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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

SLPS Elected Board Results, via St Louis Schools Watch

And here they are...and note on Richard Gaines leaving schoolboard, and upcoming board meetings (below)

St. Louis Schools Watch
By Susan Turk
School Board Election Results
April 4, 2017—St. Louis—
BD OF EDUCATION

BILL MONROE
12227
11.38%

NATALIE VOWELL
18627
17.34%

DAVID JACKSON
9779
9.10%

DOROTHY COLLINS
22242
20.70%

BRIAN WALLNER
6995
6.51%

JAMES REECE
9781
9.10%

SUSAN JONES
26371
24.55%

Write-in Votes
1409
1.31%

So the winners are Susan Jones, Dorothy Rohde-Collins and Natalie Vowell.
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Richard Gaines Leaving SAB
At the March 16, 2017 SAB meeting, Richard Gaines made several cryptic remarks.
As he was walking in he told this reporter that I wouldn’t have him to jump up and down on much longer. Then, he remarked that he was joking. (NB I have never physically jumped up and down on Mr. Gaines.)  Then during the course of the meeting he remarked several times about how things looked from the view of walking out the door.
Rick Sullivan responded at one point vaguely implying that he was going to miss Mr. Gaines.
No official announcement has been made to the effect that Mr. Gaines is leaving the board. But he is. President of the Board of Aldermen Louis Reed gets to appoint his replacement.
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Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com
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Please feel free to forward the SLS Watch to anyone you think will benefit from reading the publication.
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Calendar

April 11, 2017, Tuesday, Board of Education regular monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Columbia Elementary School,  3120 St. Louis Avenue, 63106

April 13, 2017, Thursday, SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108

Monday, April 3, 2017

SLPS Elected Board Elections April 4 -- St Louis School Watch Evaluation of Candidates

SLPS Candidate Survey responses

1. James Reece

2. Dorothy Rohde Collins
3. Susan Jones
4. David Jackson

Other candidates did not respond.

Link to Susan Turk's evaluation of the elections (and recommendations).  
http://stlouisschoolsproject.blogspot.com/2017/04/slps-schoolboard-elections-april-4.html

SLPS Schoolboard Elections, APRIL 4: Analysis and evaluation of candidates by Susan Turk...

St. Louis Schools Watch

The April 4 School Board Election

March 28, 2017—St. Louis—
Well, it’s time to assess the candidates.  In the order that they will appear on the ballot they are Wiiliam (Bill) Monroe, Jr., Natalie Vowel, David Jackson, Jr., Dorothy Rodhe-Collins, Brian Wallner, James Reece, and Susan Jones.

Regular readers of the Watch are already familiar with most f them. The exception is Brian Wallner.  He did not fill out a candidate survey and he has not attended most the ward meetings or candidate forums.  Outside of two brief phone conversations, I have not been able to learn much about him.  He apparently works two jobs which has prevented him from doing much campaigning. So, I have not been able to form an opinion about him other than that he is an idealistic young man who values public education.


Incumbent Board Member Bill Monroe is seeking re-election to a second term.  He did not return a candidate survey. Mr. Monroe has been a fixture at school board meetings for close to 20 years. He is the founder of the now closed Thurgood Marshall Academy, one of the first charter schools opened in St. Louis and the first to be closed by the state.  After Thurgood Marshall closed, Mr. Monroe attempted to open a second charter school named after Harriet Tubman but he could not find a sponsor. Rumors circulated that DESE was warning people not to work with him. These rumors incensed Monroe enough to speak about them at an SAB meeting demanding to be told who at DESE was responsible.  He never found out.


He is currently trying to open a private vocational high school for homeless students.  Over the years both before and after being elected to the board of education he has made many appearances before the SAB.  During their early years, he tried to be useful to the SAB, volunteering to chair break-out sessions at their community forums and serving on the committee to promote a bond issue and then the committee that was supposed to provide confidence that there was public oversight of the expenditures from the bond issue but which only met twice. In recent years during his appearances before the SAB, he regularly insults Rick Sullivan and Supt. Kelvin Adams, demanding to be told Sullivan’s salary ($0) and insinuating that Sullivan rather than Dr. Adams runs the district. He repeatedly demands that the SAB meet with the elected board to either to include the EB in decisions or to work on transition. His efforts have not been successful.


The Watch has two purposes.  The first is to report facts.  The second is to provide analysis. The previous paragraph amounts to fact. Here comes some analysis.


Watching Mr. Monroe’s behavior over the years, what one sees is a bullying and obstinate personality.  His public persona is one of defiance of authority.  But he is a lone warrior. If he came to meetings with phalanxes of followers backing him up, he might achieve something. But he is one of those “he and he alone” characters. So his confrontational strategy has not been successful. If relentless perseverance were valued in and of itself, he would be an award winner. But he has nothing to show for his effort.


One would not be remiss for wondering whether he ran for a seat on the board of education to ensure that it never returned to power.  Last year he practically nailed it.  He was unilaterally responsible for ending the transition discussions initiated by the state board of education by walking into a closed door meeting last August.  That the state board terminated transition discussions, pending the outcome of this election, is on Mr. Monroe’s head.  It is fair to assume that if Mr. Monroe is re-elected, there will be no further transition discussion until such time as he is no longer serving on the board of education.
Monroe is an intelligent man who appears to be concerned about the welfare of our students.  But he is a woefully misguided man who has alienated most of his fellow board members.  He has given them good reasons not to choose him to represent them at the transition talks.


David Jackson is the third candidate who did not complete a candidate questionnaire.  His reason for declining was published in the previous issue. He accused me of being biased and opinionated.  After 23 years of education activism in St. Louis, I admit to having formed opinions based on my observations.  Despite my opinions, I give the candidates a forum for expressing themselves directly to readers such as yourselves whereby you can form your own opinions. Having forfeited that opportunity, he leaves you subject to what I report and analyze.


Having known Jackson for ten years, eight of which he served on the board, I can say that he is a charming, amiable man who runs an orderly meeting.  But, he called for the board to cease meeting three months after he was elected because of the SAB’s authorization. The date that the SAB would take over was well known during his election campaign so why did he run if he was going to call for the cessation of the board so soon after his election?  Was it because fellow board members did not give in to his demand to immediately elect him president?


