The York County Educators Association sent a questionnaire to all school board candidates. Below are answers provided by three of the four candidates for Rock Hill School Board Seat No. 2, which I currently hold. Answers were provided by myself, Helena Miller, and Sarah Harper. The fourth candidate, Leon Putman, did not send in answers. I also include answers from our board chair, Jim Vining, who is unopposed.
1. What are your top three priorities for public education in York County?
- Improving academic performance
- Improve professional development for all stakeholders
- Improve Communications
Ginny – As a board member I participated in development of the current board goals of Improved Academics, Improved Teacher Professional Development, and Improved Communications, and believe they are important priorities. It makes four, but I would add Sustainable Financing, because otherwise we underfund and even drop programs and layoff employees. My personal favorite is communications, including listening, not just telling, and it should begin with listening to the people affected by any decisions, and especially including teachers in decisions which affect teaching and the classroom.
- Establish a functioning line of communication between the school board and the community. (Where parents, community members and staff voices are heard)
- Increase Graduation Rates in our High Schools.
- Establish a balanced budget, without cutting instructional staff and increasing class sizes.
- Academics – Improve academic achievement for ALL Rock Hill School District students for career and college readiness. This includes the areas of language arts, mathematics, technology, foreign language, social studies and science.
- Communication – Improve the communication and working relationship between the School Board, district leadership, school leadership and parents. Clarify roles of School Board in relationship to District Leadership and school staff.
- Technology – Continue our efforts of providing students access to technology in the schools. We must teach our students ways to do research and problem solve if they are to compete in a global society or even in our local communities. Technology is tied to communication, information, and media exploration. We must equip our students with the skills of research, collaboration and teamwork and these are accomplished through the effective use of technology in the classroom. Technology will never take the place of the role of the effective classroom teacher but rather may enhance that role.
2. Do you support or oppose increasing the local salary supplements?
Jim – York County School Districts pay some of the highest supplements in the state.
There is currently no revenue to sustain increasing local salary supplements.
Ginny – The district now has two kinds of supplements: the amount teachers are paid above the required state salaries, and over $1.2 million in supplements paid for extra duties, only $150,000 of which are for academic duties. Frankly, the latter supplements are too low for the work involved, but the board also needs to address whether that money is justifiable when the top priority is Academics. The former is justifiable, but the 15% pay cut to at-will working retirees needs to be considered before an across the board pay increase to supplement state required salaries.
Helena – support
Sarah -support – One of the most difficult tasks for a School Board is to set a budget that is reachable, provides programs that are of value to our students and equitable in distribution. While salaries are a large amount of the budget, if an employee is doing duties above and beyond their daily responsibilities, they should be compensated for those duties in some way.
3. Do you support or oppose total fiscal autonomy for the school board?
Jim -I would like to see the state move back to pre ACT 388. This is not going to happen so I support what is currently in place.
Ginny – Fiscal autonomy would require control of funding as well as spending. The local board has minimal funding control, and only adjusts spending within funding. Autonomy would almost certainly produce underfunding of salaries and student spending if there were no minimum floor set by the state. I therefore oppose total local fiscal autonomy.
Helena - support
Sarah -oppose – A district as large as Rock Hill School district cannot operate in position of fiscal autonomy. The Board is responsible to the taxpayers in this District for the actions they might taking concerning financial matters.
4. Do you support or oppose vouchers or tuition tax credits for parents sending their children to private, parochial, or home schools?
Jim - I support vouchers that are equitable for all levels of income. If they are structured so free lunch children can go to the same schools without cost or transportation issues. I oppose tax credits because there is no way this could be made equitable. I don’t think this should apply to any school or organization that doesn’t meet the state standards for subject matter and/or testing.
Ginny-Public schools benefit the community, not just parents, and therefore the community should support public schools. Public schools are a public benefit, like police, and roads, and fire department. People whose children are already out of school still pay taxes and everyone should do so.
Helena – oppose *Note that it is hard to give a generalized answer, there may be very valid specific situations where I would feel this would be appropriate.
Sarah – Oppose. If you consider research concerning vouchers and their impact on student performance, it is obvious that most voucher programs are ineffective in increasing academic skills of students. Vouchers do not significantly expand choices for parents since private schools are allowed to exclude students based on race, gender, ability and students with special needs therefore they are not available to all parents. Vouchers have a negative impact on the district budget since districts would now have to pay for students not otherwise enrolled in the public schools. Additionally, if a parent decides to reenroll the student in a district school, the previous funding given to the private school does not come back to the district. Therefore, there is an additional negative impact on district funding.
