BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION

September 28, 2018

 

LORY DOLAN

 

Dolan, a senior manager of member services and communications in the risk management industry, earned her JD from Wayne State University and her BA from the University of Michigan.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

Michigan has fallen in nationwide rankings educationally to 45th  out of 50 states, with only 29 percent of fourth grade students at or above reading proficiency levels in 2015. More alarming, for affluent white students, who had ranked 17th in the nation for fourth grade reading levels in 2003, they came in dead last in 2015 – one of only five states that had actual reading performance level declines. What do you believe has attributed to this stark deterioration in reading and education levels, and how would you work to turn around your district? What can be done to best prepare students to compete in a global world economy?

 

I believe that the deterioration in reading levels in Michigan can be attributed to the state’s allocation of available funds intended for K-12 education to other areas, primarily to higher education. Since 2009, the state has been diverting money that should be going to K-12 education to community colleges and universities; our K-12 students are suffering as a result. Without the necessary funding, school districts often must eliminate programming, which clearly affects student learning. Moreover, teacher salaries are also impacted by this diversion of funds. It is difficult to attract and retain talent absent funding to compensate teachers appropriately. Electing officials that prioritize K-12 education and the funding of K-12 education would be a step in the right direction and would help Birmingham Public Schools, as well as other districts, improve elementary reading skills. 

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

Should educational reforms spring from local boards of education or from the state department of education and the state school board? If this is a local determination, why should it be made at this level? What immediate educational reforms do you support, and which will you seek for the district if you are elected in order to maintain the district's high performance level?

 

Educational reforms should spring from local boards of education. Local boards know their constituency, as well as the needs and wants of the local community, more than the state does. Educational issues often require a local touch; not a one-size-fits-all approach. When the state implements broad reforms and requires all districts to adopt those reforms, the state prevents, in certain cases, the local boards from doing what is best for their respective local communities. Local board control of reforms would allow more tailored and rigorous design of those reforms.

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

State lawmakers have long had the ability to pass legislation dictating changes to curriculum, such as the 2016 law requiring a set number hour for teaching about genocide (including the Holocaust) or specific teachings in sex education. Most recently, conservative members the House and Senate have forced a review of social studies standards and proposed rules are now pending that would make changes such as stripping from the expectations the teaching of climate change in sixth grade geography and reducing the number of times the Ku Klux Klan and NAACP are mention when teaching about the civil rights movement, as just two examples. Are you aware of the effort by lawmakers, and what is your position on the proposed changes to be decided by the state board of education?   

 

I am aware of the effort of state lawmakers to affect the curriculum taught in the public schools. As I mentioned in my answer above, I believe first, that the state should refrain from making such changes, as local boards should determine reforms. Second, I believe the legislature should avoid censorship as a general proposition. Local boards, administrators and teachers should have the autonomy to determine curriculum and teachers should be able to instruct students without political constraints. It is important that we teach our children to think critically about issues, including controversial issues, from an objective point of view free from political influences.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

The district will be undertaking a new strategic plan, with goal setting metrics. What do you perceive as the categories the district should be focused on in the next three to five years, and why?

 

Over the next three to five years, the district will need to address a number of issues. The deficit should be a focus in the upcoming years, in conjunction with school funding (see above).  Another issue that has arisen this past year is the district’s philosophy regarding honors level classes. That philosophy, along with an initiative to increase the number of students from under-represented student populations in honors and AP level classes should also be addressed. Thus, as a district we need a clear instructional plan across all subject matter areas on how to best educate all children.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

With the rise in school shootings in the last few years, has the district done enough to safeguard students and staff? Should there be more security guards and liaison police officers at schools? What can and should the district do to better prepare teachers and staff for the possibility of a rogue individual with a weapon? Should more attention and dollars be spent on mental health awareness and help?

 

From an infrastructure standpoint, the district has done an excellent job of making our schools safer. The district implemented safety upgrades to the entranceways of all school buildings, installed cameras, and, in the case of the high schools, placed security guards at building entrances. I would like to see a liaison police officer at each high school full time as a liaison police officer provides a sense of security as well as a trained officer inside the building in the event of a problem in the school. The issue now is to address the social/emotional piece, which ties into the second part of this question. We absolutely need to spend more money on mental health resources for our students, bringing more community resources into the schools.

 

WHY YOU

 

Why are you the right person at this time to be a member of your local school board?

 

I believe I have the requisite experience to be a trustee of the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education; I also believe I share the same vision as the great families of this district for the future of Birmingham Public Schools.

