Answers to Hansville Voters Questions

As the election nears, I am pleased to answer questions from voters.  This large set of questions came from two voters from Hansville.  My answers are posted here.

What is the highest priority of North Kitsap schools?

The highest priority for NK School District is to establish priorities that are derived from community needs, based on effective approaches, and build on the competencies of our district.  I know that sounds a like I am dodging this question, but I participated in last year’s budget committee and it was not clear what the priorities should be.  The state did come through with additional funding for the school year and the district used it primarily to re-establish the staffing cuts that were made when they were expecting no additional funding per student from the state and a predicted decline in enrollment.

During my campaign, I have prepared by talking to the community and learning about the district and how the state funds education.  From what I have heard and learned, these are the priorities that I would advocate for:

  • Staffing levels that support student learning.
  • Rebuilding a vibrant music and arts community
  • Rebuilding the alternative learning program

In one sentence, why are you running for school board?

I would like to serve my community by applying my systems’ perspective, experience and energy to improve the school district to provide learning experiences for all students.

Do you support lowering class size? Why? Can you cite data that proves the cost versus benefits?

I do support lower class sizes.  My belief is that students learn through the interaction with people.  So fundamentally increasing the time students have with teachers will improve learning.  My understanding of the data is that reducing class size improves learning – a fundamental fact.  Regarding cost realities, the current environment will not support a significant reduction class size.

Do you know how much it would cost the district overall to lower class size in every North Kitsap School District classroom? If not, are you willing to find out, give us the answer, and tell us how you would pay for it?

NK district presented the sizes of all classes at a September board meeting, and I have looked closely at the existing class sizes in two schools (so far) – KHS and KMS.  Intuitively, I think that an additional allocation of 8 teachers could make a positive impact for the district. That translates to about $600K in a $62M annual budget – which seems entirely doable within an environment of increasing state funding.  This is just a proposal.

Regarding my willingness to get answers and tell you how they will be funding, the answer is yes.  Every year the district makes a budget and determines how the funds will be allocated.  I will most definitely be willing to provide answers.  My desire for future budgets is to include measures and predicted outcomes for the budget.  For example, provide predicted class sizes and programs that are being implemented with that budget.

Does it matter if North Kitsap schools are losing enrollment? Why?

Yes, it matters.  Because state funding is provided per student, fewer students mean less funds.  In 2007-2011, nearly 500 students each year elected to go to other districts.  (Data since, 2011 has not been reported.)  500 students represent $3.8M.  Enrollment is also declining, because population is declining.  I would advocate doing interviews every year with the families that are choosing other districts to get information about why.  If we know why, then the district can decide to act on it or not.  I also advocate working with local governments to better understand growth so that enrollment predictions are accurate to support planning.  Ultimately, having a school district that meets the needs of the community will be the answer to enrollment decline.

Do you believe all teachers should be paid the same based only on years of experience and education? Do you believe this is the best way to pay them?

I think teachers should be paid what their value is in the market.  NK school district bargains with seven unions for their staff.  Tom Anderson, of the school board, sat in on the negotiations this year.  I think that is a good practice and should continue.

How would you reward the best teachers?

All teachers will be rewarded by an environment where they are valued and able to contribute to the intrinsically rewarding activity of teaching children and getting more skilled in their craft.  I would expect to create an environment where all teachers can improve and where our students are being successful.

How would you shed the ineffective teachers?

In my vision of NKSD, ineffective teachers will be transformed into effective teachers though a process of evaluation and training.  I think the focus should be on improvement of teachers and of student learning.

Do you support standardized testing? If so, what testing model would you use?

I am most interested in testing that allows teachers to know what has been learned and what hasn’t been learned.  The teachers can then manage the teaching.  I recognize that those paying the bill for education – legislators and tax payers – need to know that their money is being well-spent.  Therefore, I am for standardized tests.  I don’t particularly care which one is used.  It should represent important skills and knowledge that are required of contributing citizens.

Do you support the CORE curriculum concept? Why or why not?

Yes, I do support CORE curriculum.  In my view, it represents a predictable national standard and frees up our local resources and teachers to focus on student learning.

Do you believe the school day and total number of school days per year are adequate? Why or why not?

The existing school calendar and year was designed around a farming society.  School is done in the winter, when labor is not needed.  I advocate the redesign of this to better fit with today’s society where most of us work every day year round.  I think there are costs associated with an educational system that does not match society.  If there was a match, there would not be a discussion about the number of learning days.

Do you agree with the argument by some that we need to pay high-demand teachers more (i.e., math and science)? If so, how would you overcome opposition (primarily from the teachers union)? If not, how would you attract and keep these teachers?

I think that teacher pay should be what the market determines.  If teachers are paid what the market determines, then what would attract teachers are the culture and the environment of the school and district.  I would attract teachers by having an environment that values their contributions and their skills and allows them the intrinsic rewards of supporting student learning and improving themselves.

Do you think the arts (music, theater, art) are critical to learning? If so, how would you prioritize them compared to other subjects when budgets are tight and how would you pay for it?

The arts including music and theater are important to our community.  Integrated into schools they increase learning and tap into creative energy and passion.  I think they are in equal priority with other subjects and are defined as part of basic education.  When budgets are tight, the cuts need to be made to preserve what we can.  Partnerships with related community organizations may help – booster clubs, etc.

How would you get parents and taxpayers more involved with school decisions such as the school calendar and other policy matters (aside from PTA, PTO, inviting them to parent-teacher conferences and school events)?

