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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016 3 years ago

Meet District 7 Orange County School Board Candidates

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Ocoee High School, as well as several area middle and elementary schools, are represented by the District 7 school board member.
by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

Christine Moore

On standardized testing and Common Core: 

What are your thoughts on students and teachers being assessed by a standardized test at the end of the year? Do you have any ideas on alternative forms of assessment? 

I support an accountability system for students, teachers and administrators. School districts are responsible to demonstrate excellence to the taxpayers for every dollar they receive.

I support rigorous state standards. As teachers master these state standards and collaboratively develop content-rich lesson plans, our students will benefit.

What is your opinion on Common Core? What do you believe is an advantage of Common Core? What is a disadvantage? 

That being said, there are changes needed to the current accountability system.  It has been an incredibly challenging few years with the large number of state reforms and now potential for additional change with new federal education legislation. (ESSA)  If it were up to me, I would reduce further the number of state assessments as the time necessary for lengthy testing windows each year is a drain on resources and time on instruction. I would reduce some of the high stakes associated with the assessments. 

I want to increase opportunities for teacher-driven authentic learning opportunities which stimulate a love or learning. Relevant, cross- curricular lessons are vitally important particularly for mastering science and social studies standards. 

On technology in classrooms: 

This year, technology is being implemented more into the student’s curriculum, with more devices such as laptops and tablets coming into the classroom. What are your thoughts on technology? How do you think it will affect student learning? Is there any other technology you would like to see in the classroom?

I am extremely grateful to the Orange County taxpayers for the ½ penny sales tax which has funded our one-to-one digital program. This means a device (lap top computer) is provided to every student at all nineteen high schools and a handful of elementary and middle schools. I have watched first hand as Ocoee Middle School and eventually Ocoee High School students became more engaged in their own learning. The middle school has been recognized by the Apple Corporation as a School of Distinction and Principal Bill Floyd as the State Technology Principal of the Year. 

Do you think greater use of technology potentially could have a harmful effect on learning? Why or why not? 

That being said, it is important for students to still be able to write in cursive and enjoy a good book!

On teachers:

Why do you think Orange County has a teacher shortage? What do you propose to correct this?

I’m pleased to announce that there are only a handful of teacher positions yet to be filled. This is remarkable noting there are over 13,000 positions in Orange County Schools. Teacher shortages have been systemic across the country. I believe this is due to state-mandated transition to more rigorous standards and performance pay.  Education reform has often met steep opposition from teachers unions and it is incumbent upon good administrators to assist our teachers in managing the deluge of legislative mandates.

In this growing county, there are often labor shortages, which include teaching, faculty and other staff positions. How do you propose OCPS should attract the most qualified teachers?

Thankfully, Orange County, with its vigorous recruitment and largest teacher raise in Central Florida, is attracting its fair share of talent.

On the fast growth of the county:

In the county, growth is occurring rapidly. Many schools are overcrowded. How do you plan to address overcrowding in schools? 

 The ½ penny local sales tax has made funding for relief schools possible.  This year, Orange County Public Schools exceeded 200,000 students up over 5,000 new seats. Flexible learning spaces can help to avoid portables.

Residents with students who live in fast-growing areas often face the challenge of their students being rezoned to new schools. What are your thoughts on regular rezoning and what do you propose to mitigate the effects rezoning has on families? 

Better collaboration and planning between the district and county and municipal governments can mitigate some of the challenges with growth.  An updated school citing ordinance needs passage by the county. The school district has also hired a full- time real estate attorney.

In fast-growing areas, many residents consider growth to be outpacing schools, as schools aren’t built until after another is filled past capacity. Do you think it is necessary for a school to be filled past capacity before it is built? Why or why not? If not, what solutions do you propose? 

School funding is derived from Tallahassee on a per student basis. Thus, buildings without full enrollments are not fiscally sound.

On Maxey Elementary:

Do you believe that Maxey should be relocated? Why or why not?

I have been the champion for rebuilding and relocating Maxey Elementary School.  The school has had low enrollment in spite of years of receiving high marks. I believe location in an industrial zone has been a detriment.  With the new location at 9th Street and Story Roads, I have confidence full enrollment can be achieved.

What magnet program do you hope to see come to Maxey? Why?

The district is currently developing a performing arts magnet which will hopefully develop into a flourishing relationship with the Garden Theatre. As a professional musician, myself, I hope to shepherd the magnet process through full board approval.

Personal questions:

What qualities or skills do you bring to the position?   

I am the daughter of a band director and bank vice president. I graduated at the top of my class in music education from the University of Michigan. I have extensive business experience in real estate investments and consulting. I have been active in numerous community service organizations and served on three Orange County boards. I’m currently on the United Arts Board and the Mayor’s Committee on Child Abuse. I studied flute with a renowned instructor and still teach and perform today.

Why are you the best candidate? 

I have a well-rounded background in education, music and business. I am board certified from the Florida School Boards Association. I have overseen the construction of a dozen new schools, recognitions as the top urban school district in the US and two Governor’s Sterling Awards for efficiency and customer service. I understand the position and know which issues are regulated by the state and those which fall under the purview of the district. I have extensive work with budgets.  I’m active in arts education, annually producing a large student jazz festival. Most importantly, I consistently represent students, teachers and taxpayers.

Personal information: Age, city of residence, family, education, experience and endorsements? 

55 years old.

Board member since November 2008.

I have two grown children and one granddaughter. My family attends Trinity Baptist Church in Apopka, where I play in the orchestra.

I have been endorsed by the West Orange Political Alliance, Orlando Board of Realtors, Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, BusinessFORCE, Conservative Ministers of Central Florida, Chairman of the School Board Bill Sublette and other board members, teachers and local officials.

 

 

Isadora Dean

On standardized testing and Common Core: 

What are your thoughts on students and teachers being assessed by a standardized test at the end of the year? Do you have any ideas on alternative forms of assessment? 

Accountability is important and testing will not go away however, there needs to be balance. First and foremost students are children and it is proven that children process and learns in different ways.  Passing a test just to pass for County or State requirements is a great disservice and injustice to our teachers and students and is not an accurate assessment of learning.  Teacher and student performance should be evaluated throughout the school year rather than relying solely on--one test given on one given day.

