In early July, the League of Women Voters submitted the following 8 questions to all candidates. Below are my responses, sent in July 6th.

Of three major issues facing your district, which one is the most urgent?
The most urgent issue facing ESD is how to manage anticipated growth while at the same time navigating through the state’s new budget in the wake of the McCleary legal ruling for the state to fully fund education. The WA state budget released on June 30th assigns $7.3 billion in additional education funding over the next 4 years. The direct impact on budgeting, implementing, and reporting on all school districts is still being evaluated, and will most likely continue through the near future. At the same time, the ESD is evaluating school reconfiguration options to add approximately 1,000 students to its current population of 6,000 students over the next 5-7 years. The next school board will be challenged to make sure the ESD works within the requirements of the new state funding model, while at the same time finding a way to optimize their resources to account for an ever-growing student population.

What is your position on Charter Schools as a part of your public school system?
I am a proponent of alternative education models to help diversify the options and opportunities for students. However, the challenge with charter schools is they do not always have to meet the same administrative and educational standards that core public schools do. Additionally, privately managed charter schools are not required to operate with the same level of transparency and accountability that should be required for any educational entity. Charter schools need to be authorized by, and reportable to, the school district. This will ensure that the schools are meeting the community’s and student’s educational and operational needs.

What is your position on testing of your students?
Standardized testing is primarily used as a tool to measure both student aptitude and teacher accountability. It provides a measurable framework that can be used to review and measure the relative ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the educational program. While testing will always be a requirement and have a reasonable place in student evaluation, we need to keep in mind that testing only measures a small part of what comprises a meaningful educational experience. When focusing on ‘teaching to the test’ mentality and only on raw test scores, so many other important aspects of a well-rounded student are often overlooked. Standard tests do not adequately measure critical thinking skills, leadership, resilience, courage, honesty and other character traits we should aspire for in our students. We need to focus on creating well-rounded individuals, not just good test-takers.

What is your opinion on “start times” for elementary and secondary school?
As a parent and former teacher, I always thought the secondary school start times were too early. To help combat teen sleep deprivation, in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that secondary schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. This is about one hour later than the current start time of 7:45, and would push back end time from 2:30 to around 3:30. The current elementary day starts at 8:25, and ends at 3:10. I would prefer that the start times for all levels start around 8:30, with a corresponding adjustment to daily end times.

How can the on-time graduation rate be improved?
For 2016, the Eastmont School District graduated 85% of its students on time, better than the state average of 79%. To close the gap on the remaining 15%, we need to focus on early identification of at-risk students at risk of not graduating on time, and have ongoing communications between the students, parents, and staff. Identify an extracurricular or alternative options for credit retrieval, and enact a plan that is reasonable and meets the individual needs of the at-risk student.

How should bullying be addressed?
There is no simple solution for bullying. The best approach is to communicate clear expectations for proper behavior, providing a clear and easy path for reporting when bullying does happen, and ensuring staff and other resources know how to properly act when bullying does occur. I would advocate for a group at each school to be organized, consisting of students, administrative staff, educational staff, and parents. The group would meet on a regular basis and discuss bullying in their school. This group reviews ongoing anti-bullying practices and gathers feedback from student representation on current efforts. Over time, this group develops institutional wisdom that can be shared throughout the district.

What would be your plan to see that your school district students earn their civics credit required by the new state law?
For the class of 2016 and going forward, Washington state law requires 3 credits be earned in Social Studies as a prerequisite for graduation. The ESD has incorporated the civics requirement solidly into their documented graduation requirements, and ensures that all students account for the required credits split between several civics, history, and geography curricula options.

What is your opinion of student suspension for classroom disruption?
Student suspension should only be a last resort for classroom disruption. Removing a student from the standard classroom setting is punitive in nature and does not address the core issue. I prefer a blended model that (depending on the nature and severity of the disruption) uses some form of peer mediation or intervention, re-direction measures such as allowing music if it does not disrupt the learning environment, or ‘time out’ or other minimal punitive action. Suspensions should only be a last resort when other methods have not lessened then impact to the entire classroom environment.

don@donshennum.com

Phone/text: (509) 433-4074