Superintendent Candidate Answers To Questionnaire

openbook.jpgMarions United and the Education Task Force presented candidates for Marion County Superintendent of Schools with a questionnaire and here are their responses. Each candidate was given a period of time to respond, and those candidates who responded are posted below.

Marions United and the Education Task Force presented candidates for Marion County Superintendent of Schools with a questionnaire and here are their responses. Each candidate was given a period of time to respond, and those candidates who responded are posted below.

1. In the April 15th Ocala Star Banner Editorial, the article dealt with "œBe for something." As a candidate for the Superintendent of the Marion County Public Schools, share with us three things you are '˜for' and give specific examples of how you would implement each.

Diana Greene (D)

Recommitment to the true mission of Public Education: To graduate students who have the necessary skills and abilities to be good and productive citizens ready for the next day after graduation -“ whether that is the Armed Forces, the work place or post-secondary education.

We will do that by continuing to provide programs that address the needs of all students;

1) Expand our prekindergarten programs to more students. Our data says if students attend prekindergarten they pass third grade which is the state mandated retention if they do not show proficiency on the Reading portion of the FCAT.

2) The Academy - providing additional and different experiences for at-risk K-2 students. Start with prevention before the answer is retention in 3rd grade.

3) Provide quality intervention, remediation, tutoring support for students in upper elementary, middle and high school.

4) Continue our credit and unit recovery programs to help students regain the necessary credits or units to meet the requirements of promotion.

Reorganize and redesign the way we deliver services and resources so our teachers and students can maximize teaching and learning at all times. It will take thinking outside the box to do the things we need to do on a limited budget. I have the right type of experience to start the process on day one, as a matter of fact; I started this process five years ago. We'™ve made great strides each year and with our budget diminishing every year.   When I started as Deputy Superintendent, our graduation rate was about 60% and today it is 86%. Six percent higher than the state average. We introduced the first virtual franchise in 2005 and now we are working on starting our first elementary virtual school. This is one example of reorganize how we deliver instruction.

Reconnect We have to reconnect with our community organizations, businesses, and the citizenry. I want to build stronger partnerships and positive relationships to enhance our system and build a stronger community. Next year we will begin a partnership with United Way to provide 100 volunteers to work with at-risk kindergarteners and remain with these students for at least three years.

George Tomyn (R)

Great Question...Easy Answer. We must be for: safe schools. Safe for our students, employees and parents. We must be for: transparent conservative management of our resources. And, we must be for: providing great learning opportunity for all students. These three things are "œnon-negotiables" as far as I am concerned.

In my 35 years as a teacher and administrator in Marion County I have had the privilege of working with a lot of people and I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our employees are our greatest asset.  In order to take advantage of this asset we must improve communication between the district and the school setting.  We need to work  together and return to an environment of trust, teamwork, and respect. I have a history of building and maintaining a culture that satisfies these needs and I plan to work tirelessly to accomplish this goal. I have faith that our system can be effective with the proper leadership and I intend to be that leader.

As superintendent I plan to take a hard look at our district organizational structure. I want to "œget the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus."

Since we have minimal impact on revenue I intend to fully examine every expense that our District incurs. Our resources must be focused on the classroom.

As your superintendent I will not tolerate unsafe conditions on our campuses. Schools will be properly staffed and safety will be a priority.

Teachers are the key to providing great learning opportunities for students. Teachers will be supported and  given the opportunity to do what they do best: TEACH

Wally Wagoner (R)

- Target the necessary resources toward the activities that support our core mission to teach and learn.

- Will constantly look for and pursue alternative sources of revenue as well as means to save scarce financial resources.

- Ensure the decisions regarding funding will be viewed with long-term perspective to ensure adequate resources are available to meet future needs.

- Operate according to procedures that are transparent to our citizen stakeholders.

2. In light of the recent incidents on our school buses, what will you do to make sure that our students are safe being transported to and from school and when under the care of the Marion County School Transportation System.

Diana Greene (D)

I would hope you would have expected us to do something before we elect a new superintendent. The next day I scheduled a meeting with the Deputy Superintendent of Operations, Executive Director of Transportation/Support Services, Executive Director of Student Services, and Coordinator of Public Relations to discuss and debrief on what happened and how we handled the situation. From that discussion, a taskforce was developed to review our guidelines and make necessary changes if needed.

