I received this survey from Ed Barfuss, a Highland City resident. I thought the questions were timely, so here are my responses.
Alpine School Board Candidate Questionnaire
Survey by Ed Barfuss
There is a great debate in education today that ranges from international curriculum and standards to the autonomy of home education; from mandated classroom seat time to online, anywhere, anytime; and from mega districts to village schools. Given the range and diversity of the arguments on both sides of these issues, it would be helpful to know where you stand on the following subjects:
1. What will be your primary role as an ASD board member?
Who do you represent and how will you represent them?
A Board’s responsibility is Policy and Oversight.
The primary role of a school board member is to work collaboratively with the other members of the board and the district administration to implement the education program of the district and to ensure fiscal prudence and responsibility.
A board member represents the people who elected them as well as the interests and welfare of the organization and the stakeholders of the whole district. A board member has no authority alone—board member influence comes in the ability to work with others to determine policy and direction for the district.
A board member is also expected to be an advocate for the district helping to set the tone that determines the overall morale and organizational health of the employees, the patrons and students.
2. What is the best level of control over education? Is it a/an:
a. International consortium of developed countries
b. The Federal Department of Education
c. The State Office of Education directs school districts
d. The State Office of Education directs all schools – no districts
e. Independent School Districts with no state oversight
f. Independent public (charter) schools – no state, no districts, just parent led school boards at each school
g. All private schools, partially funded through a generous tax rebate system or unrestricted vouchers
h. Classroom where parent and teacher decide what is best for the child and tailor the education to meet the child’s needs
i. Family – home educated children
j. Some combination of or none of the above – explain
The Utah constitution spells out the system of responsibility for education in Utah. I am comfortable with this. As a general rule, the best decisions are made at the local level and I am an advocate for collaboration between the school, the classroom teacher and the parent. I do believe that districts and state boards play an important and significant role in a balanced system of education.
While I understand Federal government concern for education throughout the nation, I think their involvement should be minimal and limited—no one-size-fits all mandates and no punitive, money driven requirements that shackle a local board’s ability to meet local needs.
3. How would you vote to pay for major capital expenditures?
a. State funded buildings of standard design (LDS Chapels example)
b. Local (district wide) bond measures
c. Pay-as-you-go plan
d. Pay-as-you-go mandate
e. Some other option
Buildings in the district are similar to a home mortgage—you get a loan because generally you have to, to build or buy a house, but you want to pay it off as quickly as possible. I see local bond measures as the reasonable way to pay for the buildings we need for our growth.
I supported a pay-as-you-go plan for elementary schools in 2006-07, but that became impossible with the downturn in the economy and the continued growth in the district. As the economy recovers and revenue increases I would again support a pay-as-you-go plan. I would oppose a mandate as that takes away local flexibility.
4. What is ASD doing well?
Alpine School District is doing many things well.
A. Our focus on Student learning through the principles of a PLC (Professional Learning Community)
B. Data driven decision-making at every level that is driving success for students
C. CRT, ACT, and AP test scores are on an upward trend even with an annual increase in student growth
D. Graduation rates are trending upward and we are implementing a number of innovations to increase the opportunities for high school students to be successful.
E. Financial Philosophy of the District—Conservative and sound management of district resources sensitive to the taxpayers while meeting the needs of the students. An amazingly smooth ride through a difficult economic downturn through wise financial planning and decision-making over the years.
F. Comprehensive system of collaboration with all district stakeholders, Parents, teachers, administrators, support personnel, legislators, city officials, civic organizations, governing agencies, business and the general public
G. Professional Development for our teachers and administrators—which addresses quality teachers and instruction as well as recruitment and retention of quality, competent principals
H. A district culture of continuous improvement and purposeful collaboration
I. Employee morale
J. An attitude of innovation driven by needs at the local level
K. A properly balanced, top-down, bottom-up, collaborative governance model that respects the unique needs and personality of each school community allowing flexibility, wisdom and sensitivity in addressing issues
L. Laying the foundation and infrastructure for technology
M. Great volunteer opportunities for community members
N. Exceptionally competent leadership in the Superintendent and Business Administrator
5. Where do you think ASD could improve?
A. Increase collaboration with business and encourage more business partnerships
B. A comprehensive technology plan
6. Is your schedule open and flexible enough to allow for the considerable time required to study the issues and do you intend to consult with your constituents in town hall meetings or through electronic media?
I currently spend 20 – 30 hours a week taking care of my Board responsibilities. I am committed to being an informed, always learning, continuously improving board member. I have supported and helped implement a comprehensive feedback system for all in our community to have input in district direction and decisions—electronic media and community meetings being part of that.
7. Where do you stand on Common Core? Do you believe the benefits are worth the $5M ASD will spend this year to partially implement the State Board of Education mandated Common Core standards?
I support the implementation of the Utah Core Curriculum as has been directed by the State Board of Education. I believe it will strengthen our curriculum and give our students a greater depth of understanding, knowledge and application. I have confidence in the professionalism of our teachers and administrators to determine their classroom instruction and meet the educational needs of their students.
I do not know where the $5 million figure is coming from. We have ongoing professional development—it would be nice if it were $5 million—but I think that is a misunderstanding.
Professional Development is worth the money we invest in it because it improves classroom instruction and student achievement. It is one of the things are community said was important to them during the What Counts process in 2008.
8. Governor Romney is a strong free market advocate and believes competition improves the end product. Do you believe ASD needs to do more to foster competition and if so, what additional competitive measures would you advocate over what ASD is already doing?
ASD’s focus is on continuous improvement for everyone. This means we are always competing with ourselves and with the data. Our goal is to offer the best education experience possible for every student. We look at and visit other districts, schools within and without the district– public schools, charter schools, private schools, research institutions and their findings, as well as schools in other states and other nations, to learn all we can to improve our performance. We are always competing, by the very best definition of competition, when talking about our children, their learning and growth.
9. Do you believe organizations or curriculum should be allowed on campus that encourages things like abortion, non-age appropriate sex education, the gay life style, anti-Christian/atheist/humanist ideology, anti-American propaganda, etc? Does the district have an obligation to openly resist groups or ideologies that conflict with the social and/or religious beliefs of most of Utah County’s residents?
I believe schools do and should reflect their community values and that there are boundaries of acceptable behavior for a healthy civic environment. I am an advocate for strong moral and civic values.
Our community is becoming more diverse in its religious and cultural make-up. Every child and every employee should be safe at school to work, learn and grow without fear of reprisal from adults or students. I recognize my responsibility as a board member to uphold the rule of law, obey the laws of the land, and to protect due process and the individual rights of employees and students. These are carried out through the policies and processes of the district that help the board and administration govern.
10. There is a trend in elementary and secondary education to provide meals, childcare, health services, and life counseling, in addition to the three R’s. Do you believe these additional social services to be the proper role of public education and how will you vote on such issues?
I do not believe that public education was designed to carry the social issues load that has been placed upon it. For over 100 years laws have been passed, both national and state legislation, that gradually added a variety of social services to the school’s list of responsibilities. The school board does not write and pass the legislation but we are required to act in accordance with the laws.