On May 23, 2012 we met to determine our goals. We used a problem/solution approach and ranked our priorities.
The priorities of the people in attendance were:
1. The largest group convened around the topic of Fiscal Accountability.
Problems: Poor financial reports/forecasting, no funded reserve, expenditures outweigh revenues, review of financial policies, consolidate and close elementary/middle schools
Solutions: Policy for reserve fund account, establish and implement meaningful financial policy, zero based budgeting
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: Our teachers, students, parents, and community members who pay taxes deserve to know budget details. If elected, this will be my first priority. I support zero based budgeting and financial accountability.
2. Organization/ Boundary Issues/School Closure
Problem: Some members of the BOE want to close our school.
Solutions: Although there was much discussion, no solutions were recorded on the chart paper.
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: More information is needed before these proposals can be considered. I propose that we look at the entire budget to determine what is best for all the students in all the schools. We will need to balance the budget but we cannot look at isolated issues without detailed information about the entire budget. Because of the location of Rivers Elementary, I am not in favor of fully opening Rivers Elementary at this time.
3. Teacher Quality and Development
Problem: Some teachers are not the best
Solution: No solutions are proposed
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: Great teachers make a difference in the classroom. It is important to honor and retain high performing teachers for all our students. Professional development is important, but has taken a back seat in recent years due to the focus on budget problems. I would like to see our most effective teachers share their knowledge and expertise with other teachers so we can continue to grow and improve as a school system. I have been a teacher for 24 years, 9 in K-12 and 15 in higher education. I continue to learn and grow as a teacher each year. This should be supported and valued in our district. Teachers are our most important resource, more important than buildings. If we don’t pay attention to teacher quality, we will begin to lose our best teachers. I don’t want to see that happen.
On the issue of low performing teachers, it is the responsibility of the administration at each school to ensure quality instruction. In the face of budget cuts, administrators should look at low performing teachers first instead of just waiting around until people decide to retire. District and school building administrators need to be proactive in an effort to keep the best teachers.
4. Curriculum (Rigor/Standards)
Problem 1: “I haven’t read any of the textbooks but my impression is some of the textbooks, especially relating to history, social studies, etc. are biased against common sense and history.”
Solution 1: “Can teachers offer extra credit for reading ‘outside books’ like The 5000 Year Leap? Can the administration try to get different or better books used, either as official textbooks or as alternative textbooks?”
Problem 2: “Math curriculum- many courses do not have textbooks.”
Solution 2: “Need to have a curriculum that has textbook options.”
Problem 3: “I can’t help my 4th grade grandkids with their math- too convoluted!”
Solution 3: No solution recorded
Problem 4: “Where are we regarding the Core Curriculum?”
Problem 4: No solution recorded
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: Concerning the Common Core Curriculum, it has been adopted by the governor and our state’s legislature, so there is not much that can be done at the Fayette County School Board level. If these new standards concern you, please contact your state legislators and governor. I am not in favor of standards being dictated by a group outside of our community, but that precedent has been set beginning with the Quality Core Curriculum, then the Georgia Performance Standards, and now the Common Core Curriculum Standards.
What concerns me the most about the new Common Core Curriculum Standards is that our state officials agreed to them sight unseen. There is a draft out now for the new Science Core Curriculum Standards that has yet to be finalized. What if we don’t all agree on these standards? I don’t think we will agree, but we are already committed to them. The fact that all our students will be tested on them and measured against other states increases the power of the standards. Texas has not adopted these standards.
Math curriculum: When I taught 4th grade math we had workshops for parents so that they could help their children. These were very successful and well attended. Increased communication and understanding is the key. I think it is important for parents and teachers to be on the same team and work together to help students in all subjects. I support increased opportunities for such involvement.
Textbooks: I support the idea of teacher, parental and community involvement in textbook selection. The previous superintendent mentioned forming committees of not only teachers but parents and community members for textbook selection and I would like to follow up on that idea. This is very important in light of the new Common Core Curriculum Standards.
AP Courses: In regard to rigor, I would like to see increased AP course offerings in high schools. In order to accomplish this, some adjustments might have to be made in the grades leading up to the AP courses so that students would be prepared for AP work. It is also important to have a strong group of teachers with the expertise and commitment needed to teach AP courses. We are doing well with our AP program, but increasing opportunities at all the high schools is a priority.
5. Parental Involvement
Problem: “I believe it is poor… too many single parent families, both parents working, etc. Can’t change the above but can lessen the problems.”
Solution: “Emphasize, advertise PTA, PTO more. Get local community to advertise it more, explain more what is needed and what is available and that the schools will help and encourage the parents’ involvement. Local business people might help finance these meetings and expenditures.”