 

AMY HOCHKAMMER

 

Hochkammer is a graduate of Lawrence University. She is retired, having worked for Morgan Stanley, and was on the BPS Educational Council and BPS Strategic Plan Implementation Group.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

Michigan’s method of funding K-12 education is flawed, which contributes to the deterioration in reading and education levels. Proposal A was designed to provide more equalized education funding but, unfortunately, not all districts are funded at the same rate. Districts such as Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills that receive the maximum foundation allowance from the state have more funds available to provide comprehensive, specialized instruction. Districts that receive the basic foundation funding are less able to provide appropriate early intervention and reading readiness programs. The new 3rd Grade Reading Law aims to address Michigan’s reading deficiency by providing mandated testing beginning in kindergarten. This requirement is designed to ensure that children who read below grade level receive the extra help needed prior to the end of third grade. The spirit of the law is admirable but without extra funding to provide additional teacher training and literacy coaches, many districts will struggle to provide intervention and ultimately will end up holding children back. Birmingham Public Schools should continue to prioritize specialized instruction, parental awareness around the need for reading at home, and allow for additional teacher training in multiple reading intervention strategies so that learners have access to the program that best suits them.  In order for students to be truly prepared to compete in a global economy, there needs to be a comprehensive curriculum that infuses reading, writing and deductive reasoning across all subject matter and throughout all levels of K-12 education.  

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

Educational reforms should spring from local boards of education, as they are responsible for meeting the needs of their constituents. The Michigan Department of Education should supply broad based requirements for all districts but local school boards should have the freedom to design their curriculum based on what is best for the community they serve. The needs of students in Birmingham are not the same as the needs of students in other districts and the board has the ability to connect with all stakeholders to structure curriculum that is appropriate relative to content and rigor.  I support efforts to change high school start times so that teenagers have the opportunity to get more sleep.  Research has shown time and again that later school start times in high school are better for students’ academic performance, mental health and physical health. In addition, I support comprehensive, annual reviews of those segments of the student population who are in the bottom 30 percent of learners. This data needs to be analyzed and addressed at the individual school level so that as a district we can work to eliminate the achievement gap.  

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

I am aware of the proposed changes to the social studies curriculum that limit or omit references to controversial subjects, such as Roe vs. Wade, climate change and the LGBTQ community. I am not in support of these changes, or any state mandated changes, that restrict subject matter. I believe that limiting awareness to broad, factual historical and current events only creates a disadvantage for students in the global world economy.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

Birmingham Public Schools’ current strategic plan states that the district’s mission is “By ensuring educational excellence, we challenge and inspire all learners to positively impact their world.” I believe this is an admirable mission and in order to achieve it on a continual basis, a new strategic plan should use goal setting metrics to quantify and address the achievement gap on an annual basis, ensure the district is held accountable to meeting a balanced budget and limiting deficits, and increase the district’s college and career counseling services to provide every senior the opportunity to attend college or become employed after graduation. These goals can all be achieved by developing a culture of trust and transparency that begins and ends with data and communications that are delivered early, often, and with clarity.

 

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

Birmingham Public Schools has done a lot in the last three years to provide our buildings with additional safety and security features, including separate, secure entrances for visitors, developing relationships with several local police forces, and providing crisis training to teachers and staff.  I would welcome the addition of more security guards or liaison officers in our schools, particularly the high schools where an open campus environment poses additional safety threats. I would like the district to continue to explore building and age-specific safety plans that are tailored to the needs of each school. In addition, I recommend that the middle schools and high schools have trained medical professionals on staff who are able to identify early warning signs of mental illness in teens and can take the appropriate steps to help students and families access treatment plans.

 

WHY YOU?

 

I believe my extensive experience working as a community and school volunteer provides me the knowledge and skills necessary to be an effective board member who would be able to work with a new superintendent and address the issues the district is facing with honesty and transparency. I am a graduate of Groves High School, my children have always attended Birmingham Public Schools and I am a strong advocate for public education. As I have recently retired after 25 years in the financial services industry, it is my desire to utilize the knowledge that I’ve gained as an active volunteer to serve as a trustee for the Birmingham Board of Education.  

