Category Archives: Platform

METV/Herald Tribune Forum

90 minutes of 7 school board candidates sharing their opinions and ideas.


.

Advertisements

METV/Bradenton Herald Forum

Questions and time stamps of my responses are below the video. Thanks for taking the time to watch our candidate forum.

Questions:
Opening statements: 3:48 – 5:14

“What skills and experience would you bring to the school board and education leadership?” 5:24 – 7:30

“Concerns over spending priorities and practices in the district have been mounting for years. As such, public trust taken a beating for a long time with budget deficits and wrongful spending. How can you as a board member continue the task of rebuilding public trust that has begun under the new administration?” 12:04 – 14:02

“The budget for the next year looks bright, brighter than in years past, with the draft plan reaching the state-required reserve minimum. What are your thoughts on this budget and future district spending? 14:14 – 15:49

“What are your views of the academic progress in test scores and school grades and what do you propose to improve education? 20:22 – 21:48

“What are you thoughts on Common Core and the implementation of that program in Manatee County schools?” 22:04 – 23:20

“Is Supt. Rick Mills and his administrative team leading the district in the right direction? And what would you do different, if anything?” 27:41 – 29:48

“What concerns do you hold about the current direction of the school board and direction should it take under your stewardship?” 30:00 – 31:12

rebuttal to response – 33:22 – 34:33

“What specifically would you do to boost teacher morale?” 34:50 – 35:57

closing statements 37:28 – 38:55

rebuttal to Mr. Jones closing remarks 41:00 – 42:19

Saving Millions on Health Care

Teachers, would you like to be healthier, happier and have more money in your paycheck?    re: Health insurance policy for school district…. at last night’s budget workshop, I asked the board to consider the idea of not only being self-insured, but also self-administering our own health plan for employees.It would be a long-term project, and would require the help of a Citizens Advisory Group of local experts. However, we could save millions of dollars per year by cutting out Blue Cross/Blue Shield – who we pay tons of money to for admin’ing our claims and for the use of their doctor network. Those millions saved would mean lower premiums for school employees, which would mean more money in our paychecks.It’s a big idea, with many moving parts and details to explore, but it’s time to think long-term about faculty/staff pay and benefits – and how to improve them.Mr. Gause, later in the workshop, requested the Health Insurance Committee contact all board members, as had previously been requested, and Supt. Mills said he would make sure that happened.   – https://www.facebook.com/charliekennedy2014

 

Manatee Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire

1.      What is the biggest opportunity that, if embraced by the district, would lead to an improvement in student achievement?  Since the start of my campaign, I have advocated that the district should allocate additional resources and talented people into the Pre-K and elementary grades.   Volumes of research have measured the benefits of early education.  Over the past two years, we have seen measured gains in test scores.  With more investment in early education, we’ll see those gains continue for the 5-10 years and beyond.  In addition to the benefits to our young people, there is economic benefit to the community as one study predicts $8 of economic growth for every $1 spent on early childhood eduction.
 
2.      What role should local businesses play in supporting our schools to ensure students are graduating with the skills necessary for successful employment?  Manatee County’s entrepreneurs and young professionals should continue their work in our schools through programs like Leadership Manatee and Big Bank Theory.  That direct connection between students and employers is vital for students to see a future for themselves as adults.  Another outlet for career readiness would be a collaboration between students and employers to connect students with real-world internships, work-study programs and mentorship opportunities in local businesses.  When a student can see and feel their future success, that is a powerful motivation to mature and bloom.
 
3.      What is your top priority for the district as a candidate for School Board and how should this priority be achieved?  My top priority is the protection of students.  We were fortunate to get additional funding from the state for this previous school year and our district has made a dramatic financial turnaround since Supt. Mills and his team took the helm.  However, in order to bring long-term stability to the district, more cuts will have to be made.  I want to make sure children are the last stakeholder to be affected by those cuts. 
 
4.      What is the greatest strength you would bring to the School Board if elected?  My 10 years of experience as an educator, including the last seven in Manatee County, will give the public trust that they have a teacher on the school board who knows what students and teachers need to succeed.  Further, I don’t bring an ideology or allegiance to any faction or special interest of our currently dysfunctional school board.  Therefore, the public will know that if elected to the school board, I will be an independent voice for students and taxpayers who can begin to rebuild the trust between the community, teachers and school leadership.

Herald Tribune Questionnaire

CANDIDATE INFORMATION
Birthplace: Warren, PA
Family: My fiancé, Lisa Ramirez, is active in the community working for Healthy Start Coalition and the Florida Department of Health in Manatee. My brother, Mike, resides in Bradenton with his wife and two children.
Religion:
Education/degrees: B.A. – Political Science, Univ. of Pittsburgh ’94
M.A. – Social Studies Education, Duquesne University ’03
Civic Involvement: High School Teacher & Coach (2004-present)
Habitat for Humanity (volunteer 2008-09)
Big Brothers/Big Sisters (volunteer 2010)
Endorsements:
Elected/appointed offices held: None, this is my first experience as a candidate.
Other Government services:
KEY ISSUES
Key Issue 1: I decided to run for school board because I saw that it was lacking one crucial voice, that of a classroom teacher. Therefore, my first priority is students. The school district has made a dramatic financial turnaround in the past 18 months, however further cuts will have to be made. I want to make sure children are the last stakeholder to be affected by those cuts.
Key Issue 2: My second priority is teachers. As a high school teacher myself, I understand the challenges of the job and what is required to be successful. Our district’s teachers haven’t seen a pay increase in years; in fact the cost of benefits is rising for teachers and the district. Once the school budget is back on solid footing, with the required fund balance and a budget surplus, I will advocate for a modest increase for teachers that is fair for them, and for taxpayers.
Key Issue 3: I have said this from day one of my campaign: we must allocate maximum resources to early childhood education. Mountains of education research show the benefits of early education. It is successful across racial and economic lines. It is relatively inexpensive considering the educational gains that are achieved in later school years. In addition, there is economic benefit to our community as one study predicts a benefit of $8 of economic benefit for every $1 spent on early childhood education.
Q&A
Assess the superintendent’s performance.
I support Supt. Mills, Dr. Greene and Mr. Hall. The district’s dramatic financial turnaround, the transparency of board deliberations and documentation, the budget and accounting professionalism and expertise shown over the past 18 months and the measured, educational gains that our students have shown. While students and teachers deserve much of the credit for those jumps in test scores, the district’s leadership should get some credit for putting resources, and the right people, in place to facilitate student achievement.