Alternatives forms and multiple measures of assessing performance can and should be utilized; including authentic portfolios of students work throughout the year, projects, oral presentations, and interviews and teacher-made tests. 

All students deserve to engage in authentic and meaningful hands-on learning experiences and need time to process, discuss with their peers, internalize and enjoy learning…not spend valuable time preparing for a test. 

What is your opinion on Common Core? What do you believe is an advantage of Common Core? What is a disadvantage?

In my opinion and according to some former OCPS administrators, teachers and parents who know “what success looks like”, if students receive a strong foundation in; Literacy- listening, thinking, reading, writing, speaking, math and science; the arts and physical education and have a supportive home and community they will likely achieve success. 

An advantage to a Common Core curriculum is if enough States participate then children moving from one state to another will have the advantage of not being too advanced or too far behind in their education. Advancing our educational program to match that of other nations worldwide is beneficial to young adults entering the workforce. 

From what I hear, parents find it difficult to help their children, especially with the math portion of Common Core. Most would like to be actively involved and want to extend their children’s learning at home.  Many parents feel overwhelmed about the inability to help with homework and express concerns about the rapid pace in which concepts are taught-allowing little time for students to process before being tested. Another disadvantage would be if the curriculum is too intensive and inappropriately advanced for the age of the child, as expectations are rising at a younger age, this could be detrimental leaving a child feeling frustrated and less than. This can be a set up for failure not success.

Some teachers express the lack of proper staff training and professional development as being disadvantages of Common Core.

Having standards are imperative in providing high-quality education to ensure students succeed at higher level and prepared for the workforce or for college.  They serve as a guide for teachers and can help parents feel confident that their students are receiving the education they deserve.  But school and learning should be fun and too many students have developed a dislike for school, because of the idea that “one size fits all”. Hands-on approach, and real-life applications is limited in our schools, today.

On technology in classrooms: 

This year, technology is being implemented more into the student’s curriculum, with more devices such as laptops and tablets coming into the classroom. What are your thoughts on technology? How do you think it will affect student learning? Is there any other technology you would like to see in the classroom?

I think laptops and tablets are beneficial because students can access more information at a faster rate and are less tedious to carry around, than textbooks. Technology should not be the sole way of teaching. Students have different learning styles and most benefit from hands-on and interaction from teachers and peers.  Technology should not be a substitute for having an experienced, caring teacher within close proximity of learners. 

Do you think greater use of technology potentially could have a harmful effect on learning? Why or why not? 

We must stay abreast with technology; however we must not ignore the human aspect of learning. Most teachers don’t just serve as a child’s teacher…often, they are counselors, comforters, friends, parents and mentors…technology should be used for support. 

On teachers:

Why do you think Orange County has a teacher shortage? What do you propose to correct this?

Teacher and support shortages not only exist in Orange County, but all over the nation.  College students are not majoring in education because the teaching profession is not as appealing, as it was in the past.  Orange County can attract and retain qualified teachers and staff by offering opportunities for growth, advancement, provides collaboration and mentoring, a better work-life balance and most importantly reward them with better pay. Some great teachers leave because of being treated unfairly. Many say that our system does not value and show respect.  Too few of our great, experienced teachers were not rated “highly effective”.  Rumors are that administrators were advised to give low ratings.

On the fast growth of the county

In the county, growth is occurring rapidly. Many schools are overcrowded. How do you plan to address overcrowding in schools? 

The area is growing so rapidly and OCPS need to stay ahead.  Planning and collaboration with County and City are necessary to address the issue of school overcrowding. Because our area is growing so fast, we must aggressively seek options to help fill the void.  OCPS must explore ways to build schools faster and must always adhere to fiscal integrity.  Schools can be built cheaper and faster if we get construction programs in gear and not waste money.

Residents with students who live in fast-growing areas often face the challenge of their students being rezoned to new schools. What are your thoughts on regular rezoning and what do you propose to mitigate the effects rezoning has on families? 

Rezoning is a serious issue and can place stress on the families and on communities.  Issues must be discussed openly with parents and community leaders and the entire process should be transparent. Those involved need to know the pros and cons of zoning decisions. OCPS should not forget zoning mistakes made in the past.

In fast-growing areas, many residents consider growth to be outpacing schools, as schools aren’t built until after another is filled past capacity. Do you think it is necessary for a school to be filled past capacity before it is built? Why or why not? If not, what solutions do you propose? 

Careful planning and collaboration with County and City are necessary to address the issue growth.  We must always advocate for funding and show fiscal integrity and wise decisions in utilizing those fund. In my opinion, we should stay ahead of growth.

On Maxey Elementary:

Do you believe that Maxey should be relocated? Why or why not?

Decisions affecting a community should not be made without discussion and transparency.   In speaking with many of Maxey’s alumni and community members, I learned that many did not want the school to be relocated.  The history of the school is of utmost importance and people are feeling as if they are disrespected and unimportant. That community will lose an important part of their history.  Rumors are that their community school will be destroyed and the land will be sold to the nearby car auction.  

What magnet program do you hope to see come to Maxey? Why?

A program with good administration, teachers, staff and extra-curricular programs promoting school pride, parent involvement, and fun is what I would like to see.  Sports medicine and science magnets, where students can learn the business world of sports-writers, lawyers, agents, video productions, etc. could be good as would a vocational/career magnet.  Educational experts should make suggestions as to the types of successful magnets and allow input from the parents and the community.

 

Personal questions:

What qualities or skills do you bring to the position?   

I am a retired teacher with 42 years of experience and a parent of two children who attended Orange County’s public and private schools, a member of The Apopka Rotary Club, The Apopka Historical Museum, Board Member, and the Orange County Citizens Review Panel for Human Services and a member of Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church of Orlando.

Why are you the best candidate? 

I believe I am the best candidate for the job because of my 42 years of experience as an OCPS educator.  I have always put the education of our students first, will not treat them like…data… and will work to put…common sense…back into our schools with real-world learning.  “I have been there and done that”.