 

 

MIKE LEWIS

 

Lewis is general counsel for the Community Link Foundation. He has his undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and his JD from University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

I think someone who is well-rounded is the type of person best equipped to compete in a global economy. It seems that you need to know a little bit about everything to compete these days. Reading is the key to life. I firmly believe that. Reading is the key to competing in today’s world and it is the secret to a meaningful life. Is it any wonder our literacy numbers have slipped? We communicate 140 characters at a time and no one cares about grammar, punctuation, spelling, diction and style – literally the attributes that make us literate. If we want to improve our reading scores I think we need to get back to celebrating language – reading and writing as a means for self-improvement, not simply as a means for responding to texts. The problem is phones. The answer is books.                                                                  

  

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

I support incremental reform at any level assuming the ideas are good. On balance, though, I think local reform makes more sense because local school boards are more in tune with the needs and wants of their communities. Education is a complex challenge and one size rarely fits all. That is why I think local reform is the better way to go. The state sets minimum standards through the Michigan Merit Curriculum but it’s the local school districts that design programs to meet those standards. I think that’s the right balance: more bottom up than top down when it comes to in-the-classroom substance. We have a high-performing district that I don’t think needs a lot of tinkering, quite frankly. However, I would like to see greater focus on language arts given the unfortunate numbers we are seeing in reading proficiency.

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

Changing Michigan’s social studies standards would be an enormous mistake. I encourage all voters to examine the proposed changes by googling “Michigan Department of Education Social Studies Standards 2007 to 2018 Side by Side Comparison.” There voters will see the extent to which certain interests in this state hope to erase the existing standards for social studies and replace them with guidelines that give teachers little or no guidance and, worse, encourage the suppression of knowledge. Kids deserve a balanced view of the world they live in. Then they can decide for themselves what they choose to believe and how best to activate their citizenship. I believe the proposed changes deny kids a balanced view. That is why I strongly oppose them.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

The current strategic plan doesn’t really focus on categories. It sets broad goals like inclusion, empathy, diversity and innovation. I think that is a good approach and I would like to see many of the goals in the current plan extended. However, if I must implement categories, reading proficiency would be number one with teacher empowerment finishing a close second. The retention of teachers and other professionals is critical. As the husband of a public-school teacher, I know how important teacher retention is to the continuity of a school district. Let’s empower our teachers as much as we can and show real commitment by baking this ideal right into the new plan. Teachers are a great resource. We should listen to them.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

I think more attention and dollars should be spent on mental health, but I see this as a broader societal challenge, not one discretely facing education. We’ve done a lot to make our students safe and, just as important, feel safe. The bond issue a few years ago earmarked two or three million dollars for more secure entrances to our schools. We should consider ourselves lucky that we have a district that is healthy enough to raise money outside the usual school funding formula. But I venture a word of caution: the odds of a shooting incident in this or any other district is very low. I don’t want to get caught up in a hysteria that leads us to make poor decisions. Under no circumstances do I support arming teachers. I think we can rely on local law enforcement to protect us beyond the preventive measures we’ve already implemented.

 

WHY YOU?

 

I think I’m a good steward. I’m pretty good at figuring things out and working with colleagues. I enjoy educating myself about pressing issues and believe that public service is necessary. Service is the price you pay for civilization. I have two kids in the district, my wife is a public-school teacher, and I work for a non-profit that helps families raise money for college or trade school. Education is a focal point of my life. What better way to put all the pieces together than to serve on a school board? What can I tell you? I’ll approach the position with the respect and deference it deserves and do everything in my power to keep BPS at the forefront of education in this state.

 

 

NICOLE MCKINNEY

 

McKinney, a work-based learning director with United Way, has a MBA from University of Phoenix and a BA from Spring Arbor University.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

In some cases the school curriculum is not closely aligned with the state tests or a district may not have a curriculum at all. Technology is also an issue because of the way the test is administered. Most students are used to taking tests on paper, but the state test is administered by computer, which is an adjustment for many students. There are also districts who have fewer resources, with students who have high basic needs that aren’t being met, which impedes learning. We also need to provide personalized support where students are not proficient. To prepare students for a global economy, we have to give them an opportunity to apply their classroom instruction through project-based learning and hands-on work-based learning opportunities in a real-world setting. We should also provide them with career readiness skills, dual enrollment courses at college, and/or an opportunity to earn industry certifications, for a competitive advantage.  

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

I believe that education standards and reforms should come from state departments, for the sake of uniformity across the state. Parents should be able to expect the same standard of education no matter where they live within the state. However, I also feel that schools should have the autonomy to determine what strategies they use to achieve the standards established by the state board. The immediate education reforms I support include access to high quality pre-schools and early interventions by 3rd grade. I also support individual education programs for students who need them. If elected to the BPS board, I would advocate for college and career readiness opportunities for students through business partnerships, additional programming for students who are less than proficient, teacher training, and a review of our current curriculum to ensure it aligns with the state.