Once he became president, he clearly enjoyed the prestige and frequently, commendably traveled to Jefferson City at his own expense to lobby the legislature about returning power to the elected board.  But he did not understand the need to organize the community to apply political pressure on politicians.  Jackson exhibited excessive confidence in his own abilities to sway political opinion.  Each time the SAB’s term was up for renewal he was certain it would not be extended because he personally had lobbied those in power to end it.  

Although Jackson has never been successful in influencing the return of power to the elected board, he has never conceded that he alone cannot be effective. His sole ambition appears to be to hold the title of president of the board of education. To achieve that single minded goal he supported his friend Bill Monroe’s candidacy for the board and does so again this year.  He had a hard time accepting his election loss in 2015 went off the reservation so to speak harassing Board Member Susan Jones after she succeeded him as president trying to convince her that she needed his constant advice and could not fulfill the responsibilities of the presidency without his oversight.  She finally blocked his repeated calls to her cell phone.


At Wednesday night’s League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, Jackson exaggerated his influence with the SAB and Dr. Adams, took credit for things the district accomplished that the elected board had no power over and dismissed the role fellow board members played in things they did, as if he alone was responsible for their accomplishments.  The board needs collaborators, not lone wolves.


Of the four who returned candidates surveys, Natalie Vowell is running her second race for a seat on the board of education. She certainly runs a hard campaign but one has to wonder why she is running.  She is the only candidate, based on her answer to the candidate survey, who doesn’t care if the board is returned to power.


She is a housing activist and is deeply concerned about the welfare of low income home owners.  Consequently she advocates for a property tax cut for low income senior citizens and veterans.  In her original campaign flyer she supported lowering property taxes for all seniors and veterans.  After it was pointed out to her that this would include elderly homeowners such as Rex Singuefield, who loves tax cuts, but can easily afford to pay the whole bill, she revised her literature to refer only to low income owners.  But that would still deprive the SLPS of millions of dollars in revenue.  She is pitting the needs of low income home owners against the needs of low income children.  More than 70% of SLPS revenue comes from local property taxes. Vowel has said nothing about replacing that revenue or what she deems expendable from the budget were the board to approve her idea.  It is dubious that they would.  But cutting property taxes is a ploy that would appeal to a large segment of the electorate.


On her website she has criticized desegregation for being the reason there are so many derelict properties and closed schools in the city, implying that desegregation was the only reason the city lost substantial population.   Despite her expertise in housing issues, she ignores the role the real estate industry played in the suburbanization of our country.  Almost every major city lost population after World War II due to the construction of millions of homes in formerly rural areas, homes with broad front lawns and large back yards that drew families out of our cities.  But blaming desegregation is another attractive ploy for a considerable segment of the electorate.

Vowell took a combative stance against the Watch candidate survey question about whether the candidate was an SLPS parent.  She implied that the question discriminated against the LGBT community or people unable to have children. Most LGBT people are capable of and many do have children.  There are many LGBT parents, students and staff in the SLPS. The question was part of a series of questions designed to suss out whether the candidate had any experiential knowledge of the SLPS, not just as a parent, but as a student, employee, or board member or relative thereof. Vowell has none of the above and is defensive about it.  And we will freely admit being biased in favor of candidates who know the SLPS from the inside.

Vowel also expressed a preference for neighborhood schools and an antipathy towards bussing.  Vowell does not appreciate the importance of magnet schools to the district.  Parents choose the put their children on busses to attend magnet schools.  Without them SLPS would be a much smaller district.

The St. Louis Schools Watch has always preferred that the SLPS be governed by a democratically elected school board. To that end, the Watch has sought to endorse school board candidates who would stand out as community exemplars deserving our trust in their ability to oversee our children’s education.  Whenever possible, The Watch has supported SLPS parents running for the board of education.  Susan Jones, Dorothy Rohde-Collins and James Reece either are already or by this summer will be SLPS parents.

James Reece is a parent activist who took it upon himself to address the SAB and Dr. Adams about conditions at Vashon H.S.  Observing that his college bound son was coming home without homework, he toured the school. Dismayed by what he learned walking around the building, students cutting classes with impunity, teachers not attempting to teach, he undertook to develop a relationship with the principal and then took it upon himself to address the administration and insist that not just Vashon but all of the comprehensive high schools be transformed into schools that prepare our students for their futures.  A former journalist, he has a background in psychology.  He is a passionate, insightful and articulate spokesman.  The SLPS needs more parents like him.  He will be an asset to the board of education.


Rohde-Collins’ six years of experience teaching in one of our high schools will make her an asset to the board.  Her ability to evaluate professional development programs will provide insight to fellow board members. As the mother of a special needs child, she will serve as the eyes and ears for other parents of special needs children.  That should keep the special education staff on their toes, something frankly needed.  As warm hearted as she is, she will be a conduit for parents to resolve issues in their schools.


Susan Jones has provided steady leadership for the board for the past two years.  Young as she is, she has accomplished a lot in the 12 years since she graduated from Gateway H.S.; a BA in political science from UMSL, two masters degrees, a daughter, work experience as an intervention specialist in the Ritenour School District, managing diversity business growth for a local company and somehow finding the time and energy to serve on the board of education for the past four years. She has garnered the respect of district administrators and most of her fellow board members.  She has maintained a calm and steady demeanor through some rather contentious situations. To be frank, there are a couple of board members who are not easy to work with. Ms. Jones steadily steers board meetings around whatever disruptions they attempt. She has remarkable abilities to keep the board on task. She deserves to be re-elected.

Reece, Rohde-Collins and Jones have all been endorsed by AFT Local 420, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the St. Louis Green Party, and Percy Green’s New Community Action organization, a stunning amount of consensus from different quarters. They are now being endorsed as well by the St. Louis Schools Watch.  Remember to vote on Tuesday.

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Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com
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Please feel free to forward the SLS Watch to anyone you think will benefit from reading the publication.
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Calendar

April 4, 2017, School Board Election, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

April 11, 2017, Tuesday, Board of Education regular monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Columbia Elementary School,  3120 St. Louis Avenue, 63106

April 13, 2017, Thursday, SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108

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The St. Louis Schools Watch was founded on the premises that parental and community involvement is needed for good schools to flourish, and that public participation is a cornerstone of democracy. St. Louis Schools Watch offers information and analysis that we hope contributes to a public debate over what changes are necessary to improve St. Louis public schools and what works.

Monday, March 27, 2017

SLPS Election Update: Candidate Surveys, David Jackson

David Jackson

Mr. Jackson declined to answer the questionnaire.  He sent the following message to the Watch via email.