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: Research shows that parental involvement makes a significant difference when it comes to student achievement. In particular, the difference is even more pronounced in the higher grades. I support increased parental involvement at every level. There are some families that may not have a tradition of involvement in schools. I would like to see efforts to reach out to those parents who are not involved. If local business people are interested in this too, I would like to explore ways to work together.
6. Community Involvement
Problem 1: “I don’t believe that some subjects that are vital to daily life are adequately taught, understood, and lived out by the students.”
Solution 1: “1. Have county business people teach some classes (for a day or two) on subjects such as (a) vocational needs currently for the state (b) judicial environment of our state and nation (c) perhaps moral environment that creates strong students with disciplined lives (d) have people volunteer and be screened (e) have more students involved in internships with local businesses.”
Problem 2: “Some students have poor eating habits, exercise habits, and study habits.”
Solution 2: “These issues could be addressed by the local medical and counseling community.”
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: It is clear that our community has resources to help our school system that are currently untapped. If elected, I look forward to developing working relationships between the school system and community so that those who have so much to offer will find a place to contribute to the development of the students in our community.
7. Ethical/Moral Issues
Problem: “Most issues (problems) in life begin as a moral problem and not an intellectual problem- as a pediatrician for over 35 years here in Fayette County I see the damage it has done to the family unit and therefore the students, including their academics.”
Solution: “I don’t know how but I wish that we could get local citizens involved in voluntary activities, such as clergymen and counselors- and perhaps literature to support the above. I don’t know how, but I believe some things could be done, and the results if carried out on a large-scale would be significant.”
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: I am pleased with the freedom students have in Fayette County Schools to meet at student led prayer gatherings such as “See you at the Pole,” and clubs such as First Priority, The Good News Clubs and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Faith in God is important in my own life. This is something that has been important traditionally in Fayette County. The schools depend on the churches for support in developing ethical and moral students. Fayette County Schools should not undermine the values and beliefs that are taught at home and in the churches. We have a strong church community in Fayette County. There may be students and parents of different faiths, or those who are wondering about the existence of God. In every case I support the students’ and parents’ rights to make those choices for themselves. If students want to share their faith or non-faith in God, they should be able to, both in speech and written expression.
Other Area of Interest: School Choice- This was brought up by one of the participants, and added to the list.
Problem: One size does not fit all
Solutions: Parents should have options, charter schools, home school, money should follow the student, tax payer funded school vouchers for parents to send their kids to private, parochial or public schools that best serves their child’s needs
Mary Kay Bacallao’s thoughts on this issue: The charter school issue will be on the ballot, so the voters will be able to make a decision on charter schools statewide. Some people are concerned that a statewide charter network will erode local control of schools. I understand this concern because of some documented abuses in the charter school movement. Fayette County has a policy in place currently that allows students and parents to go to other schools within the county if there is space outside of their assigned district. I support this form of school choice. I am for school choice in general because I am for freedom in general. Since it is the parent’s responsibility to raise their own children, they should have choices in where their children attend school. I chose to move to Fayette County because of the schools, if elected I will do all I can to vote for policies that support continued excellence in Fayette County Schools.
Introductory Speech from May 23, 2012
Your presence here tonight shows that you are as concerned as I am about Fayette County schools.
To all those who moved here seeking great schools and teachers for their children, I say welcome. We moved here for that very same reason. You and I have inherited something very special here in Fayette County, one of the safest places to live, great people, and wonderful schools. I hope you will join me in thanking those who have contributed to what we have today.
My purpose is to support high standards for our schools.
It has come to my attention that the recent actions of the current majority of our elected School Board officials are not aligned with the hopes and dreams of our community.
I want to ensure that we continue to build upon the strong educational and moral foundation upon which this school system has flourished in the past.
The Fayette County School Board has overbuilt and overspent. When elected, I will work with you to raise a financial accountability standard. The members of the school board and the public need to have detailed reports that account for every penny spent before voting to approve a budget.
I am here to raise an accounting standard.
We want to see the numbers. Why? We want to attract, retain and honor great teachers for all our schools.
When you elect me… together we will work to raise the standards for our schools. Financial accountability, great teachers, a strong work ethic, self-discipline, respect for teachers, high moral and ethical standards, outstanding parental involvement, community support and rigorous curriculum standards.
That our students may learn… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy. That our students would learn how to solve problems and think critically, that they would gain the skills needed to prepare for meaningful work and be productive citizens.
Now is the time for you to express your hopes and dreams for Fayette County Schools. We will divide into groups according to your area of interest. In these small groups, discuss and record problems and solutions. I will circulate among the groups and listen to what you have to say. Then we will reconvene for a large group discussion.
The areas of interest are:
1. Fiscal Accountability
2. Curriculum (Rigor/Standards)
3. Parental Involvement
4. Community Involvement
5. Teacher Quality and Development
6. Moral and Ethical Issues
7. School Organization/ Boundary Issues/School Closure
The charts and post it notes are here for you to create a record of your ideas.