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

I have read about the proposed social studies changes, but do not agree with them. Unfortunately, I think that relevant information will be omitted from classroom lessons that will keep students from fully understanding history and the ability to formulate their own informed views on social issues. I do not think it is an effective or accurate way to teach.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

As a school district, our first priority should be to provide a quality education to students and preparing them for the future in a rapidly changing and competitive society. That said, I think we should look at economic trends as well as our district data to help inform what areas we focus on for our strategic plan. Some areas of interest to me are looking at the achievement data and improving test scores, providing college and career readiness opportunities for students, and balancing the budget.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

I think the district has taken some appropriate measures to safeguard students by adding new security entrances at schools and providing staff training. However, I think we could still add more police officers and security guards at schools. I think there’s also an opportunity for the district to be proactive by supporting our own students more holistically, by ensuring their mental healthcare needs are met, and by providing a safe space where they have someone to talk to. Some districts don’t have this.  I received an award for helping to establish a school-based health center in another school district, and surprisingly one of the most utilized services of the center was for mental health. 

 

WHY YOU?

 

I am passionate about this work, and I have the qualifications, professional, and volunteer experience that closely aligns with the role of a board trustee. I have dedicated the past decade of my career working with schools preparing students for college and careers, with a successful track record. I have served on several non-profit boards and was actively involved on the PTA at my son’s school as legislative chair before running for the school board. I also work with teachers and school administrators daily, so I understand the language and am familiar with the board process. I also have the educational background to support me in this role, a master’s degree in business administration. I think I have a lot to contribute.

 

 

MICHAEL NUMMER

 

Nummer is owner of an investment management firm and is a Bloomfield Village volunteer firefighter. He has a degree from Miami University.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

If elected to the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education, I would advocate for an accurate overall assessment of our students reading performance levels. I would first want to completely understand the current assessment data and our districts standing relative to other districts in the state and nationally. In my opinion, recent reading expectations in our district have been eased and the literature selections are less challenging to our students. If the data indicates that reading scores have declined, then I would support an immediate review and overhaul of our English curriculum.

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

I believe that Birmingham Public Schools is in the best position to decide what reforms are best for our students. We would of course act within the parameters that are established at the state level, but our community’s expectations clearly exceed the state expectations. The current board governance model dictates that educational reforms are the responsibility of the superintendent and central administration. I would work towards increasing academic standards for all students and I would push for changes in district policy to allow for the school board to have a greater role and input in the specific reforms that would be enacted.

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

I attended one of the forums that was held by the Michigan Department of Education. There is clearly more work that needs to be done with the new social studies standards. It was communicated at the forum that the standards modification process will be extended and that the final standards are still a long way off. Regardless of what the state standards are, the local school boards can establish a curriculum that is more demanding and comprehensive. Once the local school boards have established the district curriculum, the individual classroom teachers then have flexibility in how they teach the district curriculum.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

The current Birmingham Public Schools strategic plan is a four-page document that extensively details the districts mission, vision and goals. I think that the strategic plan should instead be a one-page document that simply states the districts primary mission, which should be to ensure learning for all members of the school community. The related vision and goals should be concisely stated to ensure maximum comprehension and execution. Other area high performing districts have successfully communicated the same information on a single page document that is easily recalled and accessible.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

I think that the district has done a good job addressing school safety, but we need to continue to implement improvements. In process upgrades to building camera systems and rollout of the ALICE Active Shooter Response Training are significant changes that have been recommended by security experts. At a recent board meeting, local law enforcement officials also recommended that district consider replacing the school contract security guards with retired police officers. Many benefits of that arrangement were stated including the retired officer’s experience and expertise in identifying potential mental health warning signs. If the retired officers interact with students on a daily basis they could potentially identify warning signs that could be a precursor to a school incident. Given the district financial challenges, incremental costs of that change would need to be carefully considered.

 

WHY YOU?

 

My wife and I have four children who have attended BPS schools. I started my career as a CPA and I regularly analyze financial statements in my responsibilities as an investment manager. One of the most significant challenges facing Birmingham schools is the sizable current and projected budget deficits. I have spent considerable time understanding the nature of the district’s financial challenges. The structure of school finance in the state of Michigan is extremely complicated and we need board members who have the interest and ability to comprehend the implications of Michigan school aid reimbursement. I have been one of a few regular attendees of board meetings and I have had significant interaction with the current board and administration. I am familiar with the current issues and challenges facing our district and I have the passion and time to commit towards ensuring excellence in learning for all members of the school community.

