Q. What made you want to run for this office?
I became aware of several agency failures within the Huntsville City School System leadership during August of 2013. Following my discoveries I wrote a letter to the current Huntsville City School Board member for District 3 Jennie Robinson. I made the decision to run for public office during late April of 2014 after I learned enough to be honestly concerned about the future of a city that has been the home and/or workplace of my family for five generations. I was reluctant to seek this office due to my obligations as a father, husband, and professional. After careful consideration I decided that it was in the best interest of the community I love to seek this office. I hope to leverage my professional knowledge as a professional accountant into policy decisions which will benefit taxpayers and I also hope to use my traditional values to help steer Superintendent Wardynski in the right direction for the benefit of our children and community.
Q. Are you capable of and willing to do the research necessary to ask questions about the policies, procedures and recommendations that the superintendent is bringing to the board for approval?
Due to my academic and professional training as a tax accountant I am highly qualified to research and comprehend complicated administrative, judicial, and legislative regulations. In my professional career I am required to research complicated issues which require a working knowledge of research techniques and analytical competency. These skills are easily translated directly to the research and verification duties required by School Board members. I am also highly qualified to analyze and comprehend the Huntsville City School System budget, management, and operations due to my experience reviewing and producing useable information for business decision makers in the Tennessee Valley.
Q. How do you plan to fulfill the board member role of administration and supervision of the public schools as detailed in School Board Policy 2.2?
I will hold bi-monthly meetings at Grissom High School and invite parents, teachers, and the community. A School Board representative cannot do their job without a constant supply of information directly from the schools, parents, teachers, students, and others in the community. I will work to implement a policy which requires a yearly survey for parents to gauge school system effectiveness with regard to the education their children are receiving. I believe in the top down approach to management. In the case of a public school system the parents, students, and taxpayers are on top of the decision making chain. Therefore, every major policy I support will be a direct result of thoughtful, deliberate, and constant communication with the citizens and stakeholders of public education in District 3. I will not make policy decisions and then use established organizations like the PTA to sell the policies to parents. The use of the PTA for political purposes, as it has been used in recent years, is inappropriate and diminishes the true mission of the PTA. It is the sole mission of individual school board members to make informed decision as a group to benefit the community.
Q. Do your children (or school age relatives) attend Huntsville City Schools?
Yes. I have one child in attendance within Huntsville City Schools. I have two children who will attend Huntsville City Schools when they reach the age of attendance.
Q. What is your vision for the schools in your district?
My vision for the schools in my district includes the preservation of the neighborhood school model that serves to benefit the stable South Huntsville community. I would also like to see the parents become more involved in the education of their children by providing them with more options to tailor or individualize the education experience of their children. I am a huge proponent of Individual Education Plans and other proven techniques which place parents and students directly into the educational decision making process. I would like to see a greater emphasis on classical learning in our schools. School choice and parents rights are the motto of my campaign. I believe that the entire Huntsville City School System including South Huntsville’s District 3 would benefit if every parent were given the opportunity to benefit from the ability to take their children out of the public school system and have the tax money allocated to their child follow them to a private school of their choice. Empowering parents to make individual decisions will ultimately improve the quality of education for all students.
Q. What is your view of high-stakes standardized testing, and the use of those test results for the evaluation of teachers?
My son was frustrated and discouraged by the “teach for the test” methodology that has become pervasive in our public school system. I have no problem with teacher evaluation, but I think that Superintendent Wardynski has an unhealthy obsession with collecting statistics to validate his policies. Students are not statistics. Each child is an individual with a story. I think that teachers should be treated like the professionals they are and be given the latitude to make the decisions necessary to conduct their classrooms for the benefit of individual children. It is not possible to treat teachers as professionals and a statistics simultaneously.
Q. What is your plan for working with the other school board members, superintendent, staff, teachers, community to implement this vision?
I will be open, honest, and available to all community stakeholders in the manner I have described. Honest dialogue is often messy. Disagreement is a symptom of health in any Republic. I anticipate that honesty in the School Board chambers may cause some vigorous debate. I anticipate having a professional working relationship with school board members, the superintendent, staff, teachers, and the community. My experience as a public accountant has provided me with the tools necessary to negotiate difficult solutions in a respectful manner. My experience as a PTA officer has provided me with valuable insight in the fear and motivations of education professionals. I believe that respect in all aspects of a School Board members interactions is the key to success.
Q. What is your view of how the district’s limited funding should be divided among the needs of the district?
Funding is only one constraint. I believe that a thorough review of all Huntsville City School budget line items must occur with department heads, administration, and staff present. After my own review of the Huntsville City School systems financial reports I am certain that overhead expenses can be reduced and more resources can be shifted to meet the woefully underfunded Special Needs departments within our schools. If the Huntsville City School system wastes one dime on unneeded overhead expenses it takes funding directly from educating our students with the greatest needs. I am in favor of our system actively promoting the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) as a method of increasing per student funding. I will support and promote a policy of providing parents of students in failing schools with the proper documents to apply for (AAA) transfers.
Q.What is your view on the superintendent’s plans to close, consolidate, “turn around”, and “restart” many of the schools in our district?
School closures are a necessary process of the neighborhood school model. Relief from the long standing desegregation order is required for the Superintendent and School Board to have control over the process of school closures, openings, rezoning, and consolidation. Currently our school leaders have a subdued role in the process. The pathway to turn around and restart local failing schools has been provided by the Alabama Legislature though the flexibility and school choice portions of the Alabama Accountability Act. Giving parents a choice with regard to their own children is the best method to quickly improve a failing school. I think that any policy which follows the Lincoln Elementary School model will produce real benefit for failing public schools. Principals at local schools should reach out to community organizations and churches for volunteers to work one on one with students. The only method to reach children in families with little parental involvement is a perpetual and persistent community tutoring effort. Superintendent Wardynski simply needs to reach out to the community and give the green light to Principals to follow the proven Lincoln Elementary School model.
Q. What is your view of the role that parents and the community should play in the governance of our schools?
Parents are the primary decision makers with regard to public education. Only the parent has the authority to remove their child from public school in favor of private or home school options. The parent is the most underutilized resource within our public school system. The concerns of parents and taxpayers should be the main source of policy within our schools.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve as your School Board member and I would like your vote on Tuesday, August 26th.
Stephenie has worked with and around books and authors for over 12 years, both at retail booksellers and public libraries. She is a rare Huntsville native, mother of two high-energy boys, wife of one, and eerily addicted to community volunteering. When she's not being the Managing Editor for RCM she likes to stalk her favorite authors online, cook with way too much butter, and also manages to conduct freelance marketing and PR work.