I would like to re-instate board community committees for areas like music and alternative learning.  Additionally, the district involves parents and communities in many programs and decisions through advisory committees.  As a board member, I will be available to talk with citizens and parents before board meetings to hear perspectives and concerns prior to the meetings.  I conducted two study sessions prior to the budget adoption where some citizens and I looked over and discussed the proposed budget.  During meetings, I will ask questions in board meetings to ensure that all perspectives have been considered.  I also think that attendance at school events is a sign of a healthy community. As a board member, I will attend some (not all) to stay connected with the schools.

Do you believe the teachers union’s highest priority is the best interests of their students? Why?

I have talked with many teachers and do believe that they are very much invested in their students first.  However, the union’s primary job is to negotiate the contract which is looking out for the needs of their membership.  Through the negotiations, this contract should meet the needs of teachers, students and the district.

Are you willing to ask tough questions of administrators during public meetings? If so, what kinds of questions might you ask?

Generally, I am going to ask questions regarding the impacts of decisions to students, teachers and the budget.  Regarding students, I want to recognize that all students are not the same.  There are: motivated high achievers, unmotivated under performers, homeless students, addicted students, athletic students, music students, non-English language speakers, military families, Native American,  and etc.   I also value data and trends and making the linkage between how things are done and what the outcomes they produce.   I would ask questions to strengthen the connection.

At the last board meeting, Patricia Moore presented a report on McKinney-Vento Program, which is a national mandate to support homeless kids by transporting them to their home school.  I am interested in the deployment of the program (how many students’s served), the costs and the effectiveness.  She did present the number of students by grade – totally 156.  I would have asked to see what the last five years were.  She did present transportation costs for the last three years.  It is showing an increase.  I would like to have a comparison – that determines if we are doing it well.  I wondered why the increase.  She also presented the homeless student results on achievement tests.  I would have liked to see a comparison too, are those achievement results good or not.

What is the total amount per student (state and local) spent in the North Kitsap district, how does it compare to the statewide average, what level do you think would be appropriate, and why?

For this year’s 2013-2014 budget, the math is: $64,185,466 divided by 5813 students for $11,041/student.  I looked at the following resource, which is the compiled data for 2010-2011 and discovered that NK is about 12 highest for the 28 districts of similar size (between 5000 and 10000).  NK was $9235, the high was $10,271 and the low was $8,654.

The McCleary act has identified that $12,546/student is fully funded education in 2017-2018.  This data comes from  Assuming an inflation rate of 3%, fully funded education today is $11,106/student.  This seems to be a good value for basic education.

Do you advocate prayer anywhere on school property or teaching creationism in our schools? If so, why?

I support the existing policies and practices in place at NK, because they support the value of acceptance and inclusion of differences in beliefs.  Prayer is not promoted or prohibited.  I don’t believe that creationism is an equivalent to evolution as a scientific theory.  Excerpts of policies are provided below:

NK School Board Policy 2340 Religious-Related Activities and Practices states…

“As a matter of individual liberty, a student may of his/her own volition engage in private, non-disruptive prayer at anytime not in conflict to learning activities. School staff shall neither encourage, nor discourage as student from engaging in non-disruptive oral or silent prayer or any other form of devotional activity.”

While this policy is pretty clear about being neutral regarding prayer, it is also clear in NK School Board Policy on diversity, that differences in religion will be appreciation and respected. Policy 2133 Diversity Education that states…

“The board is committed to and supportive of an education of superior quality for all students that includes greater appreciation of and respect for human individuality, differences and similarities which contribute to our democratic nation as a whole, and more particularly all diverse aspects that make up our community.”

Do you believe any taxpayer money should be used to pay for sports programs? If so, how would you decide on priorities and budget allocations?

Yes.  I think that sports programs provide opportunities for our children to keep moving and be healthy.  They provide opportunities for access to higher education.  For some students, they provide the motivation to continue and engage in school.  The athletic program should be balanced with other priorities and programs.

Is there any limit to the amount of money we should spend on K-12 education?

There will always be a limit imposed by the decisions made by our legislators and local levy tax payers.  This gets decided every year for federal funds, every two years for the state money, and every four years for the levy money.  It will be my job as School Board Director to ensure that those dollars are well spent and we are constantly learning and improving to build student learning.

Common Core: Good or bad?

I got a voice message today from a voter asking about if I was for or against Common Core. She did not leave a name or a phone number, so I will answer here on my campaign blog for everyone and hope that she gets the message!

I am for Common Core. I believe a national standard allows for our students to have skills that are transferrable to anywhere in the nation. I would also hope that providing this standard will allow for our teachers to focus on ensuring that the students are actually building skills and are learning. I know those who criticize Common Core are concerned about the transition costs, losing good teachers who don’t want to change, and the actual content of the standards.  I understand these concerns, but believe these can be mitigated and make adopting Common Core and net benefit for schools.

Please Come to Candidate Forum – Monday, October 7th

The League of Women Voters and co-sponsors, the NAACP and the Kitsap Historical Society are hosting a Poulsbo City Council and North Kitsap School Board forums on Monday,  October 7th at 6:00pm.  The event will take place in the meeting room at Poulsbo City Hall.   The forum will be divided into two sessions with city council and mayoralty candidates from 6 to 7pm and School Board candidates from 7:15 to 8:15.

Usually in such forums, candidates are given two minutes to make an opening statement.  After all candidates have spoken, the moderator asks questions submitted in written form by the audience.  All candidates will have an opportunity to respond to each question.  Before the final statements, the moderator may allow candidates an extra minute to respond to another’s comments or to elaborate on an issue.   At the end of the forum, each candidate will have two minutes to make a closing statement.  The forum will be taped and aired by BKAT in its entirety.

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization and does not support or oppose candidates.  By organizing forums, the League seeks to encourage Americans to become informed voters and active citizens.