Monday, August 22, 2011

Questions for school board candidates, continued

The list of candidates for our local September 13 school board elections is now final. There are ten candidates for five seats: incumbent school board chair Patti Fields, Jeff Alden, Phil Hemingway, Sally Hoelscher, Jeff McGinness, Bob Porter, Marla Swesey, James Tate, Karla Cook, and Julie VanDyke. (Some interesting commentary here.) I have just sent all of them my list of questions for school board candidates, prefaced with this introduction:
I find that most school board candidate questionnaires tend to focus on what you might call the “three Bs” -- budgets, buildings, and boundaries. Those are certainly important topics, but one of the reasons I started blogging is that I think we don’t hear enough discussion of what the mission of our schools is, and about how that mission is reflected in our kids’ day-to-day experience of school. The questions below are my attempt to get at some of those issues in a concrete way.
The questions, slightly revised since I first posted them, are:

1. Should the school board ensure that elementary school students get more than fifteen minutes for lunch? If so, what should the minimum lunch period be? (See the petition about this issue here.)

2. On balance, has the No Child Left Behind Act been good for Iowa City’s public school children?

3. Do you think that standardized testing plays too large a role in our school system? If so, what should the school board do about it?

4. Local school boards have been increasingly subject to state and federal mandates. Do school board members have an obligation to think independently about whether those mandates are good for kids? If so, what should a school board member do if he or she concludes that those mandates are not in the best interests of the kids, or are contrary to our community’s values? (See this post.)

5. Do you support the current pervasive use of token rewards to get students to comply with school rules? If not, what role should the school board take in reining that practice in?

6. How should the schools approach the teaching of moral or ethical values? (See this post and this post.)

7. What should the district’s plan be as the number of SINA schools grows and the number of schools into which those students can transfer shrinks?

My hope is that the candidates’ responses will not only reveal their thoughts on these issues, but will also tell us something about they will respond to public questions when they are in office. I’ll post responses as I receive them. Feel free to suggest additional questions in the comments.

UPDATE: Here are responses from Jeff McGinness, Sally Hoelscher, Karla Cook, Marla Swesey, Julie VanDyke, and Patti Fields.


KD said...

I can't wait to see the replies. I'm wondering how much the candidates know about what goes on presently in our schools, especially relating to number one and number five.

KD said...

Jeff McGinness seems to have the most visibility of any candidate out there.

I'm sure hoping to hear more from the other candidates. As a current school board member, one would think that Patti Fields would have opinions about the questions you've asked.

Chris said...

KD -- Patti Fields did reply to my email, and said that she is working on the questions and hopes to have responses soon. Stay tuned . . .