Susan,

Regretfully, I am choosing not to participate in your Candidate's Questionnaire.  Reason for my decision, is that you and The Watch have demonstrated by your past articles, particularly in attempts to damage me and my commitment to education, that you are bias and opinionated.  Because of your writings, I cannot trust you or the The Watch to present anything objectively and true to the fact.  The Watch under Peter Downs was true journalism, by being fair and objective, currently you have failed at that!

Thanks, but no thanks!
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Candidates Bill Monroe and Brian Wallner have not returned their questionnaires or communicated a reason for not doing so.
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Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com

SLPS Election Update: Candidate Surveys #3: Natalie Vowell (via Susan Turk)

I am posting these bulletins from Susan Turk, who does the service of publishing on SLPS through St Louis Schools Watch.  You can find information on the other candidates here (in the order I received them):

1. James Reece

2. Dorothy Rohde Collins
3. Susan Jones
4. David Jackson
Other candidates did not respond.

Link to Susan Turk's evaluation of the elections:

http://stlouisschoolsproject.blogspot.com/2017/04/slps-schoolboard-elections-april-4.html



--BG


St. Louis Schools Watch
By Susan Turk
March 25, 2017—St. Louis--


April 2017 School Board Candidates Questionnaire

Natalie Vowell

Please supply a brief autobiography.

I am a product of one of the top 10 public schools in the United States. I was hired by the University of Arkansas as the youngest and first female computer lab manager for the University's Enhanced Learning Center, which assisted struggling students with learning computer technology and receiving tutoring. I moved from Fayetteville, AR to St. Louis in 2010. In 2011, I began working for WITS, a nonprofit which repurposes unwanted electronics into free or low-cost computers for families and schools, instead of just dumping them into landfills. Within one year, I became development director, and then board member. In 2013, I left WITS to found Project Raise The Roof, an all-volunteer organization whose purpose is to prevent the seizure of owner-occupied homes at the Sheriff’s tax auctions. I’ve assisted over 60 people keeping their homes on the tax rolls and funding our schools, when otherwise all of those homes would have become more vacant LRA-owned vacant buildings. For the past 3 years, I’ve joined 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis and HOT 104.1 on the high school S.W.A.G. [Success, Wellness, Academic Achievement, and Goal-Setting] Tour. I've been to Vashon, Sumner Roosevelt, CVPA, Carnahan, and ICA to registered over 200 SLPS seniors to vote, and spoken to hundreds more students about how to become engaged in the political process before they’re old enough to cast a ballot. In 2016 I moved with my husband to the 22nd Ward to be more logistically central to our full time work in North City. In 2016, I served as a CD1 delegate to the 2016 DNC, and am a member of the recently-formed Missouri Democratic Party Progressive Caucus. I am fortunate to be in a position which allows me to act as a 100% full-time volunteer - and I get measurable positive results with any project I tackle.

The SLPS is currently governed by an appointed board.  The elected board has limited responsibilities. While possible, it is not guaranteed the elected board will return to power during the term for which you are running.  Why, then, are you running?  If you believe the elected board will return to power, please give reasons.

While I certainly hope the elected board is placed back in control of our schools so that the voters can hold the decision-makers accountable, whether or not the elected board returns to power is irrelevant to my candidacy.  I don’t want power; I want to continue the work I’m already doing, and I believe it’s important for someone with the passion, time, and energy for all of the above to serve on our elected board.  “Limited Responsibilities” does not mean limited activism.  I vow to do much more than just the bare minimum of attending regular meetings.


What is your understanding of the role of a board member?
With its current restricted autonomy, I compare the elected Board of Education to the advisory board of directors for a nonprofit or charitable organization.  Elected Board of Education should be comprised of people one who bring valuable knowledge, experience, guidance, and volunteer time to the table without having a direct vote in enacting policy.

What do you want to accomplish as a board member? As a board member, I will play a role in ending the school-to-prison pipeline and cyclical poverty.  I will to increase enrollment and make our schools more attractive to parents who may be considering other districts.  I will empower our teachers to implement more varied approaches to education for students who may lack structure at home and stimulation in day-to-day school tasks.  And I will encourage our entire elected board to become involved in more direct, proactive outreach - instead of just waiting for parents to come to us.  I bring the same passion, tireless energy, and innovation I have brought to any other board on which I have served, and any other community project I have led.

Are you the parent of children who currently attend or graduated from the SLPS?

I believe the question of whether or not a candidate has a child in SLPS is dismissive to LGBT candidates who may not have children, people who choose not to procreate, and persons who are biologically incapable of reproduction.  It has no bearing on whether someone cares about children, education issues, and municipal policies - or whether a person is qualified to serve in a leadership position.

Did you attend and/or graduate from the SLPS? I did not attend SLPS; I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school in Fayetteville, AR - consistently rated one of the top ten places in the United States to raise a family. http://wordpress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=febf37d8c53a262d3cca40d04&id=5f7f05eff9&e=3fe73d6d79

I was fortunate to have the privilege of being born in Northwest Arkansas and proud to have received an excellent education from Fayetteville Public Schools, including college prep and Advanced Placement classes which earned college credit.  I would like to bring some of the benefits of the neighborhood schools I grew up attending to St. Louis City.
I can't change where I was born. But I can improve the city I chose as my home. The tired old “we’ve always done it this way” seems to be the governing mentality, and it’s time for a new perspective.

Have you ever worked for the SLPS or are you related to a current or former employee?

While I have family members who teach in public schools across the country, none of my relatives have ever worked for SLPS, as I don’t have any family who grew up here, or are currently living in town.

Are you now or have you in the past served as a board member? 
I have served on the board of directors for charitable organizations, but have not yet had the opportunity to serve on the St. Louis City Board of Education.

If you are not an SLPS parent, graduate, former employee or relation of one, or board member, do you have any other connection with the SLPS?

My connection to SLPS is direct interaction with students and their families. I’ve been on the front lines of education and poverty issues; I have been working directly with people, not just policy.

What are your thoughts about the SAB which governs the district?

(Not answered. The Editor)

What is your understanding of the effect of charter schools on the SLPS?  Should more charter schools open in the city?

(Not answered. The Editor)

Do you have any ideas to improve public confidence in SLPS and improve enrollment?