5. What are your views about charter schools?
Jim We should partner with charter schools that specialize in addressing special needs and poverty issues or their student population mirrors the demographics of the district they are located in.
Ginny-Charters differ so much from school to school that it is impossible to make any prediction about their ability to educate students, so very strong accountability needs to be in place. Charters get state tax dollars and other state benefits so their boards should be elected by and answerable to the public, not the parents of the students of the charter. For-profit charters are particularly susceptible to shortchanging education in favor of profits, and using them as an investment option should be illegal. Due to charter design, many of these schools ultimately segregate by race or religion or financial means, and thus divide the community. There are too many risks and not enough guarantees with charters, and they should only be founded and governed by the local school board
Helena – I believe that charter schools to a large extent exist because parents are dissatisfied with the public school system, and having said that I believe that charter schools is a way of parents “voting with their feet”. I respect and understand that parents wants what they perceive is best for their child’s education. I do, however, wish that the natural choice for that would be Rock Hill Schools. I think an increased community input and a more open line of communication along with parents’ representation on the board would change some of this. Note that this statement does not apply to some of the Charter Schools, such as the Children’s Attention Home Charter etc.I also think that as taxpayers and citizens in York County it is alarming that we do not have voting privileges over a locally run governing entity.
Sarah – In some cases a Charter School may be necessary, such as the Palmetto Charter School in the Rock Hill School District. Research shows that students do not tend to perform better in a Charter school as opposed to the regular district public school. Charter schools have been shut down due to mismanagement of funds and fraud. They promise a parent one type of education and do not provide what they have said they would provide. There is not legal requirement for charter schools to provide teachers or administrators that are certified to teach a student. There is no evaluation through state testing scores to legitimize what kind of instruction a student may be receiving in a charter. Often times, resources are limited and parents find that they do not receive the same services and opportunities for their children as they do in a public school. There may be a financial impact on the district funding since the previous funding to the charter school does not follow the student back to the assigned school district.
6. What are your views about the new teacher evaluation system and the new reading certification add-on required for all teachers? What are your views about merit pay based on VAM (the Value-Added Model)? How should the district support teachers in meeting these new requirements?
Jim Vining, Incumbent – Improving academic performance is a system issue that requires collaboration which is often beyond the reach of an individual teacher. We need measures in place but we should evaluate the systems first. If we do this, teachers will be involved in the process and have a good support system.
- a-Teacher evaluation system. Requiring evaluators to be in classrooms regularly and present evidence of findings will help good teachers. A-F grading of teachers and VAM are not effective or helpful.
- b-Reading certification add-on. This is a new state requirement and therefore the state should pay for it. I would like to see the state offer it to teachers (individually or through districts) at no cost, but I don’t rely on that happening. There is some legal provision made for help to districts to offer classes which I hope Rock Hill will offer, and the SCEA is offering classes.
- c-Value-added merit-based pay. The is little evidence that this improves students results, and much evidence that it demoralizes teachers. Thanks to the SCEA for the pressure on the legislature which helped to reduce it to 30% of the evaluation.
- d-District support for new requirements. Businesses pay for employee education which is required for employees to keep the same job. Employees usually pay for their own course work when they want to apply for a higher level job. It is not right for teachers to have to pay for their own education just to keep the job they already have. The state should pay for new requirements they demand, but I hope the district can offer some classes, perhaps even on-line, if the state does not do so, and the SCEA is offering classes for the reading add-on.
Helena – The VAM, or pay by performance is something that does not belong in education. As teachers you cannot control who walks into your classroom, and my fear is that a VAM based payscale will force teachers to leave low performing school districts for pure financial reasons. If this is implemented we will lose good educators to other states.
As far as professional development etc. it is vital that the district gives the educators a dedicated time to collaborate and get the training needed to comply with state and federal guidelines.
Sarah – There is a lot of information still to come as to how to implement the new teacher evaluation program. The District Leadership is currently attending workshops and collaborating with the staff from the Olde English Consortium to determine how it will be implemented in Rock Hill School District as well as surrounding districts.. When I was the Director of Exceptional Student Education in this district it was my responsibility to evaluate the staff directly under my leadership. It is critical that our teachers and non-certified staff be given effective feedback to improve their skills in the classroom as they work with our students.
