike the standards themselves.

I believe young people today are in a different world than the one we grew up in. For us, there was a promise of a job waiting when we completed college or vocational training, and in some cases when we simply possessed a high school diploma. That promise does not exist for young people today. There is great uncertainty about the future and where the jobs will be. However, there will always be a job waiting for a student who possesses higher order thinking skills - logic and creativity - along with a solid academic background. We need to be educating our young people to be thinkers, getting to the answers themselves, even in different ways, not just getting to "the answer." 

I believe we need to create an environment for staff that encourages that type of education, and not "clip their wings" in order to meet state imposed standards. 

I believe we fail the students when we tell our staff to prepare young people for the 21st century, but tie them to 19th and 20th century techniques determined by "the test." 

I believe in supporting discretionary programs when the need for the program is clearly shown to benefit students and outweighs the possible burden to the taxpayers. 

I believe in assessing every spending decision this way: Does the expenditure benefit the students in a necessary and measurable way? Does it only minimally impact the taxpayers? Have all alternatives to the proposed expenditure been considered, particularly those alternatives that would have no impact on the taxpayers? Can funds be shifted within the existing budget to accomplish the educational goal without raising taxes?

I believe in public education funding reform and eliminating everything that does not add value to our end product; healthy, well-rounded, equipped students, and a community that thrives because our educational system's reputation enhances economic opportunities.

I believe in community involvement in school matters and that a school board must be responsive to its community.

I believe in engaging the public in a respectful and meaningful way. 

I believe an elected official should not only want to hear from the public, but needs to hear from it.  

I believe that everything the public has to say, good bad or indifferent, matters.

I believe in independently verifying the information I am given, and not merely taking all that I am presented with "at face value."