 

 

JENNIFER RASS

 

Rass, a director of business operations for Duo Security, has a degree from Eastern Michigan University. She is a trustee with the Birmingham Education Foundation.

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

Michigan’s approach to early literacy investment and implementation has been scrutinized and the lack of professional development and training for educators, I believe has attributed to the deterioration in reading and education levels. Teachers and administrators need more support, stronger curriculum and instructional resources. Our students need and deserve the very best academics, as well as an education that will allow them to compete in a global world economy. However, competing on a world-wide scale, our education system must evolve from one that has served us well in the past to embracing the challenges and opportunities of the future. Therefore, we must reshape the way we have done things before and ensure all students think and act innovatively, demonstrating high-performance and meeting the highest expectations.

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

It is critical that every school district have transparency, accountability and empowerment in the classroom. While the state outlines education standards, every district has individual needs and input on what makes sense for that district.  Therefore, I believe educational reforms should be a balance of both local and state levels. As a district we need to pay attention to the state reform, yet ensure there is local input from our parents, community members and students; and entrust the professional expertise of our staff members, administration and board members on what is best for our students and schools. In our district, families have very high expectations for their children’s education. We need education leaders and advocates collaborating with all stakeholders for the personal, intellectual, social and emotional achievement of every single student.  

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

I am aware of the proposed changes the State Board of Education is considering regarding the social studies standards. The original intent was to make minor revisions and improvements to the 2007 standards; not rewrite history. However, after engaging some political leaders in the review process the task became controversial when it was suggested to eliminate references to gay rights, climate change, Roe vs. Wade and removing the word “democratic” from “core democratic values.” These standards are put in place to help shape curriculum and guide teachers across the state, not undermine their efforts, the way they teach and the content being taught. It is troublesome and concerning as these standards will impact and shape the education of our next generation of students. I understand the need for streamlining and reviewing the standards, however, I do not support selectively removing key historical events from our curriculum.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

It’s exciting time for BPS, as the district has just completed its five-year strategic plan. We have tremendous amount of opportunities before us to create and develop a new strategic plan. With a new superintendent, administrators and three new school board members bringing fresh perspectives to influence and move the district forward, I believe these are some of the areas we should focus on: Resource allocation – as stewards of taxpayers’ money, we must be efficient and effective allocating resources that are most impactful for academic achievement for all students; Advocacy – enhancing academic careers and improving all learners; all students deserve a world-class education; Strong community partnerships – continue to establish and enhance partnerships in the community; Communication – evolve, elevate and enhance our world-class district’s communication platforms.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS

 

I am pleased the district is committed to increase efforts to safeguard schools, students and staff. The district has recently begun educating and implementing ALICE training (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) for teachers and school administers. This program encourages staff to be proactive in emergency situations as they would be in other threatening situations. Another way the district is keeping our schools safe and prepared for emergencies is installing Blue Point systems in all schools. This technology will notify the police and provide alerts to teachers and staff in the building through a series of blue lights and an announcement on the PA of the threat. With resources being scarce, I am grateful as a trustee of the Birmingham Education Foundation, we partnered with the district last year to bring a mental illness discussions to all high school health classes through an educational grant bringing more attention to mental health awareness.

 

WHY YOU?

 

I am a knowledgeable communications and business professional with more than 25 years of experience in corporate, agency, non-profit communications and media relations. I have extensive experience in executing strategic communication plans, public relations campaigns and brand management. My inspiration for running for the BPS board is to give back to what has provided an amazing educational foundation thus far for my two children. I believe my business background, communication expertise and community involvement, I am qualified to serve in this important role. As an actively involved parent, I am a strong advocate for our children and teachers and would be proud to represent the entire Birmingham School District community. I believe one of the most important tasks would be to make certain the BPS mission is upheld, “by ensuring educational excellence, we challenge and inspire all learners to positively impact their world.”

 

 

BOB SAAD

 

Saad, an ICT Business and Technical Liaison, is a member of the Birmingham Community Partnership for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He has degrees from University of Michigan and Western Seminary. 

