Public questions school board candidates
This is part of a series on the Shenandoah County Public School Board forum in which candidates of the Fifth District seeking a seat on the school board answered questions from the audience.
WOODSTOCK – Three candidates seeking to fill the School Board seat once held by Irving Getz answered questions from some of the 70 people who attended a candidates forum Thursday evening at the Tom’s Brook Volunteer Fire Department.
Fifth district candidates participating in the forum were:
* Chris Boies, 36, vice president of Financial and Administrative Services at Lord Fairfax Community College. He was the town manager of New Market and previously the Shenandoah County planning director.
* Shelby Kline, 52, retired from the Shenandoah County Public Schools. She was a part of the educational system for 30 years, 22 of those with Shenandoah County as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.
* Eugene Putkowski, 67, has been a bus driver for Shenandoah County Public Schools for 13 years.
He was a first class licensed engineer who worked for the government.
Questions were provided by members of the audience prior to the start of the forum and read by a moderator.
The forum was hosted by the Farm Bureau of Shenandoah County, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah County Education Association and the Shenandoah Forum.
Two of our schools, W.W. Robinson Elementary and North Fork Middle schools did not meet accreditation. What needs to be done to help these schools reach accreditation.
Kline – As a former principal, at North Fork as a matter of fact, accreditation is something that is important to our county and to the state of Virginia. Getting our schools accredited is the bottom line. One thing that folks may not be aware of with the Standards of Learning tests is that the elementary and the middle schools, those students are expected to have a higher percentage of questions answered correctly in order to pass the SOL. When you move to the high school level that drops to 50, 55 percent depending on the test. I always wondered why do the high schools, they did great. Once you do the research you realize its simply because they don’t have to have as many answers correct on the test to pass. So one of the things I think is most important is, as a principal I learned teachers are often intimidated when a principal comes into room. Instructional coaches are so much better as a peer. So a teacher who has taught maybe 10, 20 years who is an excellent teacher with high marks on every observation they will be the person who goes in to coach our teachers, to make sure they are following the standards of learning. What I learned as a principal is not every teacher were, they thought they were, but they were teaching things that sometimes that they did not need to so I think instructional coaches are very important. Then involve the principal as needed because we need our schools accredited.
Putkowski – In my opinion it was known for four years that the schools in question were in trouble. The School Board members should have asked an important question to the superintendent. If the plan we have in effect did not work for two years why stay with it, especially when the results have remained static, in other words – the same. That is where the tough questions come in, and that is what is going to need to be done. You just don’t throw good money after bad money so to speak. If something does not work find out why and change it.
Boies – If I look tired it is because we just did our 10-year accreditation at Lord Fairfax. I could talk to you the next two hours about accreditation but you don’t want to hear that. But, it is an important process. The Virginia Department of Education has a program, and I am sure the superintendent is aware of this, called the Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools. It provides a framework to school systems on how to improve their scores. Involved in the program is technical advice, coaching, professional development and developing those students’ support systems that are needed to get our students to where they need to be. I think its important to remember we are taking all students in the county – whether English is their first language or not. Our measure should be on how much we are seeing the student improve throughout the years. We can’t control where students start at when they enter the school system. We don’t control their reading level, we don’t control their language. I think it is important as we critique the schools that we look at those entry exams and figure out who are our students and what level are they at. Then if we are not making progress with those students then we have a problem but if we are not making a benchmark set from someone that set it in Richmond I want more questions about that because if our students are starting at a disadvantage, the English as a second language students as an example, then I don’t know if we can critique our schools so much for that. We need to make sure the structure is in place to see improvement with our students, lets make sure that is happening. Thank you.
What is necessary to improve the morale of teachers and reduce the number of teachers leaving the county?
Putkowski – That is a Catch-22 question. Get rid of the administrative work they are being saddled with, let them teach. They say they spend 10 to 20 percent of their time doing administrative work. That is not teaching, lets get that taken care of. That is one of the things I think is wrong with our school system.
Boies – I am working on my dissertation at Shenandoah University for my doctorate of education. My topic of my dissertation is employee job satisfaction. I have read a ton of studies on this. I have recorded research on this myself on the topic. Folks always go to pay right, they say “you are not paying employees well and that is why they are not satisfied.” Most research shows that is not true. Employees want to be paid what they see as a fair and adequate wage. But, once they reach that point and once you add wages on top of that you don’t see employee job satisfaction go up. What makes employees satisfied with their work is leadership, and that would be administration, in this case, and elected officials. Recognition, they want the community to understand they’re doing a good job and be recognized for that. A lot of time it comes down to mission. I can’t think of a better mission then being in the K-12 system. At Lord Fairfax Community College we are recognized nationally for being a great school to work for in our employee job satisfaction. We have a lot of different programs at the college that I could implement here in the school system. They would not cost a dime but they would recognize employees, it would grow leadership and it would improve our job satisfaction and our retention.
Kline- I saw morale as a problem in the school division as a teacher and as an administrator. I one hundred percent agree with Chris that it is not necessarily the pay but they want to be told “Thank You. Thank you for the great job you did today with so and so in the classroom. Thanks for being a great bus driver.” It is also small tokens of appreciation. Putting a brownie in the mailbox once a month or whatever it is that the PTO puts in their mailbox but it makes the teacher walk away feeling appreciated, as well as other staff, like the school bus drivers, the secretary, the custodian. Twice a year we recognize our teachers in November during American Education Week. Typically PTO is in the schools and the School Board office pitch in to make sure every day of the week teachers are recognized and other staff as well. Then there is National Teacher Week in the second week in May. In order to increase that morale we need to say thank you more often with those small tokens of appreciation.