I have a plethora of experience teaching family and consumer science and life management skills in middle and high school; as a literacy resource teacher who conducted parent involvement workshops/home visits/playtimes at Maxey, Apopka and Wheatley Elementary and I taught intensive reading at Ocoee High and Acceleration Academy West therefore, I know how to meet the diverse needs of students and how to defend our communities from damaging attacks on public education.

Personal information: Age, city of residence, family, education, experience and endorsements? 

67 years old  

Live in Apopka   Family:  Married for 40 years to Apopka City Commissioner and Vice Mayor- Billie Dean

Two children

Education- Graduate of Florida A & M University

Endorsements- Classroom Teachers Association-CTA

OESPA Orange Education Support Professionals Association

AFL/CIO

Central FL Democratic Disabilities Caucus

 

Laura Rounds

What are your thoughts on students and teachers being assessed by a standardized test at the end of the year? Do you have any ideas on alternative forms of assessment? 

I believe that there are tests that should be in place to see where we can strengthen gaps in learning.  I do believe that we need to hold teacher’s accountable, however, the system in which we are doing now is unfair.  I believe the current assessments for both students and teachers should be adjusted.

What is your opinion on Common Core? What do you believe is an advantage of Common Core? What is a disadvantage?  

I strongly stand behind the Florida Standards.  The Florida Standards have been put into place to help our students reach their fullest potential by promoting a deeper level of critical thinking and problem solving. The Florida Standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that Florida’s students are prepared to be competitive with students from other countries. As we know, most of the top jobs in America today did not even exist a decade ago. These new standards will ensure that our children will maintain America’s competitive edge, so that they will be well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with not only their peers here at home, but with students from around the world.

I believe the only disadvantage that we are currently facing is the lack of training on understanding the level of complexity of each of the standards.  This is the new way of teaching.  We are all being challenged.  Educators are working harder than ever to ensure they are producing the smartest generation to come. We need to support more time for planning for our teachers.

On technology in classrooms: 

This year, technology is being implemented more into the student’s curriculum, with more devices such as laptops and tablets coming into the classroom. What are your thoughts on technology? How do you think it will affect student learning? Is there any other technology you would like to see in the classroom? 

I completely support adding technology into the classrooms and into student’s hands.  However, the new no phone policy can place a damper on tools that teachers can use to be creative in their classrooms.  Of course, this would be at schools that do not have some type of devices. Technology is two-fold when it comes to affecting student learning.  If it being used properly it can increase student engagement and the opportunity to have more knowledge at our children’s fingertips. I think as we become more familiar with technology in classrooms, we will see learning changing very rapidly.  

Do you think greater use of technology potentially could have a harmful effect on learning? Why or why not? 

 It depends on how it is being used.  We must ensure that we have rich lessons that support the use of it. It must also be monitored by teachers, schools, and at the district level. 

On teachers:

Why do you think Orange County has a teacher shortage? What do you propose to correct this? In this growing county, there are often labor shortages, which include teaching, faculty and other staff positions. How do you propose OCPS should attract the most qualified teachers? 

Many of my candidates claim that the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System is driving teachers away but the fact of the matter is that the teaching profession is no longer respected by those making decisions.  Many teachers have worked many years and are living on salaries that are disgraceful.  Many teachers are working 2-3 jobs to support their families or working summer months to make ends meet. This is an injustice to those of us who got into this profession because of the love for teaching and making a difference. We are not asking for high salaries but salaries that we too can live a decent life.

Yes, the board did grant us a raise but it needs to be adjusted for the time in service.  I have a friend who has been teaching for 6 years; however, with the new increase for a 1st year teacher they will be making a similar salary. How did that happen?   So, we need to adjust this to be reflective of experience in the profession. This can be a one-time adjustment. If we do this, we will be able to attract the highest quality teachers. I do have a strategic plan on how we can make this happen along with other budgetary issues that have appeared in the board documents.   

On the fast growth of the county:

In the county, growth is occurring rapidly. Many schools are overcrowded. How do you plan to address overcrowding in schools? 

This is a policy that needs to be reviewed by the board and changed.  I have had many discussions about this with colleagues across this state and we seem to be the only counting facing these issues because of poor planning. It really is common sense when you know 5 new developments are coming yet you build for one. 

Residents with students who live in fast-growing areas often face the challenge of their students being rezoned to new schools. What are your thoughts on regular rezoning and what do you propose to mitigate the effects rezoning has on families?  

I think that areas of high growth, board members of those district need to be present and available to the communities that it will be impacting.  If you are transparent with families, they will understand the need. 

 In fast-growing areas, many residents consider growth to be outpacing schools, as schools aren’t built until after another is filled past capacity. Do you think it is necessary for a school to be filled past capacity before it is built? Why or why not? If not, what solutions do you propose?  

No, one of the major issues that the district has faced is the lack of space.  The district outsources rental spaces because they simply do not have rooms to train teachers, staff, or other employees.  How much money are we spending that could be used elsewhere, if we simply had space.  How much are we spending on the portables that often appear days after new schools are build?  I believe that fiscal spending needs to be address and we need to be more proactive on how we build schools in areas that are growing rapidly.

 On Maxey Elementary:

Do you believe that Maxey should be relocated? Why or why not? What magnet program do you hope to see come to Maxey? Why?

I will need to further investigate this question before answering.  I want to know the concerns of families in the area as well as the needs of the community in terms of programs needed in the area.

Personal questions:

What qualities or skills do you bring to the position?   

I have experience serving schools in the State of Florida for the last 16 years.  For the last 3 years I was the AVID District Coordinator (instructional Coach) but now I am a school counselor at local high school. I am also an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Phoenix here on the Central Florida campus. 

Why are you the best candidate? 

As a educator and an Industrial and Organizational practitioner, I will bring years of experience in understanding how organizations function successfully and how we need to improve job satisfaction within our organization. I also bring my experience on how we can transition our organizations through change and innovation.  With years of  leadership experience, I have been to able to manage change and able to  see around, beneath and beyond the obvious in order to anticipate the unexpected. We need leaders that will be the voice of our communities.  We need leaders who will put our families first! I bring my leadership to this seat but most importantly, I am bringing my heart to our community. 

Personal information: Age, city of residence, family, education, experience and endorsements? 

