In preparation for the August 30th election, the Sand Paper contacted Lee County School Board Candidates for District 3, 6 & 7 with a question regarding a topic of interest to Island residents. Island voters will vote for these three district seats on August 30th. The question and their responses are below.
What are the top two challenges facing the Lee County School Board?
District 3 Candidates
Chris Patricca’s response:
The first challenge facing the Lee County School Board is winning back the confidence of our community. Our School Board has made some big mistakes in the past, including the decision to opt out of state mandated tests in August, 2014. I know I will do better. There are amazing things happening in our schools every single day. But, that is frequently overlooked because the behavior of some members of our Board has a tendency to cast a negative shadow over the entire District.
I will work to improve this by being engaged with the community and visiting each of the 120 schools in our District during my first year on the Board. I will attend school functions and be open to input from families, teachers, employees, and stakeholders. I will work to earn your trust and confidence so that we can tackle the second major challenge we are facing, which is the capital funding crisis.
I will advocate for an operational audit, conducted by an independent company that specializes in education. In so doing, we will be able to identify expenditures made on items that are working and eliminate expenditures on programs that are not effective. This will also address the first challenge outlined above because it will prove to taxpayers that we are being good stewards of your tax dollars. After that, I will work to increase impact fees and find savings in transportation. The bottom line is that politics cannot enter into the decision-making process.
The following candidates for Lee School Board District 3 did not respond: Lori Fayhee.
District 6 Candidates
Jane Kuckel’s response:
The decision to become a School Board Candidate was prompted by the urging of numerous parents and leading community members who want to put Lee County back on the map as a leading-edge high quality school system.
My 2 top priorities in achieving that goal are:
Returning the District to an “A” status
Over the last 4 years, the District dropped from having 85% “A” and “B” Schools with no “D” and “F” schools to, last year, 65% “A” and “B” schools with 8 “D” and 1 “F” school. I served on the Board when it moved from a “C” to an “A” district. I know what it took to get there and want to be a part of making it happen again.
Securing a reliable funding source for Capital projects
Currently the student population growth averages around 2000 new students per year. Capital Fund allocations have not kept up with the need for new schools, resulting in being 4-7 schools behind in meeting that need. It is the role of the local School Board to ensure that all students have equitable classroom accommodations. That conversation, at the Board table, must begin immediately.
I was previously tagged as a ‘Voice of Reason’ on the School Board and will look forward to continuing that practice. I do my homework to be an informed decision maker. I am honest, trustworthy, and Passionate about the Lee County Schools and this community.
The following candidates for Lee School Board District 6 did not respond: Don Armstrong, Charles Daily and Richard Dunmire.
District 7 Candidates
Derrick Donnell’s response:
The most important function of the Lee County School Board is to ensure that all policies that we enact are done so with the full understanding that these decisions will positively impact ALL children. The first challenge the school board faces is that we have to gain the confidence, respect and trust of the entire community. Prior to my decision to run for this position, and even more so now, it was evident that there is a distinct disconnect between the school board and the community for which we serve. I firmly understand that there is a direct correlation between the strength of our school system and the strength of our community. More simply put, the stronger our school system, the stronger our work force. The stronger our work force, the safer our community. The safer our community, the greater the probability of increased property values.
The second challenge of the Lee County School Board is to work with the community and the superintendent to establish policies and strategies that will increase the retention of highly effective school teachers. As a life-long educator, I understand that the most important factor that impacts student achievement is a caring and educated teacher. There is a national crisis as it relates to teachers. Fewer and fewer people are choosing teaching as a career. It is imperative that we address this issue. In doing so, simultaneously we will reduce the stress on having to recruit hundreds of new teachers each school year.
Chris Quackenbush’s response:
The top two issues for the Lee County School Board are clear. 1) What our children are (not) learning, and 2) Federal interference with local control. State test scores show our students are now only 53% on grade level in math and 54% in English. This is a jaw dropping loss of 23% points in just four years in math. With scores like these, nearly half of our children will be destined for a future of ignorance and poverty. We now spend $1.4 billion per year on 92,000 students, or $15,000 per student, which should be adequate, but Federal testing mandates used only to grade teachers have absorbed much of the time for classroom learning. Those tests have created pressure cooker classrooms, which drive the love of learning out of schools and escalate costs. Teachers must teach to the test or lose their jobs, which narrows the curriculum.
We have a proactive plan to deliver the education our children need to build a bright future. That is to use only the best standards for learning, eliminate redundant and wasteful testing, which does not inform education, and restore local control. The school board has the Constitutional authority and responsibility for what our children learn. We need board members who will stand together for our students, not cave to federal bullies.
Cathleen Morgan’s response:
(1) The School Board needs to become a high performing board and governance team as it expands in 2016. We need School Board members who understand their roles and responsibilities on the governance team and are committed to working with the Superintendent to tackle the most challenging barriers to student achievement, meaningful learning gains and equitable opportunities for a quality education. Quality working relationships, a well-defined work culture using best business management practices and data-based strategic planning with effective oversight protocols will earn public confidence, trust and respect in the financial and academic stewardship of the School Board.
(2) To become successful graduates ready for life, work and/or higher education, all students need to be grade level competent in English/Language Arts and Math. A significant number of students from poverty and non-English speaking homes enter school without the basic literacy foundations and vocabulary essential to becoming successful and confident learners. We need to address the lack of student school readiness and accelerate learning gains for students who are not proficient on grade level. We can encourage student intrinsic motivation to engage in learning by celebrating and broadcasting the extraordinary opportunities all students experience in the Lee County School District.
The following candidates for Lee School Board District 7 did not respond: Guido Minaya.