The existing billboards and advertisements are a waste of funds.  Whether rightly or wrongly, SLPS already has a reputation in the minds of St. Louis Citizens.  In order to improve confidence in our schools, we need real outreach.  Too many of my own city-dwelling friends have moved to the County once their children reach school age.  Parents should have a direct line of contact with board members, and it should be the duty of each board member to reach out to a certain number City parents per year to encourage enrollment in SLPS. Campaigning for a position on the City School Board every four years should not be the only time we get out into the community.  We need to inspire trust in our school system through transparency, accessibility, accountability, and proactive contact with parents. There are many ways we can achieve this - and they cost us nothing but time and dedication.

The Missouri legislature is considering bills this year that would expand school choice using vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition tax credits making it possible for students to attend private schools using public money or depriving the state of general revenue so they could use their own money for private tuition without being taxed on those funds, and expanding options for students in certain situations to attend schools outside of their school district. The Trump administration promotes school choice and may re-allocate Title I funding away from providing low income children with extra resources to master reading and math toward expanding school choice options. School board members will be faced with an uphill battle in a struggle to attract and retain students to their school district. How will you respond to these challenging developments?

We have a duty as elected board members to advocate for the right policies in Jefferson City.  For the past 3 years, I have driven citizens to the State Capitol to meet their legislators and have their voices heard.  I will continue to do so as a member of the elected board.

What are your thoughts regarding the magnet schools?
(Not answered. The editor)

What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?

Neighborhood schools are essential to our district.  When kids get up at 5:30 in the morning to catch the bus to a school across town and don't get home until 6pm or later...  When do they eat?  How much sleep do they get?  When do they get to spend time with their parents?  When do they do their homework?  How can they be expected to achieve the learning necessary to perform well on standardized tests?  Schools need to be near where people live - especially here on the northside.  As long as we keep taking away occupied homes from our citizens, and boarding up their houses, we will keep losing population and boarding up our schools.

What ideas do you have to help students learn?

With poorer districts competing for state funding based on average daily headcount, it becomes virtually impossible to achieve the smaller class sizes which give more personalized attention some students require.  I believe the best schools have strong leadership and strong educators.  A teacher with grit and personality, who tries multiple techniques to meet the student where they are, is more effective than any particular curriculum or flavor-of-the-month technology (which winds up costing the district an exorbitant amount of money for lackluster results).  Increasing the budget and the freedom for educators to experiment with serving alternative learning styles by implementing creative, non-traditional education techniques as the teacher sees fit for his or her class could help enrich the educational experience public school students receive.  The adult in the room teaching 25 kids all day is the one who knows best what they need—not the guy across town, or across the state, analyzing spreadsheets and performance charts.  More local control by the administrators and teachers is needed; these individuals are on the field, not the bench.  They know their school and their students better than any district or state bureaucrat, and these stand-out educators deserve attractive salaries to encourage them to stay in our district.

What do you think about the MAP tests and standardized tests in general?

Each state has a set of curricular standards that dictates which skills a student in a particular grade should have mastered by the time that student finishes that particular grade.  States have also teamed with psychometricians whose job was to take these state standards and develop assessments to effectively measure mastery of the concepts outlined by these standards at each grade level.  That said, standardized tests, assuming they achieve the above, are one of the best measures we have for determining whether students have mastered their grade-level concepts.  Granted they are not the be-all end-all measurement of achievement, but if the tests are appropriately aligned with the standards, then we could rest easy in using the data as a metric for student achievement.

However, one of the largest problems with many state assessments is that they are only given once a year: near the end of the school year. This is problematic because we have no baseline measure of where the student was performing when they started the school year.  In some cases we use the previous end of the school year test results as a proxy for their grade-level achievement, but this is dangerous as many students' families move and change schools.  Additionally, some students endure what is termed summer learning loss during the three-month vacation. That said, if a 7th grade student barely performed at grade-level on ELA and math tests and, over the summer forgot much of what was learned, they may only be able to perform at a 5th grade level when they start their 8th grade year.  However, if they perform at a 7th grade level by the end of their 8th grade year, the teacher may be evaluated negatively because the student is not performing at grade level, when actually, this teacher helped this student learn two grade levels of material in one year.

One solution is to design an assessment that follows a pre/post test model.  For example, if schools administered one form of the MAP within the first two weeks of school, teachers would have a baseline of performance for every student.  Additionally, teachers could look at each student’s test results from the beginning of the year to determine strengths and weaknesses.  Then, throughout the school year, teachers could deliver tailored instruction to each individual student based on these pre-test scores.  At the close of the school year, schools could administer the “post-test” form of the MAP.  This would allow administrators, teachers, parents, and students to measure how much the student grew academically over the course of the academic year.  It would eliminate any data-skewing issues from transience or summer learning loss concerning what impact an individual teacher had on a student’s learning.  It would be a boon for administrators looking to reward teachers for high growth among their students as the growth could be largely attributed to the particular teacher for a given subject in a given year.

However, more standardized testing is expensive, time-consuming, and reduces real in-class learning time.  Additionally, some students perform better in a classroom setting than they do on standardized tests.  Allowing educators to make their own beginning-of-year assessments would be far preferable to using last year's MAP results or burdening students with more stress or boredom for a beginning-of-year standardized test.  While starting the year off with a form of the MAP could give more accurate numbers by which to measure a student's growth, it very likely would sap the class's enthusiasm for the new school year.  We need to place more emphasis on an educator's ability to analyze their own students' learning styles, trust our educators to report students' performance and growth needs fairly and honestly (even when it conflicts with the previous year's MAP results), and empower our educators to employ the teaching techniques they see fit to help every student succeed.

In the past the elected board has been criticized as dysfunctional.  If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which you disagree can you accept the outcome or would you publicly disagree with their decision?

Democracy requires accepting decisions of the majority of voters on any board and working together to meet the end goal of said decisions. Each member's opinions should be voiced and their cases made before a vote or decision is made, not after.

Approximately 70% of SLPS high school graduates who enroll in college must take remedial courses.  What policies would you promote to lower this statistic?

