I received the following questionnaire from the Alpine Education Association. Here are the questions and my answers.
1. Please write a little about yourself and why you have filed to run for the Alpine School District Board of Education.
a. I am a mother of 3 kids. I have a B.S. in Mathematics from BYU, and I own my own data migration and programming business. I have experience as the Legislative VP for my local school’s PTA, as a volunteer at our local school, being a co-founder of a charter school, and 2 years home schooling. I think that our greatest assets in the district are our teachers and our families. I would like to encourage greater involvement from the families in the school district and to utilize technology to assist in that effort.
2. What kinds of experiences have you had with the schools in the Alpine School District?
a. My kids have attended our local elementary school for a total of 7 years between them. During that time, I have greatly appreciated our teachers and our principal. I have been involved with the PTA, and have volunteered in the classrooms. I am not a fan of the Investigations Math program and I am glad it was changed. However, I would prefer a more traditional math program along the lines of Singapore Math. I have appreciated the Take-Home reading program. I like all the associations that we have developed at our school.
3. What, in your opinion, is the main mission of public education?
a. Assisting families to teach their children the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, along with history, science, art/music.
4. Do you believe that public schools are adequately funded? If you do not believe they are adequately funded, what changes should be made to provide appropriate financial support for quality public schools?
a. I think that ‘adequate’ is a very subjective word. So this makes it difficult to answer. I believe the Alpine School District does quite well with the budget it has. It looks to be quite fiscally responsible. However, in looking around the country, improvement in education isn’t directly linked to funding. Washington DC has a very high per pupil funding rate and one of the worst school systems. There is a point at which money doesn’t solve problems. More involvement from families and business entities can help find solutions to specific problems in the district, whether financial or otherwise. The difficulty is balancing out the need for a solid education with the funds people have available. In a declining economy, it’s unreasonable to ask people who are struggling for an even greater percentage of their income. We have to make more with less individually. Likewise, we need to be equally as creative with our school district budget.
5. What do you see as the three most critical need/issues facing the Alpine School District in the next five years? How would you begin to address these issues?
a. 1) Greater parental involvement. We have so much available in the way of technology to assist us in communicating. We need to not just make things available but to actively invite and push the information and requests out to the families. A district and the board can only do so much. We need to facilitate the communication between our teachers, families, and principals. This will take us from good to better to best. 2) Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Since this is the focus of education, this is always a critical need. If we fail in this endeavor, even for one year, we fail. Every decision I make as a board member will be in terms of improving learning in the classroom. If it doesn’t improve learning, we need to do something else. 3) Creating a culture of more local site control. The principals should be given plenty of autonomy in hiring/firing decisions as well as curricula. Using parental input, the individual schools are there to meet the educational needs of those children who are attending there, and by extension their parents. Each school is comprised of different students with different needs. The greater the ability and flexibility of the principals and faculties at the individual schools to deal with those differences, the more optimal the education for all of their students.
6. What would you do to retain quality educators in the Alpine District?
a. Job satisfaction is directly proportional to ownership and input. The more local control that a school has, the more control individual teachers have. Being appreciated, not necessarily with external rewards, but by being listened to and being able to control the circumstances of their job, allows for greater satisfaction. People who have high job satisfaction, usually stick around. As for money, I would like a perfect world where teachers, cops, soldiers, and fireman all made tons of money. Not living in a perfect world, we do what we can with what we have. If we could pay excellent teachers more, and remove non-performing teachers, that would be ideal.
7. What would you do to attract new teachers in the Alpine District?
a. I think the way you attract new teachers is the same way that you retain quality ones. If you can create an environment where they are free to use and succeed with the skills and experience that they have, they will want to stay. If you can reward the best teachers with more pay, and good teachers with good pay, they will want to come to our district.
8. If another voucher or tuition tax credit bill is introduced in the legislature, would you support another such effort, or would you oppose it and why?
a. I would support it. I believe that parents are in charge of their children’s education. The voucher bill did not take funds from the education budget. If the people of Utah want to allow general funds to be used for vouchers, I see no reason why they can’t do that. If, instead, they wanted to specify that more general funds be used on roads or jails, the people have the right to do that as well. Since the education funds are specified directly from state income tax and property taxes, there isn’t a reason why public education should be concerned.