I am pleased to see that through the Value Added Model (VAL) merit will be based on student growth and teacher prediction of that growth.
The Read To Succeed bill requires all teachers in elementary schools to have the reading add-on either through college courses or staff development. The ability to read is critical for all our students and I believe all elementary teachers should have the knowledge, strategies and information to improve the reading skills of our students. If we expect academic achievement for our students to improve, we must teach them how to read, decipher text and be successful in the world around them..
7. What are your views on the current funding methods of public education through the State Legislature? Through local funding?
Jim -Boards need to focus on keeping spending within revenue levels. The state should have multiyear funding so districts can have stable plans. The state needs to fund online learning with online assessment so it will be easier for districts to take advantage of the benefits technology can provide. The state should support pre-school programs.
Ginny – All state funding and taxing in South Carolina is a mess, but school funding is the worst mess. Simplifying the over 150 school funding streams and giving the district more control of which programs are funded would allow the district to focus funds where they are needed locally. The local board can only tax businesses, which is a bad formula for business and tax growth. The legislature should not brag about raising our funds when they still are funding at only about 70% of their own assessment of what it costs to educate students. This year the legislature appropriated $20 more per student but mandated $100 more in costs for Rock Hill Schools.
Helena – I will respond to this question based on what I would actually have a voting say so in if elected to the school board. I believe that one of the largest issues facing Rock Hill Schools this budget year is LEB Policy regarding Sponsoring Organizations such as PTA/PTOs and booster clubs. I think the school board has GROSSLY underestimated the ramifications of this policy, as I have seen first hand (as PTA President and treasurer) what difference these organizations can make. Time and time again they end up being the financial backing for things that would not take place otherwise. This combined with impending ban/restriction on vending machine sales will make a difficult budget year even worse. I realize that there are federal guidelines that needs to be followed, but it is my understanding that there are room for interpretation from the board as of the times allowed. I do support the Rock Hill School Boards vote on the TIF this past Monday, I think that if the terms proposed will be accepted it is a nice compromise for the betterment of our community.
Sarah – The current funding by the legislature is varied and inequitable. We need educational reform by the State that is more consistent across districts and a more simplified system of determining funds for each school year.
We need the legislature to pass bills that will provide tax relief for businesses and create a more even fund distribution. Several bills have been proposed in the past but none of them have received any positive action by the Legislature.
There is a saying that “it takes a village to raise a child” and I believe it takes all the citizens of our county to raise our children. We want them to be well educated and be able to be contributing citizens in the future; therefore, we must supplement funds locally in order to provide the best education possible to our future generation of leaders.
8. Do you believe that education support professionals (classified employees) should have due process rights including hearings prior to termination?
Jim - I support the state model policy on this. However, with boards being public bodies, the board has the ability to hear any request they so choose.
Ginny – South Carolina law considers most workers to be “at-will” employees, meaning they are employed at the will of the employer and can be fired for the simplest of reasons with no explanation whatsoever. Through policy, the board protects the rights of employees by establishing that hearing may be requested. Employees with continuing contracts may appeal to the level of the board, and at-will employees may appeal to the level of the superintendent. As of last Monday (9-22-14) all policies are being revised with the help of the South Carolina School Boards Association over the next eighteen months, and the proliferation and confusion of policies regarding this issue should be clarified. If elected, I would welcome comments and ideas from those affected by such policies as they are revised.
Helena – yes
Sarah – I believe that an employee in any organization deserves a “hearing” prior to termination. Most of the classified employees are an “at-will” employee which means that their position may be terminated if the program or position they are hired for is no longer a viable program or position. With that said, I believe there needs to be a meeting of the supervisor and employee to explain the reason for termination. I know that many times an at-will employee will be placed in another position in the district when their initial employment has changed. Any employee, whether certified or non-certified, is expected to perform to the best of their ability in the position for which they are hired.
9. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing educators today?
Jim – Communicating and connecting with students and families. Teachers/schools that develop relationships and help students set goals will have the most success.
Ginny – Continuing to teach in the face of unrelenting negativity and micromanaging by non-educators who are focused on idealogical and political gain rather than on helping our communities have more effective schools.
Helena – The effects of the budget cuts in the classroom combined with increased demands on educators to fulfill state and federal mandates.