Junior College Board Member positions are also up for election this year.  Perhaps this is a good time to converse with them.  I believe solid communication, strong partnership, and close collaboration with these board members could bring some great data to shape the K-12 curriculum to include college preparation. Some years ago, my hometown Fayetteville, Arkansas's FHS East Campus began offering AP courses through a partnership with the University of Arkansas.  College curriculum courses are taught for college credit (based upon passing final test) at the high school itself or, when necessary, with transportation provided to the University.  This gave under-challenged students an opportunity to advance their college coursework while still in high school.  More often than not, “underperformance” is due to lack of engagement rather than lack of intelligence or motivation.  Customizing classes for each student based on not just their abilities, but their interests, can keep students from feeling punished or stigmatized for their deficiency in one subject area as they discover their proficiency in another.  By emphasizing strengths over weaknesses, this approach would inspire students to define their passions and perhaps even become more motivated to succeed in their problem areas.  We need to help children find their passions instead of rigidly boxing them into the most popular career path; after all, passion is a huge motivating factor when choosing a major. This could also save our students money at the university level, as fewer of their resources be allocated to taking remedial courses.  I would like to see a strong line of communication between secondary, community college, and university officials to help better develop pathways to a university that is the most beneficial to the student - less costly to them, both monetarily and mentally.

Is it important that SLPS parents be represented on the school board?


Absolutely! Parent representation is essential - especially for parents who are unable to attend school board meetings due to chronic illnesses, disabilities, or jobs with demanding hours.  In the past, some elected board members have shifted the blame to the parents for "not bothering to show up for school board meetings". Many of the parents in my northside neighborhood work hourly minimum wage jobs and are navigating the margin between destitution and oppression.  As elected officials, it’s time for us to step up, meet people where they are, and reach out to them instead of expecting them to come to us. They love and care about their kids just as much as more "involved" parents who hold regular 9-5 careers and paid leave - and it's time we start making sure all of our parents' concerns are not only brought to light, but acted upon. We must stop equating poverty with apathy!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SLPS Legislative Update (via Susan Turk)

Legislative Update  (March 23, 2017)

SB 32, the private scholarship and savings accounts bill which enables parents to gain tax credits to send their children to private school or home school, is stalled.  The same rural Republicans who objected to HB 634, the charter schools everywhere bill, are worried about the damage this bill will do to their public schools.  A vote has been postponed again until March 27.

HB 634, the charter schools everywhere bill has been passed by the House and has been reported to the Senate and first read.  No date yet for a vote. It has been amended to exclude the small rural districts whose representatives objected to it.  It would now only apply to districts that have one school that earns less than 60% or less points on its APR and only if the foundation formula is fully funded.  Because the legislature lowered the adequacy target for the foundation formula during the 2016 session by about $600/student, they plan to fully fund it in this year’s budget.

HB 188, the transfer law fix bill has been voted do pass out of committee.

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Calendar

March 29, 2017, Wednesday, League of Women Voters School Board Candidate Forum, 7 p.m., Metro H.S., 4015 McPherson Avenue, 63108

April 4, 2017, School Board Election, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

April 11, 2017, Tuesday, Board of Education regular monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Columbia Elementary School,  3120 St. Louis Avenue, 63106

April 13, 2017, Thursday, SAB meeting, 6 p.m., 801 North 11th Street, room 108

SLPS Elected Board Candidate Surveys: Susan Jones (via Susan Turk)

St. Louis Schools Watch

By Susan Turk

March 23, 2017—St. Louis--

April 2017 School Board Candidates Questionnaire

Susan Jones

Please supply a brief autobiography.

I am currently the manager of Supplier Diversity at a local pharmaceutical company. In this position I am in charge of developing nationwide relationships across the minority business spectrum as well as creating new business opportunities for the company. Outside of work I take on various roles. I’m a mother, artist, student, community activist, and president of the elected board of education. In my role as board president I take a grassroots approach to create positive results for the students and families in St. Louis Public Schools.  I work diligently and serve as a strong advocate for education and social justice in our community. I participate in community meetings, mentoring, creating clean up days for neighborhoods, getting residents registered to vote, and feeding the homeless.
While in college, I served as a student education lobbyist for the University of Missouri in 2009 at the state capitol.
Prior to my current employment, I worked as an Intervention Assistant in the Ritenour School District from Oct 2012 until June 2015. Job responsibilities included planning and implementing curriculum that meets the developmental needs of children, conducting evaluations and assessments of children, maintains up to date records of student progress , analyzing data while creating and scoping a plan for students, and providing direct and/or consultative services to children and families
I have an MBA and an MA in Non-Profit Leadership from Webster University. My daughter will enter pre-k in the SLPS this fall.

The SLPS is currently governed by an appointed board.  The elected board has limited responsibilities. While possible, it is not guaranteed the elected board will return to power during the term for which you are running.  Why, then, are you running?  If you believe the elected board will return to power, please give reasons.

The local school board is a critical public link to public schools. I believe that leadership in St. Louis Public Schools plays an intricate part in stability, crime rates, housing, jobs, future growth or lack thereof within the community. I am running for re-election on the St. Louis Board of Education because I believe the future of St. Louis rests on making sure that every child in every neighborhood obtains a high-quality public education.
Under my leadership, for the first time in almost 10 years the elected St. Louis Board of Education was invited to the table to begin the process of transition back to local governance. With the help of the community I plan to get us across that finish line smoothly so that taxpayers in St. Louis will have a say in education once again.
Over the last 4 years, I have dedicated many hours to volunteering, advocating, developing programs, and fighting for the students and families of St. Louis Public Schools. As a product of St. Louis Public Schools, former educator, parent, and now president, I strongly believe our best investment is in the education of our children. I know that as community we can get the change that we want!

What is your understanding of the role of a board member?

School board members serve their communities in several important ways .The current role of the Elected Board is to audit and report. Under the structure for a board that has full control over a district Board Members are in place to ensure that students are getting best education for the tax dollars that are spent. Elected school board members are in place to
Incorporate the views of the community.
Employ and evaluate the superintendent
Develop and adopt policies and the budget
Establishing the overall goals and direction of the school district

What do you want to accomplish as a board member?

My priorities are to insure there is good governance representative of the community while implementing sound policies that service all our students.
-Ensure that students are prepared to complete a college degree or compete in the work force after high school.
- Advocate for the return of governance back to the elected board and continue to do everything in my power to make sure it happens smoothly.
-Continue to work with the community and board to craft meaningful solutions so that we can improve St. Louis Public Schools as a whole.
- Lower dropout rates, increase graduation rates, and decrease homelessness through community involvement and partnerships.
-Make certain that students have all the resources needed to obtain the best world class education possible while ensuring that teachers receive superior training and competitive pay.
- Bring a back fulltime librarians, nurses, art, and music classes to every school.
-Generate public support and better communication with the community.
- Continue to be to audit and report about the St. Louis Public Schools budget to ensure the district is directing its resources to what matters most -- our children.
- Ensure that the St. Louis Public Schools administrative offices are effective and efficient in providing support to schools. For far too long, valuable resources have been directed away from the classroom.  I will continue to work with the Elected Board of Education, the administration, and the Superintendent to ensure resources are directed to the classroom.