Age: 41

City of Residence: Winter Garden

Education: Bachelor's of Science (Psychology), Master's in Counseling Psychology (Mental Health and School Counseling), Master's in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and PhD Candidate in I/O Psychology.  (As you can see, I believe that education is key to our own success!)

Endorsements: Families within our communities! 

 

Matthew Fitzpatrick

On standardized testing and Common Core: 

What are your thoughts on students and teachers being assessed by a standardized test at the end of the year? Do you have any ideas on alternative forms of assessment? 

I don’t agree with teachers or students being assessed on one day, by one test. High-stakes testing and teaching is a misguided approach to education. We have allowed the education process to be turned into a very stressful experience that is no longer fueled by a love of learning. The best of students can grind through and survive, but the strugglers are kicked to the curb when their weaknesses become the sole focus of their education, and they end up leaving our schools no closer to discovering, developing, and moving in the direction of their dreams. We must remember the true purpose of school…helping students reach their dreams. 

The teachers that take on the toughest assignments will never have the data to compare with teachers working with Honors, AP and IB students. This is true for teachers that work at less-affluent schools, and also teachers that work with ESE students. Under the current conditions of education in Florida, teachers are removing ESE from their teaching credential in order to prevent school leaders from assigning them to positions where they feel they will not receive the support needed to succeed. Using student data to assess teachers, beyond being harmful to teachers, also hurts the students that need the most help.

I don’t agree with high-stakes tests. They simply do not work for many students. I’ve read that a student’s GPA is a far better determinant of future success than a student’s test scores because the GPA reveals how hard a child is willing to work day in and day out. Please allow me to share a story that illustrates this fact.

I know of one particular student that struggled on the Reading portion of the FCAT during her sophomore year of high school--she missed the passing score by two points. She was enrolled in intensive reading for her 11th grade year. Just being in the class made her feel stupid. When testing time arrived during her junior year, disaster struck once again—she missed a passing score by just two points. She was obviously devastated. She was enrolled in intensive reading, once again, during her senior year. As she describes the class, she was the only student in the class that really wanted to succeed. The teacher picked up on the fact that she was different, that she really wanted to learn, and he took her aside and made sure she had everything she needed, and that the class environment wouldn't keep her from getting as much help as she could get in order to pass the test. Well, at the end of the year, she passed the reading test by 10 points. She now qualified to graduate high school. Things didn't work out so well for the teacher that helped her. Her reading teacher was let go at the end of the year because the other students, the ones that didn't really want to be in the class, well, they didn't make enough progress.

The story doesn't end there, though. The student went on to Lake Tech to be part of their massage therapy program. Massage therapy was something she was really interested in. The student excelled in the program, and she didn't have any trouble reading the textbooks for the class--and these were detailed, college level textbooks. It's amazing how a student's ability to read is directly related to whether or not they are passionate about what they are reading. If a student is reading about their passion, not only are they moving in the direction of the dreams and gaining valuable knowledge related to the vision they have for their future, but they are also, naturally, becoming a better reader. We have to find ways to mix in passion with our approach to educating our children. 

But wait, there's more...the story doesn't end there. Through the success she experienced in the Massage Therapy class, the student regained the academic confidence she had lost during her years of Intensive Reading, and she decided to continue to pursue her education at the University of Central Florida, where she just graduated in August 2016 with her Bachelor's Degree. Passion and confidence can make all the difference in the world when it comes a student reaching their dreams. 

There are alternative forms of assessment that can be used to evaluate the teaching and learning process. Students can be assessed by portfolios of learning, project-based learning, unit-tests that are developed by teacher teams at their school, or oral assessments with the teacher where the teacher and student discuss different topics and the student is given the opportunity to show mastery of the subject matter. No two students are alike, so evaluating students in one manner only benefits the students that are geared and designed for that particular method. We must broaden our perspective on intelligence and mastery. 

Alternative Teacher Assessment Ideas

1. Student Evaluations. The students are the ultimate customers. Have students fill out an evaluation at the end of every quarter about the product they are receiving. This would provide valuable feedback for the teacher, and it would also give administrators a view from ground zero. Administrators can spend more times in the classrooms where the customers aren’t satisfied. Students already provide evaluations for teachers at the college level on the website Rate My Teacher. After one year in college, my daughter made the comment that the ratings and comments that students made about the teachers she has had seemed right on. Students who make vindictive comments against a teacher can easily be discovered by the fact that their ratings are out of line with the vast majority of the class. In such a case, the computer will downgrade the weight of such a student if they are continually out of step with the majority of the students who are in a class. This obviously wouldn’t be as appropriate for elementary students.

2. Parent Evaluations. This would also work much like the student evaluations. Parents can speak to items and issues that they have encountered, both good and bad. Some parents are obviously biased, and may even be slightly crazy, and those kinds of things will come out in the wash. Ultimately, the parent is a customer, and their perspective should be considered. If a significant percentage of the parents of the students in a particular classroom make mention of similar problems, these are things to address and work to improve. 

3. Peer Teacher Evaluations. This idea would include the opportunity for teachers to observe and evaluate each other. Experienced teachers can give spot-on evaluations of beginning teachers—including helpful hints for problems and challenges they observe. Beginning teachers should be able to return the favor and evaluate experienced teachers—hopefully, what they observe will be good, and also beneficial for their own teaching. Observations and assessments are meant to both evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher’s instruction, and also to help a teacher improve. I can think of no better way than to tap into the expertise of an experienced teacher. This type of evaluation also lends itself to the opportunity of a teacher giving credit to another teacher for all that they add to a particular department in terms of resources, collaboration, encouragement, knowledge and mentoring. These factors should come into play when we talk about assessing a teacher and determining their right to performance pay.

