Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, August 16, 2014
School board candidates respond to questionnaire

Q1) If elected, what will you do to arrest the Monroe County School District's slide from eighth to 23rd in the state as far as student performance, and the issue of C and D school ratings in Key West?

Q2) Both Plantation Key School and Gerald Adams in Key West will need to be replaced sometime in the next few years. How would you finance construction of one or more of these schools, and what, if any, lessons would you draw from the construction of HOB?

RON MARTIN

A1) Measuring students' academic needs so they can perform to the best of their abilities is a very important role for each school and for the school district. Schools and students that show a need should have the resources available to them to help overcome their specific deficiencies. The improvement strategies that should be implemented at each school are different because the cultures and needs of each school are unique. Every student who enters and graduates from the Monroe County School District needs to know that we offer programs that will help them succeed in being productive and happy citizens.

As a community, we need to discuss and agree on the best avenue to teach and evaluate our children. Hopefully, school grades would only be a small part of how we view the success or failure of each school. An inclusive study group of stakeholders needs to review the validity and number of standardized tests that are given by our state and county. It is imperative that we also address the stress that students are experiencing with the number of high-stake tests that are given.

I recognize that we need data to plan for instruction and to determine what our students need to be successful; however, we also need to look at alternative ways to assess our students and schools. This could be in the form of rubrics, project based learning or portfolios. Teachers are already using these and other assessments in their everyday classroom instruction. Creative and engaged learning should be at the heart of every school's culture. As a teacher and principal of a successful high school, I found that the best way to motivate students is to acknowledge their talents and strengths, and to provide them with the appropriate instruction and programs so that they can reach their individual goals.

A2) We will use the one-half cent sales tax, when passed, to fund the construction of Plantation Key School and Gerald Adams School. Presently, an audit on (Horace O'Bryant) is in the process. When completed, the audit will inform the changes to be made if needed. All policies and procedures should be followed in any construction project, regardless of size.

CATHERINE BOSWORTH

A1) If elected, I will work to improve student performance by ensuring that all our students have access to a quality education, which is their right. Florida Standards (our state's version of Common Core) represents a new attitude toward learning, an emphasis on "why" instead of "what" and an emphasis on research and creativity instead of rote learning. These are lofty goals, and it will take positive thinkers to ensure that they are met. I hope to be part of the change.

The FCAT is being replaced by a new test, the Florida Standards Assessment. How the students in our schools, or in any other district's schools around the state, will perform on the new test is yet to be seen. Unlike FCAT, which was always a moving target, changing from year to year based on the whims of the Legislature, the new test will include a set of criteria that holds up from year to year, allowing students and teachers to aim higher instead of changing focus from year to year.

A2) My grandchildren attend Plantation Key School, and I am familiar with the building's shortcomings. It's a wonderful little school with excellent teachers and a terrific new principal. Whether remodeling the older part of the school or building an entirely new school is needed, financing the construction at PKS and Gerald Adams will be a key component of the referendum the superintendent is advocating. Continuing the one-half penny sales tax is a great way to finance school construction because it isn't a new tax, but a continuation of an existing tax, one borne by tourists as well as residents. One lesson that should be drawn from the problems with the construction of (Horace O'Bryant) is that doing without a construction project manager leaves the district without anyone watching the show. In the future, we need an advocate for the district to work on its behalf with the construction company making sure, for example, that the original design of the school is well thought out so that a large number of change orders is not necessary.

WARREN LEAMARD

A1) To achieve success we need to have engaged children. They must have a continued enriched environment in which to learn and grow. Teachers must be assured the board appreciates and supports them, whether it is contract negotiations or classroom supplies. All staff must know the board will stand with them for the success of our children.

We must set the highest standard to ensure accountability. Curriculum must reflect the needs of the future.

Public-private partnerships must be encouraged to offer mentoring nurturing vocational programs.

A2) In recent months I have had the opportunity to tour some of our schools, some of which have passed their life expectancy. Our school board headquarters is old, and we must start planning for a new green building. We need to be on the move and keep our Information Technology Department on the cutting edge of technology so our teachers and students can have information on demand; therefore, I will support the continuation of the one-half cent sales tax, which raises $15 million annually. Food and drugs are not subjected to sales tax. Approximately 50 percent to 55 percent of this one-half cent sales tax is paid by tourists when they stay in hotels, dine in restaurants, shop in our local stores and enjoy our watersports.

On the November ballot, I will vote to support the continuation of the one-half cent sales tax. My fortitude will not waver when it comes to achieving success for all children.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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