Are you the parent of children who currently attend or graduated from the SLPS?  Did you attend and/or graduate from the SLPS? Have you ever worked for the SLPS or are you related to a current or former employee? Are you now or have you in the past served as a board member? If you are not an SLPS parent, graduate, former employee or relation of one, or board member, do you have any other connection with the SLPS?

I am a parent of a student that will attend an SLPS school in the fall. I graduated from Gateway Institute of Technology High School in 2004.  All six of my siblings attended SLPS with 1 currently attending. I have no relatives that work for the district. I have served as a board member since 2013. I have assumed the role of secretary and currently board president.

What are your thoughts about the SAB which governs the district?

The SAB has served its time. The time has come for taxpayers in the city of St. Louis to have a voice in education again.
What is your understanding of the effect of charter schools on the SLPS?  Should more charter schools open in the city?
Charter schools are independently run organizations that siphon education funds away from public schools and have no accountability to the tax payers that pay to run them. There should be a moratorium placed on any new charter schools opening in the city of St. Louis.

Do you have any ideas to improve public confidence in SLPS and improve enrollment?

Improving public confidence in SLPS and improving enrollment can be done internally and externally.  This would include determining what tools are available for communication, identifying mechanisms currently being used or that can be used to reach audiences both internally and externally along with conducting surveys to find out what systems are working internally and externally. On top of that providing consistent, transparent information about what’s happening in the district so that everyone is on one page. The district could do a better job at highlighting the achievements of students and programs within St. Louis Public Schools throughout the community on a consistent basis to improve enrollment.

The Missouri legislature is considering bills this year that would expand school choice using vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition tax credits making it possible for students to attend private schools using public money or depriving the state of general revenue so they could use their own money for private tuition without being taxed on those funds, and expanding options for students in certain situations to attend schools outside of their school district.  The Trump administration promotes school choice and may re-allocate Title I funding away from providing low income children with extra resources to master reading and math toward expanding school choice options. School board members will be faced with an uphill battle in a struggle to attract and retain students to their school district. How will you respond to these challenging developments?

Vouchers divert public dollars to unaccountable private schools. I believe that public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the people. Vouchers also have not proven academic performance. Vouchers hurt low income families by undermining the same public schools they rely on, allowing public schools to risk losing state funding and not be able to cut overall expenses for its operating costs. Private schools have the final say on if a student is admitted so that does not increase choice for families.
My focus is to improve the public education system as a whole. I plan to work with legislators to fight for more funding for public schools. I believe a moratorium should be placed on any entity/ program that takes dollars away from public schools.

What are your thoughts regarding the magnet schools?

As a past graduate of St. Louis Public Schools I think that the magnet schools program are very beneficial and have made a significant impact on my life. I attended Gateway Institute of Technology High School back in 2004 where I completed the EMT program. Many of my other classmates did the aviation program, engineering, nursing program etc. I will say that after completion of this program I was prepared to work straight out of high school in a career field that I’d been prepped for through various internships on behalf of St. Louis Public Schools. Although I chose not to pursue a career in the EMT field, the exposure I received from the program was priceless and afforded me job opportunities that I did take at hospitals which enabled me to pay my way through college. Magnet schools are a good idea and allow students to pursue career areas before college.

What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?

Neighborhoods schools are extremely important and essential to neighborhood stability.  Sending children to a neighborhood school can have large and lasting effects on their lives. Neighborhood schools provide a greater sense of community goodwill. They open the opportunity for students to develop closer relationships with teachers and staff. Neighborhood schools also enable siblings to stay together. Furthermore neighborhood schools would contribute to reducing air pollution levels in the community as there is no need for private transportation. They also help to save the district money and while promoting a safer environment for families.

What ideas do you have to help students learn?

Every student in St. Louis Public Schools deserves a school with adequate resources, small classroom sizes, consistent leadership, and committed staff that truly care about our student’s future. It is important to me that we service our students as whole as well as ensuring that students are prepared to move to the next grade, complete college, and are able to compete in the work force after high school.
Some ideas that I have are to:
Encourage student and teacher social interactions
Re-evaluate curriculum design, instruction
Support an enhanced emphasis on the recognition of academic achievement
Increased parental involvement in programs
Encourage effective collaboration (small group discussion, peer instruction exercises)
Increase student investment, performance, and inspiration (Brainstorm learning objectives catered to each classroom as each child learns differently)

What do you think about the MAP tests and standardized tests in general?

MAP and standardized tests have many issues. The tests are based on the idea that all students learn and are taught information the same way with no feedback on how students can perform better. Map and standardized tests shift the emphasis of education from actual accomplishment to just test preparation. The tests do not evaluate creativity or diversity, and favor those with socio-economic advantages. The focus placed on these tests is a distraction from the real needs of a student. Teachers should not have to teach to a test, but teach so that our children are able to grasp the information and apply it to everyday life. The tests have proven to exist only for political, financial, and administrative purposes not educational. Our children’s time is valuable. We should use it in ways where they actually learn something new.

In the past the elected board has been criticized as dysfunctional.  If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which you disagree can you accept the outcome or would you publicly disagree with their decision?

If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which I disagree, I can accept the outcome.  I would not publicly disagree with their decision. Professionalism and understanding the function of team work is important.

Approximately 70% of SLPS high school graduates who enroll in college must take remedial courses. What policies would you promote to lower this statistic?

It’s unfortunate that 70% of SLPS high school graduates enroll in colleges only to begin with remedial courses which do not earn college credits. We must close the gap between enrolling for college and being ready for college. Instead of “just working” to get students in colleges, the district needs to ensure that we are providing the knowledge and skills set needed to complete degrees/ certificates before leaving the district. Most students who begin in remedial courses never finish their college degrees. This huge readiness gap has become a hidden cost of college that many of our families and students have to accept the burden of.
As a board member I am interested in
Advocating for adequate funding to public schools so that schools have the tools they need
Policies that will allow the Implementation of well-designed education programs available to all students
Ensuring that students are receiving strong academic advising, using a variety of instructional techniques
Providing supplemental services and resources along with increasing parental engagement
Providing consistency and increased program accountability for all students as soon as they enter high school.

Is it important that SLPS parents be represented on the school board?