4. Cameras in Every Classroom. Put a camera in every classroom and make the video feed available to both the parents of the students, and also to the administrators at the school. Obviously, this would be the best way to evaluate what is actually happening in the classroom, but it is also an invasive method that would scare off most teachers, so don’t expect teachers to work for the same pay if this method of assessment were implemented. Some schools already have this feature, and the reasoning is, “If something is going on in that classroom that shouldn’t be going on, then everyone needs to know about it, and something needs to be done…now!” My guess is that this will happen across the board at every school in the future for liability reasons. What I would like to see, in the meantime, is for performance pay to be tied to adding a camera to a willing teacher’s classroom, and if what the teacher is selling is worth it’s weight in gold, then the teacher should be paid accordingly. The videos can then be used for professional development for both beginning and also “not-so-great teachers”—there’s nothing like professional development that is tied directly to what you are doing every day. The best professional development that a teacher can engage in isn’t found in a book or at a conference, it is probably down the hall in the classroom of a dynamic teacher. As a profession, the education field has not properly valued or tapped into the best in our business.

5. Trust Administrators. Trust administrators to evaluate teachers. In the perfect world, administrators would care about their school—their kids, their teachers, their parents, and their school community—and they would want the very best for them. I’ve been told that at one of the most expensive private schools in the area, evaluations and assessments aren’t even required. If you aren’t getting the job done, you get called to the administrator’s office and you are told, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.” End of story. If you were a great teacher getting the job done, the students and parents would complain, and the administrator would be called to the office and questioned.  If it was found that he got rid of a teacher for reasons that were unacceptable, such as personal grudges and the like, he would hear the all too popular line, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.”

6. Administrators as Teachers. Every administrator should teach at least one class. You cannot be an instructional leader if you cannot teach. Teachers find it simply amazing that administrators that weren’t very good as teachers are holding positions of evaluating them—this is probably why it is best for an aspiring administrator to become an assistant principal at a school other than where they recently held a teaching position. The best teachers at every school will always feel this way, and rightfully so. But it should be remembered that even the best of athletes still need to be coached, just don’t “overcoach” them. Administrators could gain immense power on a campus if they could say, “Come watch what I am doing.” Department Chairpersons have traditionally been the instructional leaders on campus because of this very fact. If administrators had this kind of daily experience—teaching their own class—they would be far less likely to hold feet to a fire that isn’t cooking up the desired results that the school is shooting for. Administrators would focus on what truly makes a difference, and they would know what makes a difference because they would still be on the front lines putting strategies into practice. Teachers will listen to an administrator that knows what they are talking about, as demonstrated in their own classroom. The teaching profession was never meant to be a profession of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Another added benefit to this plan of action is the development of a system for administrative evaluation—if an administrator can’t teach or manage their classroom, they would be called to the office and told, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.” I know some would say there simply isn’t enough time for this type of arrangement. Well, I would have to respond that the Marzano Observation System is supposed to take up more than 50% of an administrator’s daily allotted time on the clock—many would argue that there isn’t enough time for the Marzano system either.

7. Class Registration Numbers. Guidance Counselors have always known the names of the best teachers on campus—a simple scan of the teachers that every student on campus wants as their teacher will tell you who is getting the job done. There must be a performance pay system that could take this data into account. If there was ever an issue that needed a data-driven decision, it would be the issue of deciding how to best take care of these highly sought after teachers. The fact of the matter is this, these teachers are what make a school great, and they should be recognized in some monetary fashion. On the other hand, if students don’t want to sign up for a teacher’s class, there’s obviously a problem that may need extra administrative attention. Once again, administrators already know who the great teachers are on campus, and they also know who the “less-than-great” teachers are—it doesn’t take a multi-million dollar system to reveal something everyone already knows. The question is providing data and documentation—class registration numbers can certainly help in those areas

8. AP Testing Assessment. Another way to assess teachers is to have an end-of-the-year test and pay teachers a certain amount for every student that passes the test. Teachers receive $50 per student that passes their AP test currently, up to $2000, or something like that. This type of arrangement creates a partnership between the teacher and their students—they are both on the same team, seeking the same goal. AP teachers put in a lot of extra time getting their students ready for their subject area AP tests. One of the best AP US History teachers I’ve ever supervised would willingly give up his lunch time and planning period in order to accommodate students who wanted to watch subject area videos in his classroom—these videos would help build up his students’ background knowledge of the subject area, and I’m sure it also added to the team mentality—they were all in it together. I love Stand and Deliver, a movie based on a true story about a high school teacher, Jaime Escalante, and his work to help his students of Eastern Los Angeles succeed in school by challenging them to excel in mathematics. He had a goal of his students taking AP Calculus by their senior year of high school. He had his students taking summer classes and Saturday help sessions in order to prepare for the exam. Ideally, the team spirit that is created in an AP environment should be what occurs in all of the classrooms of a school. Obviously, not every student comes to the table of education ready to eat, so there would definitely have to be a way to adjust any kind of assessment and performance pay done in this fashion. Maybe the current system of End of Course exams will morph into something like this—this remains to be seen. I don’t like using tests in this manner, but, to be honest, this system is what we are currently using with every student; we just aren’t paying the standard classroom teachers the bonuses we are paying the AP teachers. Why aren’t we? I believe achieving success with these lower level students is just as impressive as a teacher who works with AP students.

9. FPMS and Professional Growth Plans. Many teachers would refer to this alternative system as the “Good Old Days”. The Florida Performance Measurement System consisted of two columns—one for the positive actions of the teacher, and the other for the negative actions of the teachers. Administrators were tasked with the job of keeping track of each instance of various behaviors such as beginning instruction promptly, handling material in an orderly manner, orienting students to classwork, maintaining academic focus, giving instructions and conducting a review. Some of the negative behaviors were delaying the start of instruction, allowing talking unrelated to the subject, allowing students to call out answers, posing multiple questions, posing non-academic questions, posing procedural questions and ignoring students or responding with sarcasm, disgust, or harshness. Some of my favorites included "uses loud, grating high pitched, monotone, or inaudible talk"; "frowns, deadpan or lethargic"; and "extends discourse and uses general nonspecific praise". I must admit that using that particular system was a pain for me. I had to add so many comments at the bottom of the assessment just to make the observation meaningful. The FPMS system was used for all teachers that had not yet received tenure. Tenured teachers had the choice between doing a Professional Growth Plan or using the FPMS system. Most experienced teachers used the Professional Growth Plan for their assessment, which meant they did not receive a formal observation during the school year. The Professional Growth Plan would typically include something the teacher would focus on in order to improve their instruction or reach a specific goal. The teacher would develop an action plan of what they were going to do in order to reach their goal or grow in a certain area—such as being a part of a book study, attend a conference, take a college course, or become part of a group of teachers implementing a new strategy together. Teachers gravitated to the opportunity to grow without being formally observed. The system was great for great, conscientious teachers, but it did little to motivate the “less-than-great” teachers to improve. This system was also great for the lazy administrator that wanted to simply call in their teachers at the end of the year and have them sign on the dotted line. And so we find ourselves where we are today, with a multi-tiered system of teacher accountability designed to smoke-out both the weakest and best teachers among us. 

