Candidate Questions posed by Quality Bainbridge
1. What should the School Board do in the next four years to respond to budgetary challenges?
I believe the best way to approach our budget challenge is to make sure we are prioritizing our spending in alignment with the district’s Mission and Vision, the District Improvement Plan and School Improvement Plans. I think the most effective way to accomplish this is through our District Budget Advisory Committee (DBAC). The committee is made up of key stakeholders: district administrators, building administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, community members, and two board members. DBAC strategically looks at the budget in a thoughtful and comprehensive way to find areas to decrease spending.
Another strategy is to look at reducing overhead costs. This spring the board charged a committee to look at the possibility of relocating the programs (Odyssey 1-6, Odyssey 7-8, Eagle Harbor High School and Mosiac Home School Partnership) located in the Commodore School. Closing the Commodore building would save the district the operational costs of one school while providing the opportunity to grow these valuable programs. However, it is imperative that we understand all the impacts this might have on every program and every school before any decisions are made.
I also want to recognize the Bainbridge Schools Foundation and each school’s PTO for the incredible work they do at raising money for our schools to enrich students’ educational experiences and to inspire every student. Also, thank you to the voters who approved the EP & O levy last November. These revenue streams make a difference in the quality of education available to our students.
2. What are the biggest operational challenges facing the School District in the coming years?
There are many operational challenges for the district, such as retaining great teachers, maximizing operational efficiencies in the face of declining enrollment, managing our changing (and still unknown) funding from the State. When considering these operational challenges, it is important the public understands the difference between the general fund and the capital fund.
An area of concern is a significant decrease in the number of teachers applying for open positions. I believe we are seeing the beginning of a teacher shortage that makes recruiting and retaining excellent teachers critical. With the help of the Bainbridge Schools Foundation, several programs have been implemented to address this issue, including a mentorship program for new teachers and a program for teachers to complete their National Board Certification.
Another operational challenge is our shrinking elementary schools. Next year we are projected to have around 300 seniors and only 200 kindergartners. The State funds our district based on student enrollment, so our declining student enrollment and projected flat enrollment will continue to impact our budget and decrease our ability to maximize our operational efficiencies.
In addition to this, the proposed State budget changes the way schools are funded. Our Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the State is not adequately funding education. I am concerned that the State is taking money from local levy income and shifting it to funding basic education to make it appear that they are providing schools with more money. Because we are not sure how this will play out, I am concerned that there is a possibility with this new funding model that Bainbridge School District could end up receiving less money from the State than it does now.
Because voter-approved bonds to support capital funds cannot be used to pay for day-to-day operational expenses, the financial challenges we are facing with Blakely and the Bainbridge High School 100 Building will not have a significant impact on our the general fund. However, I believe we should strive to make long term decisions in building our facilities that will help off set general fund expenditures over time.
3. What is the proper role of the School Board in relation to the teaching staff and the school administrators? How much managerial authority should the School Board exercise in connection with the day-to-day operations of the schools?
It is not the job of the school board to oversee teaching staff or school administrators. The school board hires the superintendent to run the day-to-day operations of the district. It is the superintendent’s responsibility to hire highly qualified school administrators who in turn hire outstanding staff. The board guides expectations by approving the district’s Mission and Vision as well as the District Improvement Plan and the School Improvement Plans.
4. What criteria should be used in deciding what new programs should be added or making other curriculum changes? What, if any, curriculum changes should the School Board review?
I support the district’s Procedures for Proposing and Approving Pilot Projects/Programs to evaluate if a new program should be added. The new program would fall into one of three categories: Small Scale, Medium Sale or Large Scale. Each category outlines the stakeholders that must be consulted before it is brought before the board. I like this because not only does it make sure that new programs integrate with School Improvement Plans and are aligned with the districts’ mission and vision, but all relevant impacted stakeholders can review the plan and provide input as well as consider the financial implications of the program before the board makes the final decision. A similar structure is used for adding new courses.
The district also has a comprehensive curriculum review process. There is a curriculum review committee made up of administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, community members, and two board members. Curriculum falls into six different categories that require different levels of approval. Currently the board approves all core instructional materials and controversial materials, which I think is appropriate. In our increasingly technological society, the Curriculum Committee and the board has been struggling with the approval process for core materials that are online. Since materials/content can change with no notification to the district, making sure that what students are viewing and using approved instructional materials is much more complex.
All this information can be found under the Instruction tab on the BISD website in the Innovations: Designing and Implementing Pilot Projects and Curriculum Adoption Process, New Course Proposals and Database links.
5. Do you approve of judging and rewarding teachers based on their students’ performance on core curriculum tests? Do you support the current high school graduation testing system? If not, what changes would you recommend?
No, I do not support judging or rewarding teachers based on students’ performance on core curriculum tests. I believe there are more effective ways to improve teaching. Superintendent, Peter Bang-Knudsen, is a strong instructional leader, and I believe our school administrators key educational leaders in working collaboratively with educators to improve teaching. In the past four years, a more rigorous process for teacher evaluations has been implemented. The goal is to help all teachers improve their teaching. Also, there are instructional coaches as well as different specialists available to support all staff.
To graduate in Washington State, a student needs to have 24 credits in designated coursework; pass Smarter Balanced Assessment in English/Language Arts and Math, and a Biology End of Course exam; and complete a High School and Beyond Plan. I think the 24-credit requirement for students to graduate is a strong way to help students be well educated and offer them the flexibility to focus on classes that are relevant to their future plans. The hard part for Bainbridge students is that our high schools only offer six credits per year, which means that there is no room to fail a class or take an open period. The cost to add a 7th period is significant. I think the Washington State tests required for graduation are a mixed bag. While it is helpful to be able to compare how Bainbridge Island students are performing compared to other districts in the State, I do not think it is the best method to prepare students for their future.
6. How would you reconcile or balance the needs of aging school buildings with the reality of fluctuating enrollments and revenues?
It is imperative that any new buildings be designed for maximum flexibility and longevity. We are striving to build 50-75 year buildings. I believe our buildings are a legacy we leave our community. Not only should a building be beautiful, it should meet the educational needs of the students as well as serve community needs. We don’t know what education will look like in the future and to build a building that is not adaptable to support future educational needs is shortsighted.
7. What is your approach to alternative educational pathways in our School District?
Having alternative educational pathways for students is critical to helping all students thrive. Our job is to educate all 3,700 students attending our schools. I think alternative educational pathways include Special Education, Highly Capable Education, Home School Partnerships and Options Programs. It is important that any alternative pathway is fiscally sustainable and there is an equitable distribution of resources for all students.