It’s important to me that the school board represent the community it serves. SLPS parents should definitely be represented on the school board as it is one of the larger roles they can play in their child’s education. This would allow parents to affect policy on a larger scale providing a platform to speak to issues from a parental standpoint. Parents that are involved are more likely to positively affect their student’s achievement and behavior.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

SLPS Elected Board Candidate Surveys, via Susan Turk: Dorothy Rohde Collins

Second installment in Susan Turk's very useful survey of SLPS Elected Board candidates:

Here's #2 Dorothy Rohde Collins  (you can find James Reece here).


St. Louis Schools Watch

By Susan Turk

March 16, 2017--St. Louis—

April 2017 School Board Candidates Questionnaire for

Dorothy Rohde Collins



Please supply a brief autobiography.
During my last year of college, I worked as a lab assistant while studying Chemistry at Butler University in Indiana. My experiences teaching and helping students in the lab prompted me to rethink my chosen career. I began coursework toward teacher certification at SIUE about a year later.  I intentionally chose to do my student teaching at Madison High School in Madison, Illinois to get first-hand experience working at a school with few resources and a student population primarily made up of low-income families.  Once certified, I began my career at Northwest Academy of Law in SLPS where I taught science for six years.  I continued my education by obtaining my Master’s degree in Education from the University of Missouri in Mental Health Practices in Schools.  This program emphasized the design and implementation  of school practices and procedures to optimize student mental health.  My coursework covered resiliency, diversity, collaboration with families, mental health preventions and interventions, and the impact of trauma on education.  This unique Master’s program gave me practical solutions to improve the school experience for my students.  I am passionately committed to public education and view education as the path to a better, stronger city.



The SLPS is currently governed by an appointed board.  The elected board has limited responsibilities. While possible, it is not guaranteed the elected board will return to power during the term for which you are running.  Why, then, are you running?  If you believe the elected board will return to power, please give reasons.

It is my hope and belief that the elected board will return to power in the near future. The district recently received full accreditation from the state of Missouri which demonstrates the district has the stability necessary to transition power back to the elected board.  I am running for the elected board because I believe that my perspective as both an educator and parent is unique.  I want to be here and ready to implement changes when the elected board is returned to power.  As a certified teacher with a Master’s degree in education, I have the knowledge and professional experience necessary to positively impact school district policy in order to increase student enrollment and achievement.  As a parent, I understand the difficulties and shortcomings of the district and its interaction with families, so I will be able to improve the experience of district families.


What is your understanding of the role of a board member?

The school board is responsible for creating and monitoring school district policies, procedures, and educational decisions.  It is the responsibility of a board member to stay up-to-date on advancements in the field of education, listen to the opinions and concerns of stakeholders and constituents, and make well-informed decisions that will positively impact the community as a whole.


What do you want to accomplish as a board member?


As an elected board member, my number one goal will be to encourage the implementation of policies and procedures that will not only improve achievement for district students, but contribute to a stronger, healthier St. Louis community.  I would like to see a renewed emphasis on neighborhood schools and community education sites.  Ideally, every SLPS school will offer community education opportunities like after-school programs, GED courses, parenting and family workshops, health care clinics, college and career readiness centers, etc.  l will work toward an increased emphasis on improving student mental health by implementing additional trauma-sensitive policies and increasing the number of counselors and social workers.  I want to increase the number of and improve the quality of professional development opportunities for teachers and school-based administrators so that the experiences are relevant to educators needs and goals.  I would like to bring more teachers into the district-level decision making process to ensure the decisions made by the board are actually effective when put into practice.  I will also seek to improve district communications with parents and students by streamlining application and enrollment procedures, increasing family outreach opportunities, and providing clear, informative, and  up-to-date information on district and school websites.

Are you the parent of children who currently attend or graduated from the SLPS?  Did you attend and/or graduate from the SLPS? Have you ever worked for the SLPS or are you related to a current or former employee? Are you now or have you in the past served as a board member? If you are not an SLPS parent, graduate, former employee or relation of one, or board member, do you have any other connection with the SLPS?
I worked for the district from 2006-2012.  I was employed at Northwest Academy of Law where I taught a variety of science courses ranging from 8th grade general science to AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science.  In addition, I also served as the Science Department Chair and AP (Advanced Placement) Coordinator, as well as led several district-wide professional development workshops for science teachers and participated in a textbook adoption committee.

Currently, my family is involved with the special education side of the district because my son has an IEP.  Beginning in Fall 2017, my son will attend Wilkinson ECC as kindergarten student.


What are your thoughts about the SAB which governs the district?
While the SAB provided much needed stability during a tumultuous time for the district, their approach to running the school district has been similar to that of running a business.  That approach has its benefits, but loses sight of the human nature of schools and students.  In addition, enrollment has continued to decrease while under the guidance of the SAB. Increasing enrollment must be a priority if we are to have a strong and healthy school district.


What is your understanding of the effect of charter schools on the SLPS?  Should more charter schools open in the city?

No, we should not open any additional charter schools in St. Louis City.  Charter schools pull funding from SLPS since they also operate as public schools. There are far too many schools in St. Louis all of which are competing for the same funds and resources. Charter schools who are performing well should remain open as they provide a quality educational experience for children.  However, low performing charter schools should be identified and evaluated to ensure they are meeting students’ needs.  Considering there are already so many schools within the City of St. Louis, we do not need additional schools at this time. We need to focus efforts on ensuring that all schools currently in operation are providing a high-quality education and experience to students.

Do you have any ideas to improve public confidence in SLPS and improve enrollment?
SLPS must increase enrollment so that schools receive the funding they need to operate high-quality schools and offer the opportunities students need to achieve academic and social-emotional success. SLPS should increase efforts to reach out to the community and potential students’ families through mailings, open houses, townhalls, meet and greets, etc.  Currently, these opportunities are held sporadically, not well advertised, and/or don’t reach the intended audience.  In a market, like St. Louis, that is oversaturated with school choice, SLPS must always be in the forefront of residents' minds.  Obviously, budgetary limitations exist, so free and low-cost options must be explored and implemented.  Current SLPS district and school websites are out-of-date, cluttered, and difficult to navigate.  Since a website is often a parent’s first destination when exploring education options, SLPS must put forth the most accurate information on the web.  In addition, SLPS policies and procedures for enrollment and magnet school applications must be clearly outlined and explained on the website along with easy-to-navigate contact information for district employees.