10.     Scour the Nation – I believe that the School Board, along with the School District, should be scouring the nation to find a teacher evaluation system that has found the favor of both a School District and its classroom teachers.  The teacher evaluation system we are currently using is not working…it is driving great teachers away from public education. When teachers are willing to take a $10,000 pay cut in order to work at a private or charter school, a serious problem exists. School Board members should be very concerned with our current system. 

What is your opinion on Common Core? What do you believe is an advantage of Common Core? What is a disadvantage? 

I believe in having standards, I just don’t believe we need this endless search for the secret super standards that will magically transform all of our efforts into success. Honestly, we have been on a wild goose chase for better standards for at least the last 17 years. It seems we are always just missing it. Now we need more critical thinking. Or maybe we need to work on rigor. Or maybe we need to focus on the “trajectory of the rigor”. In recent days, we’ve changed the standards so often that many teachers probably can’t even keep track of what the latest upgrade is…it has become much like updating your phone to the latest software improvements. I like the emphasis on critical thinking and productive struggle in Common Core, but I think great teachers were already hitting those standards under the many previous standards our state has used. 

Common Core? The Downside…

I vehemently oppose Common Core because of the inherent destructive nature of a test-driven education. The Common Core philosophy has flopped in China where they had a national curriculum, national common assessments, extreme high-stakes testing, and national control over what is taught on the secular and spiritual level. Their system may have won the testing game on the international level in 2010, but it utterly flopped in the human resource department. Their test-centered approach to education systematically killed the creativity and innovation of their own people. China was forced to admit this because their country of 1.3 billion people, all educated in the same way, quite obviously was not producing proportional numbers of creative types like the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs...one of the main employers of the top test-takers in China. The Chinese were puzzled by the fact that the United States, a country that has historically not done very well on comparative, international tests, yet the United States leads the world, by a long shot, in the areas of patents, business enterprises, technological advances, military weaponry, entrepreneurs, GDP, etc. The creativity gap isn't even close. Those who find themselves tingly over the concepts of Common Core seem to be content and intent to learn nothing from the Chinese experience. I find this to be shocking when educated-types take such a blind stance toward extremely relevant facts...it completely undermines their credibility. For further study on my perspective, please look at the work of Yong Zhao, author of World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. 

How does Common Core kill creativity? 

Those involved in any way in education within the last 10 years saw the destructive forces of high-stakes testing as it naturally tried to impose it's will upon the education world in the form of dropped electives in order to accommodate extra classes designed for test prep. Those in power felt the backlash. When test scores become the primary focus, it is natural to think that everything else needs to be dropped. That's what China did. They got rid of recess and play, extracurricular activities were discouraged in order for students to study after school, and intellectual freedom and dissent were forbidden--both by teachers and students. In fact, the dissenters were removed from society--there went a great majority of their creative, innovative, divergent entrepreneurs of their future. (We follow this same pattern when we don't create ways for students to pursue Career Technical Education opportunities at their own local high schools. At one of the most important times in their lives, we lose the divergent types who aren't interested in college.) The very things the Chinese educational experts thought were unimportant in terms of producing high test scores, turned out to actually be the cornerstones of creativity. If leaders cannot understand how Common Core Kills Creativity, they either are not paying attention, or worse, they have a hidden agenda. I hope they aren't paying attention...I can fix that. 

Confirmed on the Campaign Trail...

While out campaigning, talking, and begging for petition signatures, I came across a couple that was very interested in education. They would not "just sign" my petition form, they wanted to know what I stood for, and why. While the 30 minutes I spend with these kinds of voters may seem like time wasted when I could have gotten 30 signatures from low-information, compliant voters, I enjoy talking to people about education, so I always leap at the opportunity to launch into a stump speech. I mentioned to this couple that one of the things I opposed was high-stakes testing for the purpose of comparative data. I explained the Chinese dilemma with testing and the resulting lack of creativity across the board within their country. I explained how China was looking to us on how to create innovators, yet the United States was looking to China on how to become better test takers. At this point in my stump speech, one of them stopped me and said she would sign my petition. She explained that they were both engineers in a very large firm, and they hire many Asians in their company. They are all very skilled at the technical side of the work, but they cannot think outside of the box...they are not very strong in the areas of creativity and innovation. Now, mind you, these aren't my words...these are words from the unsuspecting, voting public. I may have only garnered two signatures during that 30-minute time slot, but those two signatures meant oh so very much to me...my content was confirmed on the campaign trail.

In conclusion, I believe in teachers having standards to follow...especially standards that include elements of critical thinking. I don’t believe in common standards set by the national government, or philanthropists, or a proxy national groups like the National Governors' Association. I also don't believe in standards monitored by high-stakes testing. What kind of testing do I believe in? I believe in diagnostic testing designed to find out what students need help, and what do these students need help with. I find little use for comparative data, unless, of course, you want to compare what really matters—the end results of education--jobs, patents, standard of living, compassionate giving, healthcare innovations and discoveries, business enterprises, military strength, freedom, and all other sorts of analytics that are relevant to a strong, healthy society.

NAEP and Common Core

One last thing about Common Core…A new study seems to be showing that the non-adoption states are showing larger NAEP gains than the Common Core adoption states. Here’s a quote from an article on the topic: 

"But between 2013 and 2015, students in non-adoption states made larger NAEP gains than those in Common Core states, leading some to question if the largest impact of the new learning standards has already occurred."

NAEP stands for National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is an assessment that was congressionally mandated in 1969, specifically designed to assess what “students know and can do in various subjects”. 