The Executive Director of Student Services took the lead, and we put a number of changes in place to improve our transportation service.  We brought together principals and District personnel to brainstorm strategies that could be implemented immediately as well as a few long-term objectives. One example-We are pulling video at random times on our most challenging routes, and the Deans review the tapes and write referrals or make parent contact based on what they see on the video. The transportation specialists work with schools on identifying their most challenging routes and they work together to develop a plan to fix the problem. An idea I would consider implementing next year is allowing Deans to randomly ride the most challenging buses until student behavior improves.

George Tomyn (R)

I, too, have concerns about safety issues in transporting our students. From a fundamental standpoint students and parents must realize that transportation, to and from school, is a privilege. Students who violate accepted standards of conduct should be denied the privilege of riding one of our buses. We must have safe buses on our roads and we must have capable and competent drivers. Most of all I believe that it is the responsibility of school personnel and parents to teach our children appropriate behavior standards. Likewise our bus drivers need specific training and support in working with students and applying consistent behavior standards to all bus riders.

Each year our District produces a Code of Student Conduct booklet and students (with parental acknowledgement) are expected to follow the guidelines of that Code. I am proposing that Marion County go a step further and produce a Bus Rider Code of Conduct handbook. This code will address issues specific to student transportation including expected behavior standards. Students and parents will be required to acknowledge receipt of the Code in order to utilize our transportation system. Students who violate this transportation code will be subjected to suspension from the bus and parents will be required to meet with school officials if discipline (and safety) issues persist.

Safely transporting students to and from school on a school bus is a serious matter and we must become proactive in our approach. Merely putting a camera on the bus to "œrecord" behavior is not enough. Students must be held accountable for their behavior and parents must become a part of the solution.

Wally Wagoner (R)

The safest mode of transportation to school for our students is on a school bus. We transport over 24,000 students each day to our schools and one incident on one day should not define the job that the professionals in our transportation department accomplish each and every day. We will continue to train drivers on student management, upgrade our camera system on our fleet and work with student services to make sure anything unacceptable is addressed appropriately.

3. We ask you to answer this question and please think outside the box. How would you allocate and manage school funds and other resources to maximize the return on this investment and to ensure student outcomes show improvement?

Diana Greene (D)

We've already been thinking and working outside the box. We'™ve written and received over 8 million dollars in grants that has impacted and benefited children. Examples of initiatives are: We extended the school day for three schools and added enhanced curriculum, After-school programs for four middle schools with summer school through the 21st century grant, After-school and summer credit/unit recovery for secondary students. We have written for any and every grant that has allowed us to upgrade computers, purchase new software, adding mentors for at-risk students, increasing learning time for at-risk students, enhancing enrichment programs, building virtual classes to begin our own elementary virtual school. I have found ways to be more efficient and effective with fewer dollars by using operating dollars for more personnel to cover the class size amendment and use grant dollars to provide innovative initiatives into the classroom.

George Tomyn (R)

A primary responsibility of the Superintendent is managing the resources allocated to the school system. Since revenues have been declining this task is more important than it has ever been before.

I believe that we are obligated to investigate and examine every expense saving possibility that comes our way.  From energy management to privatization of some support services to contract for services, all options should be on the table. I believe our focus must be to continue to support the learning process of our students and this means channeling our resources toward the classroom.

I believe that there is a better way to manage our limited resources. We may be forced to change the delivery of services and this is where our employees must be given an opportunity to contribute instead of simply receiving top down directives. We must solicit suggestions from our employees and establish procedures that are fair to all and have the least negative impact on the students as possible.

Instead of a "œone size fits all" approach I believe that school communities should be given some flexibility to meet the needs of the students in that community. This includes flexible staffing options and the selection of approved curriculum programs and materials.

In the area of technical services I believe that we should investigate the possibility of creating regional hubs. This would save on personnel costs and travel expenses and improve efficiency.