The expansion of community education centers in SLPS schools would also improve public confidence in the district.  Community education centers would give more people the opportunity to visit SLPS schools and see firsthand how SLPS serves the community.  Using SLPS schools and buildings to host workshops, clinics, meetings, and classes would build relationships with all community stakeholders and develop stronger community bonds within neighborhoods all across the city.  In addition, more segments of the population would have access to crucial services like education and healthcare if we made SLPS buildings available to community organizations during non-school hours.


The Missouri legislature is considering bills this year that would expand school choice using vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition tax credits making it possible for students to attend private schools using public money or depriving the state of general revenue so they could use their own money for private tuition without being taxed on those funds, and expanding options for students in certain situations to attend schools outside of their school district.  The Trump administration promotes school choice and may re-allocate Title I funding away from providing low income children with extra resources to master reading and math toward expanding school choice options. School board members will be faced with an uphill battle in a struggle to attract and retain students to their school district. How will you respond to these challenging developments?
In order to fight back against the policies of the Trump administration, we must stay active and vigilant as advocates for our students.  Our schools are already underfunded and many schools in SLPS go without resources that are commonplace in other districts.  We cannot afford to lose the funding that is so  important to providing a free and public education to all students. SLPS can respond by staying on the forefront of educational policy development.  If funding models are changed, SLPS will need to actively search for grants and alternative sources of income to offset the loss of funds.  In order to attract and retain students, SLPS should improve communications with prospective families and the community to emphasize the strengths of the district and encourage enrollment.

What are your thoughts regarding the magnet schools?
Magnet schools provide options for students looking for a specialized or specific educational experience.  The magnet programs in SLPS are unique, creative, and an asset to the district.  The magnet programs help improve a student’s personal investment in their education and provide opportunities that may not be present in a neighborhood school.  Magnet school programs should continue to be supported in SLPS. However, it should not be assumed that the magnet schools are “better” than the neighborhood schools, nor should magnet schools be given priority funding or publicity.  Magnet schools are a option for SLPS families but they are not and should not be a replacement for neighborhood schools.

What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?
Neighborhood schools are a wonderful asset to the neighborhood and larger community.  They provide a central gathering place for students and families which leads to community engagement and investment. Neighborhood schools bring communities together, making them stronger.  Instead of continuing to close neighborhood schools, SLPS should be expanding opportunities at neighborhood schools.

What ideas do you have to help students learn?
In order for students to learn, they must be engaged and invested in their schools.  This starts with creating a school culture that celebrates students as individuals and provides them with a safe, welcoming place to learn.  Since many students in SLPS come from low-income or otherwise disadvantaged families, SLPS should make sure a students' basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) are met, and when they're not, schools should utilize community resources to provide students with the things they need. SLPS schools should also implement additional trauma-sensitive policies to improve student mental health.

Classroom learning should incorporate teaching strategies that lead to high student engagement and high academic achievement such as project-based learning, cross-curricular experiences, and incorporating student choice into activities.  In addition, students should participate in authentic learning experiences to truly integrate knowledge with practical applications.  Curricular decisions should be based on educational research and best practices yet teachers should be able to modify content to reach their students while still meeting learning standards.  The district should adopt and maintain consistent approaches to teaching and learning so that teachers are not required to learn a new approach or program every year. Teachers should have the time and opportunity to hone their skills and teaching methods in order to provide the best possible experience for students.  Teachers also need time to learn from and collaborate with other teachers through effective mentor programs and professional learning communities.

We also need to ensure that schools and classrooms have the resources they need to be effective. Teachers need access to supplies, books, and essentials like paper and pencils for their students, in order to do their job well.  As a district, we must find a way to provide more of those things to all schools and all classrooms to take the burden of the classroom teachers.

What do you think about the MAP tests and standardized tests in general?

Standardized tests are a necessary evil in today’s world.  Since federal and state funding is tied to student performance on standardized tests, schools are required to administer them.  Tying student performance to funding creates a culture of teaching to the test and emphasizes the collection of data over internal student growth.  While schools are required to administer tests and should encourage students to perform as well as they are able, we should not be fooled into thinking they are a complete measure of student achievement and school accomplishments. Student growth towards mastery should also be tracked since it better demonstrates what students are learning over the course of a school year.  Schools should also incorporate more student-centered alternative assessments, such as portfolios, to engage students in the process and make learning meaningful for each student as an individual.


In the past the elected board has been criticized as dysfunctional.  If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which you disagree can you accept the outcome or would you publicly disagree with their decision?

I will absolutely accept the decisions of the majority of the board.  The school board is a team and the decisions of the majority should be accepted by all board members.  Public disagreements and infighting between board members only perpetuates the perception that the elected board should not have power over SLPS.  I will support the decisions of the board once the final decision has been made, but I will also be a strong advocate for students throughout the decision making process.  I will stand up for what is best for students and their education at all times.

Approximately 70% of SLPS high school graduates who enroll in college must take remedial courses. What policies would you promote to lower this statistic?

I believe that many of my ideas for teaching and learning explained in an earlier response will go a long way toward promoting academic achievement for students.  However, the results will not be instantaneous.  In the meantime, the school district should modify and improve their policies for credit recovery.  While graduation rates should remain a high priority, students should not receive course credit for merely completing simple assignments or attending summer school.  We need to increase expectations for struggling students to ensure that we are not only helping them to graduate high school but also preparing them for future education and career opportunities.  Summer school should be restructured to ensure a quality learning experience while also utilizing non-traditional or supplemental teaching methods that may be more beneficial to underperforming students.  Virtual school options should be analyzed and evaluated to ensure that providers are offering students options that lead to content mastery and not just busy work.

In addition to their high school grades, students are often placed into remedial courses based on their ACT scores.  We must ensure that all SLPS students who want to go to college have access to quality ACT preparation programs and materials as well as opportunities to take practice tests.  SLPS should also consider district-wide policies for assisting students with transportation to testing sites and/or providing breakfast and snack on test days so that students can perform to their best abilities.

Is it important that SLPS parents be represented on the school board?
Yes.  Students and their families are the biggest stakeholders in the district.  Their concerns and goals should be amplified through a parent’s representation on the Elected School Board.  An effective school board should be comprised of members of diverse backgrounds so that there are many voices in the decision making process.  In addition to other professionals, experts, and community members, parents should be well represented on the board.


Correction :
In the previous issue of the Watch there was a typo. The correct bill number is SB 32.

Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them toSLS_Watch@yahoo.com