Here’s the article…it provides a balanced evaluation of the results of Common Core from a test results perspective, but it does not address my concerns about the loss of creativity and other important healthy developmental traits that students need to acquire.

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/five-years-results-paint-complex-picture-common-core 

On technology in classrooms: 

This year, technology is being implemented more into the student’s curriculum, with more devices such as laptops and tablets coming into the classroom. What are your thoughts on technology? How do you think it will affect student learning? Is there any other technology you would like to see in the classroom?

As a former Computer Applications and TV Production teacher, I believe in and use technology. Students love using technology, so I think we need to use technology whenever appropriate. Students should not have to power down when they come to school. I don’t believe technology will ever be able to replace a great teacher, but I do believe it can serve as an enhancement to the learning process…especially things like Khan Academy and Flipped classrooms. I also like the use of clickers to assess student learning and to keep students actively engaged. I would love to see history students creating documentaries using the latest video editing software. I think teachers would benefit from having video-editing software in their classrooms for students to create video projects designed to demonstrate mastery. Students love to express what they know in a creative manner. As a former TV Production teacher, I’ll lead this charge. I think Edmodo is a great application for communication between teachers and students. I also like Google Drive…I think it is a great way for students and teachers to share work back and forth, and for teachers to collaborate with other teachers. I think Skype and Google Hangout have great potential to connect classrooms with the outside world. 

Do you think greater use of technology potentially could have a harmful effect on learning? Why or why not? 

Too much screen time can certainly become a problem. Students can also become distracted when they are using electronic devices and cascading between various applications. There are studies that show test scores have gone down when students use technology. We need to keep an eye on this dynamic to make sure it doesn’t happen to our students. I think great teachers can make any learning environment work. Technology is a tool to enhance learning. The goal is student learning and mastery of the material, not using technology for technology sake. Technology does seem to be the language that students are using to interact with each other more and more, so the challenge is to find ways to engage students by using their chosen medium. It’s a paradigm shift for learning…great teachers are needed to navigate these new, uncharted territories of learning.

On teachers:

Why do you think Orange County has a teacher shortage? What do you propose to correct this? 

Orange County is experiencing teacher shortages for many reasons, but I believe the greatest reason is because of the demoralizing Marzano Teacher Evaluation system that we are using to assess our teachers. Mention the name Marzano to any teacher you know and watch their reaction. This evaluation system is driving great teachers to early retirement. Many new teachers just walk of the job because of what teaching has become is not what they signed up for. New, young teachers are going back to grad school to find a career where they feel properly respected, appreciated, and compensated. We are losing a generation of teachers, right now, and I believe it is because of the Marzano system. Also, college students are not going into the education field—down from 11% to 4% of college students going into education. Students want to make more money, be respected, and have a secure career. The only teachers that are staying are those that have to stay due to the fact that they don’t want to lose their retirement. Many of these teachers are looking to get out of the classroom in whatever way possible. It is a terrible climate for people to work in. When school administrators and teachers tell their own children to go into any profession other than education, we have a supreme mess on our hands. We are heading for a teacher-talent cliff if we don’t make changes to the way we are treating our teachers.

In order to fix this problem, we need to replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System with an evaluation system that both district and teachers approve of. Our School Board and District management should be scouring the nation to find the right evaluation system. I believe we need to severely limit the criteria that we use to evaluate teachers—keep it as simple as possible. We have made teaching and learning so complicated. Set teachers free to express their passion for teaching and making a difference in their students’ lives. 

In this growing county, there are often labor shortages, which include teaching, faculty and other staff positions. How do you propose OCPS should attract the most qualified teachers?

We need to create an environment that is “people-friendly”. We need to appreciate people. We need to fix our evaluation system. We need to major in the majors, and minor in the minors. We need to get everyone moving in a positive direction that builds on itself, to the point that those working in OCPS begin to become the greatest fans of OCPS…they will spread the word and reverse the trend of teachers leaving. We need to stop pressuring administrators to keep teacher evaluation scores lower—this not only damages teachers, but we will also lose great administrators who resent such mandates from above. We need to support our teachers with the resources that they need to succeed. We need to keep the cash in the classroom. We need to use and compensate our best teachers to train up the new teachers—the best professional development we will find is in the classroom of a great teachers. We need to identify these teachers, and then compensate them for their contribution of making all teachers at their schools successful. We need these great teachers to continue teaching rather than leave the classroom to become instructional coaches, because the best coaches are the ones who can say, “Come by my room and watch how I use this strategy with my real students.” Teachers don’t want to simply be told what to do; they want to see the advice, instruction and strategies in action. The problem is, currently, so many great teachers want to leave the classroom because of what the Marzano system has done to the teaching and learning process. 

On the fast growth of the county:

In the county, growth is occurring rapidly. Many schools are overcrowded. How do you plan to address overcrowding in schools? 

We need to build schools according to the best growth projections available. Overcrowded schools have an impact on the overall school experience of the students that attend such schools. It is very difficult for students to make an athletic team when there are over 100 students interested in the 15 spots on a basketball team. This scenario plays out in every extracurricular team and club. Studies show that the more a student is involved in extracurricular activities, the better they attend and achieve at school. Too many students translates into fewer chances for students to participate and be involved at their school.

I like the way Lake Nona High School and Lake Nona Middle School shared a campus for a time while both campuses grew—they built the high school earlier than needed, and obviously bigger than needed, at first. They shared facilities, faculties, and administrators. They were under capacity for a while, but they have grown into their own separate campuses. I think this approach is a better way to handle growth. 

Residents with students who live in fast-growing areas often face the challenge of their students being rezoned to new schools. What are your thoughts on regular rezoning and what do you propose to mitigate the effects rezoning has on families? 

That is a very difficult problem to solve. I’ve seen schools where students were rezoned 3 times. We need to limit this type of situation. Building new schools is a good problem to have, thanks to the Orange County taxpayers, but we have to make sure we are properly planning to minimize the effects of excessive mobility from school to school without a student actually changing their residence. I think if we can build great schools composed of great faculties and facilities, and we restore the confidence of the public in public education, students and parents will be more prone to understand the tough decisions that the School Board and the School District have to make. These decisions must be reached with community input and constant communication. The earlier parents know about upcoming changes, the better—it gives them a chance to make any changes that they deem necessary.