 

STUDENT EDUCATIONAL LEVELS

 

Thank you for these great questions about some sobering trends. Regarding literacy declines, let me start off by saying that I have a background in education, having taught English grammar and syntax, as well as literary interpretation. Anecdotally, I can tell you that even 20 years ago there was an alarming, downward trend in students’ basic understandings of how English language works. As curricula de-emphasized phonetic approaches and structured grammatical instruction (such as diagramming), the trend got worse.  Perhaps if we admit our curricular mistakes, and return to foundational language instructional approaches, English language proficiency with our students will move in a decidedly positive direction. I particularly appreciate the question about competing in a global world economy. However, I think it is important to recognize that economic principles apply to far more than simply financial issues. In addition, there are social economies, cultural economies, emotional economies, educational economies, etc., and we want our students to excel in all of these areas. Hence, a world-class education should materially address all areas that are salient to student success on the world stage. 

 

CONTROL OF REFORMS

 

I think that those who advocate for full control at the state and federal levels, as well as, those who advocate for full control at the local, school board level, are equally short-sighted in their stances. Our country was founded by people who out of necessity focused on cooperation and collaboration, understanding that in the real world nobody gets everything that he or she wants. Rather, they modeled for us the notion that it is commonly better to give up personal preferences in order to achieve together, that which is greater than any individual entity could accomplish alone. This was, and still is, an excellent model for community success. That said, at a very high level, it seems appropriate that the state would establish minimum levels for mastery, and from that point, local boards would establish whatever reasonable methods are necessary to propel their district’s students to mastery and beyond. Since each local population in the state requires a unique mix of resources for success for its students, the specific methods of obtaining mastery should be left to the local boards. A one-size-fits-all approach, orchestrated by a centralized state or federal office, definitely is not a recipe for success for the melting pot of the American experience. We are far too diverse for such a simplistic approach.

 

DETERMINING CURRICULUM

 

As an educator, I have been aware of many curricular movements over the years (Phonics and Whole Language, Sex Education and Gender Identity, Common Core, Integrated Math, Evolution and Intelligent Design, Mandatory Foreign Language, History, Earth Science and Climate Change,  Diversity and Inclusion, Equality and Equity, Social Justice, Character Education, Achievement Gaps, Entitlement Programs, etc.). Admittedly, it is easy to get excited about a topic that is important to us individually.  However I encourage all of us to moderate our opinions and approaches based on two basic principles: 1. Let’s commit to a pursuit of truth at all levels, and 2. Let’s commit to making decisions that intentionally look out for the best interest others, instead of just our own interests. I believe this approach sets the best foundation for determining which curricular changes are helpful and which ones are more of a distraction.

 

DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN

 

At a foundational level, I continue to stress the importance that every plank of the district’s strategic plan should be S.M.A.R.T:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Unfortunately, I do not believe our current strategic plan exemplifies this, so I will be an advocate for change in this regard. Also, since a public school is truly a community endeavor, I believe that the planks of the strategic plan should encompass the roles of several key stakeholders such as: students, parents, educators, administration, and the board. That said, the district’s next, five-year strategic plan might do well to include the following items: 1. Opportunity for mastery-level success for all students; 2. Exposure to relevant character education for all students; 3. Collaboration between the community and educators with regard to curricular developments; 4. Administrative and board transparency; and 5. Fiscal responsibility.

 

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS 

 

I do not believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every municipality in the country on this topic. Each community has geographic realities that make some safeguards essential and others less necessary. Since BPS school buildings are all within a few minutes of current law enforcement and other emergency services facilities, it would be quite appropriate for a select group of our local officers to have work offices in each of our schools. That said, I believe it is equally reasonable for the district to employ additional on-site, armed security officers for each of our schools, which could also be used as affirmative initiative to employ veterans. I am also in favor of the current initiative to install 24-hour, 360 degree surveillance systems on the premises of each school, through the use of existing bond funds. Lastly, although arming teachers may be feasible in rural communities where law enforcement and emergency services may be 30-60 minutes away, I do not see this approach as necessary for BPS in our suburban location.

 

WHY YOU?

 

I love education, and I love the metro-Birmingham area.  Twenty years ago, I intentionally moved to this area because of its strong community and excellent educational system. My wife and I also have four children in the district, which motivates me to be active and diligent on behalf of public education. That said, I would like to be a part of the BPS board that shapes the next generation of educational decisions for the BPS community.  I have a significant background in both education and business, and I believe this combination best equips board of education trustees. Anecdotally, I think I have attended more BPS general business board meetings in the past couple years than any other community member. I interact with the board and administration regularly, and I think I have a fairly good understanding of where we presently are as a district, both financially and academically. I am also a frequent community contributor at board meetings, as well as an outspoken advocate for the role and benefits of healthy organized labor. I am fully aware that a voluntary position, for a six-year term, is a significant commitment, however, I want to provide this service for the Birmingham Public Schools District.

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