School board: Veronica Walter, incumbent
Why are you the most qualified person for this position?
I am the most qualified person because I work hard at being educated about the issues from all sides. I work well with others and have a "team" mentality in order to make sure things get done. I have a clear understanding of what collaboration is and how it can move good ideas forward. Finally, trust has been earned from me, and given to me by parents, teachers, administrative teams and my fellow board members. There is not much that can be done without trust.
If you could address just one issue, what would it be and how would you address it?
Academic Rigor 7-12. I would encourage our district leaders to not only work with NCLB, but also to incorporate the ACT College Readiness Standards. These standards show at what levels students should be in: English, reading, math, science and writing - by scores - in order to be ready for college level work by the time they graduate. I can appreciate the efforts of NCLB, however, I feel they fall short in preparing students for basic college entrance-level readiness.
What criteria would you use to determine if the district is succeeding?
I think we are forced to use the assessment methods from MDE as well as NCLB - meaning MCA tests - to determine our improvement on academic testing. I would also use the ACT scores from high school level, and NWEA scores for grades K-8. Within these "scores" I think we need to pay attention to not only achieving a "score,", but also the level of improvement within the subgroups. I would also like to see a more holistic view that includes a school and district climate survey for staff, students and community members. Finally, I expect a fiscally efficient, responsible and balanced budget.
As the district attempts to balance quality education and low taxes, what are your priorities?
Making sure we are being as efficient as possible with our resources from top to bottom. I see myself taking the "scalpel" approach rather than the machete approach. It only makes a situation worse to "cut, cut, cut" then come to find out down the road that one of the areas you cut is the downfall for the district. I want to improve student achievement in the core areas, and ensure students are college-ready. I want safe facilities where students can learn and staff can teach. I want a "cream of the crop" staff, and have an environment that is respectful and appreciative, but at the same time holding to high expectations for their performance, initiative, and professional development.
What does the district do well? Where can it improve?
I believe that in the past six or seven years, the district has done a very good job in discovering and implementing curriculum changes in grades K-6 that have resulted in these groups of kids really "getting" learning, and beginning that higher-level thinking that will carry them into their 7-12 years. I see the efforts in staff development and professional development plans for both schools and individual staff bridging the gaps of what really makes an effective teacher in the classroom. The collaboration that is happening between teachers and buildings is wonderful, and has proven to have a positive outcome in student learning.
I believe the district can still make great improvements in the curriculum 7-12. I think these students have achievement gaps and we can do better in finding where the needs are and focusing our efforts on supporting subject areas and students in the specific areas of need. I do believe that the foundation that is being created K-6 will produce fewer gaps at the 7-12 level when those students "come up," but we cannot neglect the subject areas that need curriculum adjustments and students who need focused support. I also believe that the district can always improve in how and when it communicates and interacts with the community. We need to make it more visible, user friendly and accessible while also making sure it is "district friendly." This just means doing things smarter - not harder.