Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County School Board District 7 candidate Eric Schwalbach.
Why do you want you to represent District 7 on the OCPS school board?
TO KEEP POLITICIANS AWAY FROM OUR CHILDREN. I started teaching in 1996 with year-round schools and chalkboards. I have taught at elementary and middle schools in both Ocoee and Winter Garden while coaching sports at West Orange and Ocoee High Schools. I have worked with all socioeconomic income levels and taught our highest and lowest-performing students.
I KNOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP ALL CHILDREN LEARN!
Local and state politicians have forgotten what education is all about. Teaching to a test, and manipulating data is causing our children and families to suffer. The system is always looking for loopholes to manipulate a school grade. They put many children in classes they should not be in while keeping others out of classes they want. They kick kids out of public schools and send kids to FOR PROFIT ALS "Drop out charters," instead of vo-tech schools, because they want to promote false graduation rates and test score. Let's build healthy, productive, income-producing citizens who are lifelong learners –not students who only know how to take standardized tests.
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I have dedicated the last 22 years of my life to helping the children of our community. This lifetime of educational experiences are what prepared me for this position. Twenty years of studying what is, and is not, working in our schools gives me a distinct advantage. My son went to schools in this district, and is currently a sophomore at West Orange High School. Melissa Byrd quit teaching 15 years ago and has only substituted in the last six months at different schools so she can campaign. She holds fundraisers at construction companies that profit off of school construction and your tax dollars and her husband is a political consultant who gets paid to get people elected. I do not want this on YOUR school board. Too many potential problems.
The other two candidates would make very good school board members. Unfortunately, politics is about money and political connections not the best candidate.
What would your priorities be, if elected?
School safety is number one. Making sure we have a licensed armed professional protecting our most valuable resources is mandatory, SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING will be mandatory in my district (Getting social and emotional help for those who need it). Identifying and helping our at-risk youth is second (using high-school mentors and tutors who need Bright Future community service hours to help struggling students is an obvious solution). GIVE TEACHERS BACK THEIR PLANNING TIME AND STOP the unnecessary paperwork and mandates that are not helping our children learn. Efficient use of time and resources will be the key. Listen to teachers for their feedback!
What are three challenges district 7 schools are currently facing, and how would you address them? Shortage of classrooms (create a countywide master plan with developers, builders, and county commissioners to determine where and when to put our schools for the next 20 years. Shortage of teachers (treat them with respect and give them the resources and time they need to help our children. Pay them a living wage. Getting them more pay and helping find possible summer employment with our community partners to supplement their income. STOP TEACHING TO THE TEST (put a focus on social and emotional intelligence and creativity while promoting careers and job requirements over test scores.
What measures should the district take in its goal to retain high-quality teachers?
GIVE THEM BACK THEIR PLANNING TIME! Cut back on work that is not directly helping struggling students. Pay them a living wage!
What is your overall opinion on standardized testing, and should students’ test scores impact teacher evaluations? It can not be used to evaluate or pay teachers. This was a failed experiment based on a false narrative. MOST teachers have been getting evaluated and paid based on test scores for children and subjects they do not even teach. So they create more tests for kids to take and waste 20% of the year testing, instead of learning. I have taught math and have test scores for all of my children. I was ranked in the top 10 to 20% in the state every year, but make $6,000 less than a 22-year teacher was making in 2008. We have to listen to teachers and tell the state what they are saying to stop the teacher shortage crisis. WE ARE LOSING TEACHERS FASTER THAN WE ARE REPLACING THEM AND KIDS ARE NOT GOING INTO COLLEGE FOR EDUCATION. WHAT DO YOU THINK OUR FUTURE HOLDS?
What are your thoughts on the recent drastic cuts in legislative funding to arts education/organizations?
It is sad that our state does not fund our future properly. Education is our future. We can no longer afford to cut taxes and then fund education with what is left over. We have to FUND EDUCATION PROPERLY FIRST and then cut taxes.