When I ran for office six years ago I was very clear about what I hoped to contribute through my service to the community. These were my goals:
High Quality, Well Rounded Education for EVERY Student
Open Communication and Transparency
Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability, and Integrity
I will address these in reverse order:
I the area of Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability, and Integrity my main point was we were operating a $38 million institution that did not have in place a strategic plan and no one could recall the last time the district had one. As a businessman, I know that it is ill-advised to have this large of an operation without some sort of plan to be the guiding document for the direction of the organization. A plan is how you hold an organization accountable for the decisions being made. Without a plan, there is no lens in which to determine priorities. I made the execution of a valid process that would lead to the development and implementation of a multi-year strategic plan the major thrust for my first term. The WHRHS Board of Education adopted the strategic plans’ main goals and the action plans to support each area in June 2016. The WHRHS Board of Education has made the implementation of the plan a top priority ever since. In other fiscal areas, we passed a referendum that was no cost to the taxpayers to allow the district to access up to 40% of the cost of the new turf field from the state and most recently funding to create a new media center and upgrades to our electrical systems. Our referendum projects were completed on time and on budget. We have brought down the administrative overhead costs (another concern of mine when I first ran for office) through attrition and I have successfully advocated for returning some of our increase in state funding back to the taxpayers.
In the area of Open Communication and Transparency, I have hosted a series of coffees and meetings with residents outside the confines of the formal board of education meetings. I find that most of the time residents are interested in having a conversation on a specific topic. The board of education meeting does not lend itself to this type of interaction. By hosting coffees and meetings outside of the regular board meetings I have been able to hear directly from residents regarding their concerns, hopes, and frustrations. Often times there are very valid issues discussed. Sometimes there is just a misunderstanding of what the district is attempting to do. As a district, I believe we have a long way to go on improving our communication as a DISTRICT with the parents, students, faculty, elected leaders and other members of the community. This has been one of my big concerns during my tenure. I have seen how the administration could have done a much better job in communicating changes to policies, curriculum changes or been more proactive in engaging groups impacted by a potential decision. I had hoped we would have made greater progress up to this point. While progress at the district level has been slow I remain committed to being available to everyone and anyone throughout our community.
In the area of a High Quality, Well Rounded Education for EVERY Student, my focus has been on increasing educational opportunities for our students, protecting our students from the educational industrial complex as we face more intrusive testing of questionable validity and little value in providing feedback to our faculty (which had been the big promise of the new PARCC tests). The educational expectations for our students should not be driven by state testing requirements. We certainly need to comply with what the state requires but in a way that minimizes disruption to the important instructional work of our faculty members in preparing our students to be successful in life. Recognizing this tension I championed the creation of the first set of Expected School-Wide Learning Results adopted by any school in the state. This document otuline the charahcteristics of a successful Watchung Hills graduate and allows us to focus more on the whole stduent. I have worked hard with my fellow board members and the administration to increase educational choices for students and to have areas of student interest drive course offerings and selection. This has led to more elective courses in a wide variety of interest areas in business, technology, engineering and the visual and performing arts among others. Our students must have the opportunity to find and develop their passions whether in academics, co-curricular or athletics. Making sure we have the broadest possible course offerings for a district of our size is critical to allowing our students to find their potential pathways for the future. “Well Rounded” education is not a just a set of buzz words to me. This is my personal commitment to our students and our community.
Six years ago I asked the resident to elect me based on what I said I would try to accomplish. There is now a clear track record and body of work on which my promises may be judged. I believe my track record speaks for itself. I remain as enthusiastic to serve our community as I was when first elected.