Sarah – Meeting state and federal requirements has always been one of the biggest challenges facing educators. There are federal funds that are based on meeting eligibility requirements for each district and teacher in a particular program. The enormous paper work that teachers have to complete to document student achievement is extremely time consuming. Yet, in order to receive federal funds for programming that documentation must meet audit criteria. Another challenge is how to get parents involved in the educational process of their child. It is very frustrating for a teacher to set up parent meetings and parents not attend. Or to send notes or call and parents do not respond. It is challenging for them to create a method to effectively communicate with the parent.
10. What perspective, knowledge, viewpoint, or etc. will you bring to the school board?
Jim – There is more than one way to solve a problem, but initiatives must have expected outcomes that are measurable.
Ginny – In my four years on the board I have been active, hard-working, communicative and truthful. I have listened and communicated, responding to every single contact received. To keep people informed and ask for ideas and comments, I publish a blog about our school board at GinnyMoe.net, tweet under @GinnyMoeRHSB and established the facebook group “Ginny Moe Rock Hill Schools.” I have been featured as a school board communicator in the journal of the American School Boards Association and will soon participate in my third Winthrop West Forum as a panelist. I have answered questions or found answers, explained resolution process for problems, and helped people as they negotiated the problem solving process. I have maintained good relationships with parents, teachers, employees and the unaffiliated public; published agendas and board information packets with notes about the most important items; and urged for more participation in decision making by those involved, especially teachers. My strengths as a board member are constituent service and communication.
Helena – Over the past five years I have had at least one of my children enrolled in Rock Hill Schools, and as a PTA President and RH School Education Foundation Board Member I have seen board decisions TRUE impact once they are implemented. What looks good on paper might not always be how it actually works in the trenches. I am not a politician, I am a minivan driving mother who has decided to actually try to change something instead of complaining. I want to make Rock Hill Schools the best place to learn, for ALL children. Public Education is the foundation of the future of our community, and I believe that every child should have the same chance and opportunity to learn when they walk through the school doors regardless of background. I bring enthusiasm, a unique skill set and a fresh set of eyes to the table.
Sarah – My educational background includes a degree in Psychology, Master degree in Guidance Counseling and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. I have taught in the classroom and counseled students in middle and high school who were at risk and those who were high achievers. My service as a district supervisor of guidance counselors and my position as Executive Director of the Exceptional Student Education in a very large district, in addition to Rock Hill School District, give me the knowledge, perspective and viewpoints to effectively serve on the Rock Hill School Board of Trustees and meet the challenges the Board faces.
11. What do you see as the role of the York County Education Association, our professional educators association, with the Board of Education?
Jim – The conscience of the education.
Ginny – I hope the YCEA will share goals, dreams, and ideas with the School Board, which should be asking what teachers need. YCEA and the Board should be collaborating in advocating for education in South Carolina with the legislature and the public. Funding education in South Carolina is a struggle, and the funding mechanisms are confusing and inadequate. It is easier for the Board to ask for increased salaries, and probably better for the YCEA to ask for more funding in general. We are all working toward the same thing, and I have appreciated the information gained from the YCEA, especially the sessions Joanie Lawson has presented.
Helena – As stated before I think that the School Board needs to improve communication from all instances of our local community, and as a professional organization of educators it would be very valuable to have representatives attend school board meetings and give input from the educator’s standpoint. I would love to see more task groups for specific areas, and that would be another great place for a representative from your organization.
Sarah – I see your organization being more involved in mentoring teachers, especially with the new teacher evaluation program; providing staff development for teachers and other staff in the schools; providing legislative support and actions and being a voice for teachers in our district.
12. Who would you contact to gain information regarding issues in the district?
Jim – As a board member, that would be the superintendent.
Ginny – I have many teacher friends who frequently share their ideas about district matters from a teacher’s perspective. I have particularly appreciated the insights from Sherry East, and I keep updated by reading the SCEA website.
Helena – I assume that this questions refers to if I was serving on the board? If so, it would depend on the issue. I think the District and the Board needs to be better at organizing task force type groups to give input on specific areas of expertise.
Sarah – I would contact district staff, including the Superintendent, principals, teachers and parents and other organization that might be a stakeholder for our schools. In fact, as I have prepared to seek the position of District Board Trustee, I have had conversation with all the above sources of information.