Meet the School Board Candidates: Richard Buchanan (District 2)
Q. What made you want to run for this office?
My children are the fourth generation to graduate from Huntsville City Schools. As a native of Huntsville, I believe that I know what has made our public school system so successful over the last century. I believe that our past success was a collaborative effort of our community. We had input and involvement from our community, financial investment by our civic and business leaders, respect and confidence in our teachers and student accountability outside the classroom.
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? 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?
Yes. I believe that it is important to consistently reach out to the community and listen to their needs. The students, teachers and parents will quickly see the results of any policy change. The true test in determining the effectiveness of a policy change comes from the input of the community. I believe that the elected school board member must be an honest and judicious decision maker without a personal agenda.
Q. Do your children (or school age relatives) attend Huntsville City Schools?
I have three children, two are recent graduates of Huntsville High School and one child is attending Huntsville High School.
Q. What is your vision for the schools in your district?
Over the next four years I expect our school system to have achieved unitary status, to have continued financial stability, to have the trust of the community and to have happy, confident and competent teachers educating our children. I believe that reducing high stakes testing, maximizing the number of days to teach, valuing our teacher’s time and effort and listening to the community will improve our school system. I believe that the incoming school board members will have work to do to regain the trust of the community. Trust starts with transparency in the decision making process. I believe that the relationship between the student and teacher is critical to the educational process. The teacher’s goal in educating our students should be to create well-rounded students not test takers. Well-rounded students are creative, resourceful and curious who are ready to meet life’s challenges.
Q. What is your view of high-stakes standardized testing, and the use of those test results for the evaluation of teachers?
John Ewing with the American Mathematical Society simply stated that “The end goal of education isn’t to get students to answer the right number of questions – the goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life.” High stakes testing puts pressure on our teachers to “teach to the test” and places less value on their creativity and intuition needed to reach our students. I have always believed that one common thread in our nation’s education system has been ability to teach and encourage creative
problem solving. I fear that high stakes testing emphasizes the correct answer not the process of achieving the correct answer.
Q. What is your plan for working with the other school board members, superintendent, staff, teachers, community to implement this vision?
We are all working for the common goal of successfully educating our children. We each have a different perspective in how this needs to be achieved. The school board member’s role is critical to the decision making process because we need to listen and understand the perspective of the community and express it to the superintendent and other board members. Personal agendas and beliefs must be set aside to determine what is best for all students.
Q. What is your view of how the district’s limited funding should be divided among the needs of the district?
This is a complex question that would require intimate knowledge of the school systems finances to answer correctly. Over the last five years, the school system has made a number of decisions to move from a $20 million deficit to a $34 million surplus. We need to continue to emphasize sound financial decisions. In determining funding for programs we need to assess cost vs. impact and make sure that it is worth our investment in that program. I believe that funding allocation should be fair and judicious to all students, including at risk and special needs students.
Q. What is your view on the superintendent’s plans to close, consolidate, “turn around”, and “restart” many of the schools in our district?
We know that the students IQ at failing schools are similar to successful schools. Students at failing schools typically have basic needs that must be met prior to academic success. The school system and the community need to work together to meet these needs and provide student accountability. There are a number of nonprofit organizations that are willing to work hand in hand with the school system to meet additional needs of the student outside the classroom. Also, we need to make sure that we have placed qualified, caring and competent teachers with a four year degree within these schools that will encourage and challenge at risk students. Closing or restarting schools is a temporary solution that does not address the real problem. I believe that involvement of the community in these failing schools is the best chance for the academic success of the at risk student.
Q. What is your view of the role that parents and the community should play in the governance of our schools?
In order to have a healthy and successful school system we must have the trust of the community. Trust is built with the community by school board members actively pursuing input and feedback from the citizens in all districts. School board members need to follow up with the community on how decisions have affected our parents, teachers and students. We should raise a red flag when steps are taken to reduce the input of the community into our school system. The school system is here to serve the community.[sws_grey_box box_size=”450″]WANT TO MEET THE CANDIDATES IN PERSON? The Huntsville Council of Parent Teacher Associations is hosting a School Board Candidate Forum on Monday, August 18th, 2014. The event will be held at Huntsville High School from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. This forum will also be broadcast live on ETV (Channel 17 on Comcast and Channel 3 on Wow!) [/sws_grey_box]
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