Our greatest asset is human capital. We must support the growth and development of our workforce. Appropriate and timely staff development must be provided to our employees. Effective evaluation tools must be developed to ensure that employee performance results in measurable student outcomes.

Wally Wagoner (R)

First and foremost our only job is to teach and learn. The further we get from the classroom the more closely we need to examine what we do, why are doing it an does it improve academic performance. We need to look at the private sector to provide services that are not part of our core mission such as transportation and custodial services. The savings in these two areas could move over 4 million dollars in the classroom to refresh technology, and add additional instructional staff or increase instructional salaries. We also need to actually do a ROI on existing strategies and software to see if we are getting the results we expect for our investment.

4. Do you feel the community of Marion County is supportive and involved with the MCPS? If not, what will you do to create the conditions to increase community support and involvement?

Diana Greene (D)

I believe our community wants a good school system, but with a slow economy and the challenges of life, I think people are overwhelmed and do not have time to focus on the topic of education, but I believe our community wants a system where their children are safe and are learning. However, as stated earlier, we have to reconnect with our community. We have to develop and cultivate partnership and relationships with parents, faith-based organizations, civic organization and the community at-large. We need to share more of the good thing happening in our schools, engaging our community in the conversation about education, and focusing more on what we can do together to support our children to build a stronger school system and a better community.

George Tomyn (R)

I am very concerned about how our school system is perceived by our community at large. For the most part, parents, who are engaged with the school that their child attends, generally have a positive opinion about that school but those same parents do not know much about other schools or the system at large. Likewise citizens who have no direct contact with a school must rely on media accounts (usually sensational) to receive information about our school system. The challenge then becomes how can we actively market the great things in our system and become more accessible to community input. I believe that there is a better way of doing this.

As Superintendent of schools I plan to create the perfect environment to involve our community through communication and transparency. I will hold regular scheduled town hall meetings at various locations in our county. These meetings would consist of a time for me to share news about our system and then provide an opportunity for those in attendance to ask questions about our system. Having an active ongoing dialogue is a key to effective communication which can lead to more community involvement and better community support for our schools.

Each of the schools in our district has a school advisory council and years ago we had a district advisory council. I will visit with these established advisory councils as often as possible and also reinstate the district advisory council concept. These two venues will create another opportunity for our community to interact with me and bridge the communication deficit that has evolved.

Finally you are going to see this superintendent in our schools and in our community on a consistent basis. I love interacting with students, teachers, support personnel and parents and I love Marion County. You will see a lot of me.

Wally Wagoner (R)

The simple answer is to ask. Community involvement is critical from parent, businesses and our retirement community. We also need to listen to our community as it relates to education reform. We need to be careful that we do not send the message that we know best so just send us your resources and your input is not valued. Our students deserve our very best and we need to be prepared to get out of our personal comfort zone and design our system so that it meets the needs of today's student for a very different world.

5. The FL State Legislature continues to believe that it is OK to throw unfunded mandates back to local districts without understanding the educational and financial impact. They also have a history of disregarding their responsibility to implement the FL Constitution, particularly Article IX, to properly fund public schools.

This repeated history has caused the School Board to recently approve a ballot amendment asking the citizens to vote on two taxing measures; one for school district capital expenses and the other for school district operating expenses.

Will you vote YES on these measures and why OR will you vote NO and why?

Diana Greene (D)

I believe the way I vote is my personal business, but I will say that we owe it to the citizens of Marion County the opportunity to weigh in their desires by casting their vote. I can only control my vote, and so I encourage everyone to vote your conscious.

George Tomyn (R)

The job of the Superintendent of Schools is to create and manage an exemplary school system using the available resources. I intend to do just that! This task may be a bit easier to accomplish with additional resources but I do not believe that Marion County property owners should bear the responsibility of paying higher property taxes in order to address a problem created by our state legislature. These are tough economic times. Let's roll up our sleeves and work together to solve the challenges created by reduced funding.

Wally Wagoner (R)

I will vote no on any property tax increase. We do not have a revenue problem; we have a resource allocation problem. We can be successful and improve academic performance with existing resources. We just need to have the character and courage to make difficult decisions that are best for students, parents and taxpayers. WE all have a collective stake in how well we perform, our job is too important to get it wrong.

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