Tonight the four candidates for Seattle School Board District 5 got together to explain their positions and answer questions from the community. Our transcript of the event is included below. The videos on the left include a question I asked of each candidate at the end: Why should we replace Mary Bass with you? (or to Mary, why should we rehire you?). Apologies to everyone involved for the photos – I need to work on my live-blogging multitasking…
Here’s the abbreviated transcript as we recorded it live via Twitter:
Question 1: Describe your top priorities for the district
- Andre Helmstetter – need to figure out how to refocus money into the classroom
- Joanna Cullen – don’t close schools – design programs to drape student to under enrolled schools
- Mary Bass – getting more state funding is a high priority. Need to ease transition out of school choice to avoid disrupting lives
- Kay Smith-Blum – every single school needs to be excellent. Need to decide how or whether to allow people to choose the school they want
Question 2: How would you get your policy implemented?
- Kay – she’s data-driven. Gather stats and use that to find the right path, convince others
- Andre – each member is one of only seven votes, so it’s important to work together to get things done
- Joanna – sometimes it takes poliical will. Need to work with other elected officials to help work behind the scenes
- Mary – says she has a history of turning close votes on important things like the racial tie breaker issue. Background in quantitative assessment
Question 3: How will you reach out to and engage the community?
- Joanna – important to rely on PTSAs
- Mary Bass – has had success relocating meetings and changing times to accommodate community participation. Also need to reach out to faith groups
- Kay – engage with technology like Twitter and Facebook. Don’t have those because you just “hopped off the train or the boat”? They’ll get postal mail in their own language
- Andre – Need more community meetings, going to more school events, don’t have all board meetings at district HQ. How about having the meetings at schools?
Question 4: How would you ensure we have high-performing programs?
- Mary – continue to tune existing programs, fix issues as they arise
- Kay – parents need a predictable path for school assignments. Would switch everthing to K-8, repurpose middle schools to host specific programs
- Andre – problem where programs have been placed in schools without community buy-in or input. Need to work with parents to build right options
- Joanna – need to make sure schools are good before we draw hard lines and force people to attend
Question 5: Do you support seniority-based layoffs?
- Mary Bass – some power needs to be removed from teachers union. Teacher assessments are important
- Joanna – supports union, long way from being able to accurately measure teacher performance. Need to negotiate with union
- Andre – no hard opinion. Still need to measure performance. Bottom line: what’s best for students. Let that drive decisions
- Kay – current contract makes it too hard to get rid of bad teachers. Need new contract for new teachers that give principals more flexibility
Question 6: How can we do better for special education?
- Kay – we’re doing good in many schools. Take best examples and replicate across district
- Andre – not an expert on special ed. Will look for what works, and spread those ideas
- Joanna – don’t mainstream students before they’re ready. Not fair to them or other kids. Need to look at how far we make them travel
- Mary – has experience with special needs in her own family. Need to keep working on integration, leverage new federal funds
Question 7: What about the new math curriclum?
- Joanna – believes in math, good at it as a child.
- Andre – need same focus on math as we have on reading.
- Kay – new math curriculum takes more time in classroom
- Mary – don’t spend so much time on proofs – be more practical
Question 8: How can we be less top-down?
- Andre – should look at school-level boards that involve leaders, teachers, parents
- Joanna – PTA is the best place to start.
- Mary – not every community will have a PTA. Board members need to know where the power is held, community has to hold them all accountable
- Kay – top down hasn’t worked. Focus in what works for the student, driven by best practices
Question 9: Will you preserve sibling priority?
- Kay – No. Need to mice to neighborhood schools, except for hardship cases
- Andre – yes – keep families together. Especially for option schools and programs
- Joanna – it’s a distraction from more difficult choices
- Mary – thinks it’s important. People have already made choices depending on it
Question 10: Do you support charter schools? All said no
Question 11: Do you support the mayor taking over the school system? All said no
Question 12: Do you support creationism or intelligent design? All said no
- Joanna: past president of PTA, has best experience and knowledge, and vision for future. Opposes destablizing school closures
- Kay: born & raised in Austin TX public schools. Business woman for 35 years, thinks schools aren’t preparing students for current marketplace
- Andre: parent and businessman. School board needs to listen to parents and support their needs and wants
- Mary: Long history in community and public schools. Spends time working with other board members to find common ground. Focus on common goals