Responses to Quality Bainbridge Questions From Dale Perry
Dale Perry, Candidate for School Board
Quality Bainbridge sent three questions to each of the candidates for School Board. Dale (and his opponent Mike Spence) promptly responded.
Dale's responses follow:
Question 1: What is the proper role of the School Board in relation to the schools, the teaching staff, the school administrators and the district administration? As examples: What criteria should be used in deciding what new programs should be added? What as a Board member can you do to assist teachers so that there are realistic expectations for their work?
The School Board has one direct hire and that is the Superintendent. Clear expectations should be set with the Superintendent with regard to expectations for student achievement for the immediate year and for future years. These expectations should have clear metrics that allow for a productive evaluation process with the Superintendent, up to three times per year. As an example, Bainbridge Island has one elementary school that is performing significantly below the other two elementary schools and this has been the case year after year. As a board member, I would ensure that a clear metric with the Superintendent specifically addresses the performance of this school.
The question on criteria for new programs addresses the concept of innovation. Over the past few years there has been much discussion about where innovation should originate, how it should be fostered and allowed to flourish. Clearly innovation needs to come from within the classroom, as that is where the true ownership of any program will reside. The challenge in the past has been that innovation has been allowed to occur randomly and without structure. Contrary to what some will say, structure does not stifle innovation, it encourages innovation. There has been confusion between the roles of the teachers, administration, district board and Bainbridge Schools Foundation on how this should be coordinated. Over the past year, I played a fundamental role in clearing this confusion and, as a result, was asked to join the Bainbridge Schools Foundation board to move this forward. I have proposed that the Bainbridge Schools Foundation fund an Office of Innovation within the district central office, much as they have done with the STEM coordinator position, whose role it would be to coordinate, communicate, and foster continued innovation. Having started and developed several companies from the ground up, and several education programs as well, I feel I have a good understanding of how new programs should be developed.
One of the best ways I believe board members can assist teachers is to actively listen to the teachers and the administrators. Over the past few months I have met with every principal and numerous teachers. During this time, I have asked them to tell me their challenges, but more importantly, I have asked them to share with me the untapped opportunities they see. I find this to be encouraging and enlightening. There is a lot more we could be doing.
The specific tool for assisting teachers with their expectations will be with a successful roll-out of the statewide TPEP tool.
Question 2: What are the biggest operational challenges facing the School District in the coming years?
As we saw this past year with twenty to thirty new hires in our district, some of our best teachers are reaching retirement age. While new buildings and technology are nice to have, it is our teachers who educate our children. We need to be sure we are attracting the best teachers from across the country. We should not be hiring teachers in the last week of August and we need a better method of forecasting student enrollment to minimize such last-minute hires. I know that other school districts have specific enrollment forecasting systems and we need to borrow from their learnings.
Question 3: What should the School Board do in the next four years with respect to voter-approved operations levies and other strategies for dealing with budgetary challenges?
The district has several ongoing levies that must be passed, including the Technology Levy. This will require good communication with the taxpayers as to why this is a good use of their precious tax dollars. I believe this requires a clear explanation to the public of what was asked for, what was received, and what the outcomes were for the 2006 and 2010 tech levies. A reputation of good use of resources leads to ongoing trust in future requests for resources. I am hopeful that such a presentation can be made to the public. The same holds true for future capital bond requests for the reconstruction of Blakely. We will need to explain to the public what was expected from the Wilkes bond and what did we receive. There is little disagreement that the state of Washington will not fully fund the education system. For Bainbridge to continue to develop a strong school district requires continued coordination with the Bainbridge School Foundation. I know that the Foundation has some very interesting goals and ideas and I hope that the school board can successfully work with them.