In fast-growing areas, many residents consider growth to be outpacing schools, as schools aren’t built until after another is filled past capacity. Do you think it is necessary for a school to be filled past capacity before it is built? Why or why not? If not, what solutions do you propose? 

I think schools should be built long before capacity becomes an issue. Again, I like the approach that was used at Lake Nona HS and MS, where they shared a campus while they grew in numbers. I think we need the best minds working on many different available options to address growth. 

On Maxey Elementary:

Do you believe that Maxey should be relocated? Why or why not?

I like schools to be near the students they serve—the home school approach where parents are more likely to be involved. I know that there are many different reasons to move schools—make room for other municipal projects, integration, build bigger facilities, etc. In situations like this, I think it is best to look for the win-win as much as possible. I think we need to ask what is best for the students. We also need to listen to the stakeholders and be sensitive to their concerns. In the end, in my heart of hearts, I believe in community schools that are near the students they serve. 

What magnet program do you hope to see come to Maxey? Why?

1. Debate - I would like to see a state of the art school for Maxey Elementary School. I would like to see a strong elementary school debate program that would teach students to argue their ideas in a civil manner. A debate program at this early of an age would also teach the students valuable critical thinking skills, research skills, listening skills, and organization skills. When students succeed in debate, it helps them in all of their other classes, and it sets them up to be recruited by the most prestigious universities and colleges in the land. 

2. Maker Movement - I would also like to see Maxey Elementary School develop a strong Maker Movement program to help students develop critical thinking and creativity in a fun way.

3. Digital Media - I would also like to see Maxey develop a digital media program that would offer various opportunities for students to learn the skills involved in making professional video and audio recordings using the latest technology. 

4. Young Biographers - I think we need to have a young biographers program that encourages students to acquire a love for reading and writing. Students need to gain words in order to reach their dreams. Reading biographies can also expose students to the great potential that their own lives hold. We have to go beyond simply teaching students how to read, we must teach them to love to read. We need a state of the art Media center that has creative reading areas. 

I believe reading is key to lifelong learning. Students who have access to great books, learn to love to read. With strong encouragement for reading, students will improve their background knowledge, their vocabulary, their spelling, their writing skills, their confidence, their ability to learn in all of their classes, and an expanded vision of what they can become one day. I firmly believe that a love for reading can eliminate any achievement gaps that exist. I would love to see the story of famous neurosurgeon Ben Carson also become a reality for many of the students at Maxey ES. 

Ben was being raised by a single mother and was called “dummy” by his classmates where he was the only African American in the class. Ben was always out first in the Spelling Bees, and when the teacher read off everybody’s test scores, Ben’s was always the lowest, to the relief of the other students. Ben’s mom prayed for an idea to help her make education important to her two boys. Ben’s mom got the idea to require her two boys to do two library book reports a week. Ben didn’t like the reading at first, but after a while, he started to like it. Ben was reading about all kinds of different people who did great things. Ben began to believe that he could do something great with his life. Ben’s mom couldn’t read or write, but she used highlighters to mark up her boys’ book reports, and they never figured out her secret. When Ben was in the 7th grade, everyone came to Ben when they had a question—Ben knew things about everything. Ben had become the smartest student in the class in just four years. Ben went on to become the first neurosurgeon to separate two individuals joined at the head. Ben has written several books and was a recent candidate for President. I believe Ben’s success started with reading, which started with an illiterate parent who was working 2-3 jobs that prayed for help in order to make education important to her children. If she can do it, any parent can do it. I believe we need to reach out and encourage all of our parents to expend the same energy and effort toward their students to support the growth and development that is being nurtured at school. Reaching out to parents starts with teachers who build positive relationships with the parents of their students…relationships where all involved know that they are all on the same team with important roles to play.

5. Young Entrepreneurs - One last program would be a young entrepreneurs program that would teach students how to start and run a business from the idea level forward. Students have so much creativity when they are young. I think we need to tap into that creativity and help them reach their dreams by giving them the skills and knowhow to make them a reality.

Personal questions:

What qualities or skills do you bring to the position?   

I love to work with people and help them find success. I went into teaching because I wanted to help students during the formative years of their lives. I went into administration because I enjoyed helping teachers with technology, and I figured I would enjoy helping them in other areas related to teaching, all in the hope of helping even more students succeed. I want to become part of the School Board in order to help even more students by helping every school succeed.

I like to read and write. I like to find the win-win when presented with problems or challenges. I like to create positive learning environments that make students and teachers what to come to school every day. I like to listen to people and get their ideas on different situations. I care about people…I believe we are all the same, and we can accomplish anything we set our mind to if we work together.

Why are you the best candidate? 

I believe I would be a great candidate for this position because my career has prepared me for many of the challenges that schools face. I have experience working in a private school, middle school, a few high schools, at the district office over athletics, and now in career technical education at Orange Technical College. When I worked at the district office over athletics and extracurricular activities, I worked with every floor of the District office from the 1st floor to the 9th floor. I am very familiar with how the district works behind the scenes. I’ve also worked at three different high schools in our district—Apopka HS, Boone HS, and Ocoee HS. I’ve worked with affluent schools, and title 1 schools. 

More importantly than all of my experiences, I care about people. I care about students and teachers. I believe the person who cares the most about people should be the one in charge of people. I’ve got a solid track record of caring about the people that I have worked with over the years. I believe in servant leadership. I believe I have been prepared for such a time as this…and such a task as this.

Personal information: Age, city of residence, family, education, experience and endorsements? 

48 years old

Apopka

Wife Sandy of 24 years…and 3 kids…

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science Education from UCF

Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University

23 years in education…12 as a teacher, 11 as an administrator. 3 years as an AP at Apopka HS, 3 years as an AP at Boon HS, 2 years as the District Athletic Director, one years as an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College at the Westside Campus in Winter Garden.

Endorsements

Dr. Mike Armbruster – Former Principal of West Orange HS and Ocoee HS

Dr. John Edwards – Former Principal and OCPS Area Superintendent

 

 

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