My only concern for Supt. Mills is how to rebuild trust between the leadership and the teachers. There is a perception among teachers and administrators that Mr. Mills has been heavy-handed in his personnel decisions and further, through investigations of school board employees. Whether or not these perceptions are fair is a matter of opinion; however we must deal with the reality that these perceptions are felt by teachers and administrators of the district. If elected, I would like to improve relationships among, not just our leadership downtown and teachers, but among all stakeholders in the school district.

Did you vote (or would you have voted) for or against Superintendent Rick Mills’ proposed two year-extension of his contract?
I would not have voted for it, and at the time made the following public statement: “One can see the positives in Supt. Mills’ performance over the past 15 months, however has this performance earned him these dramatic changes to his contract? He’s right, “stabilty is critical” for our success. However, young and new teachers are on year-to-year contracts, as are every principal and assistant in the county. Only experienced, tenured teachers have stability. Still in late May, many teachers and admins have no idea where (or if) they’ll be working next year. I hope the board will consider the stability and compensation of all school board employees. Further, I hope the superintendent holds himself to the same contract status, incentive structure and oversight process afforded to every school board employee.” facebook.com/charliekennedy2014 (May 25)
What is your view of the Florida Standards and Florida Standards Assessments?
Having been a teacher for the past 10 years, I have seen a handful of “next big things” come and go. I believe Common Core (aka Florida Standards) will follow that pattern. With a change in leadership – in DC or Tallahassee – could come the end of CC/FS. One interesting difference between this movement and previous reform attempts is the political opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. It is interesting to see an education reform movement that angers the right over curriculum requirements and angers the left over a perceived preference for charter/private schools and the undermining of public education. However, my biggest concern with CC/FS is how education decisions are being taken out of the hands of individual states and local school boards, and are being made by the federal government. While it’s a noble concept to have nationwide standards and measurements, education has always been a local issue and I believe it should stay that way.
Should the School Board have someone conduct an anonymous survey of teachers and other personnel to determine the work “climate” in schools?
Provided the cost was minimal, I think an anonymous survey of teachers is a good idea. As a classroom teacher, I always ask my students for anonymous feedback at the end of the year so I can improve my performance. School administrators do the same. However, any one working in the Manatee School District, like I do, knows that morale is low. The sometimes controversial and heavy-handed style of human resources decisions has fostered distrust and brought morale to a low point. Therefore, I’m not sure we need a survey to understand this. However, if it could be done inexpensively, and cover every employee from custodians to administrators, then I don’t see why not. Otherwise, this survey would just tell us what we already know – morale is low.
Please state, in 250 words or less, why you believe you should be elected to this office.
My experience as an educator in Manatee County will give the public trust that they have a classroom teacher on the board who knows what students and teachers need to succeed. Further, I don’t bring a particular ideology or personal agenda to the board. As stated earlier, I want to build consensus among the board, leadership team and the public. Education is filled with political land mines but, despite these sometimes vitriolic arguments, I’m sure we all want the same thing: for our students to succeed and our schools to operate efficiently. If we can remove our own egos, partisan viewpoints, and personality conflicts and focus on our number one priority – kids – public trust can be fully restored in our school district.

Observer Newspapers Questionnaire

OBSERVER MEDIA GROUP 2014 CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
Manatee School Board

• NAME: Charlie Kennedy

• AGE: 44

• FAMILY: Single

• EDUCATION: B.A., Political Science, Univ. Of Pittsburgh ‘94
M.A., Social Studies Education, Duquesne University ‘03

• OCCUPATION: Teacher, Manatee High School

What specific skills or experience do you have that qualifies you more than your opponent to serve as a member of the Manatee County School Board? I have been a high school teacher for the past ten years. Our school board needs the voice and experience of an educator who knows the challenges of today’s students and teachers. Our board also needs an independent voice that has no connections to the factions and special interests that currently make our school board dysfunctional. For more details, please see my website – charliekennedy.org

What do you like about the new Florida State Standards? What don’t you like about them? While I think it is a noble ideal to have similar standards among all states to properly measure student progress and success, decisions about education have historically been made at the local level. I believe it should remain as such – under state and local control.

What do you see as the most crucial challenges that will face the school board in the next two years, and how would you propose these challenges be addressed? There are three challenges to the school board must address in the future. 1. Rebuilding trust between the community and the school board. Solution: transparency of actions and community input into all major school board decisions. 2. Rebuilding trust between school district employees and their central leadership. Solution: incentivizing teachers and staff to earn bonus pay for educational gains, positive performance reviews and developing new and imaginative curriculum. 3. Improving the educational outcomes of our most vulnerable populations. Solution: move people and resources into Pre-K and elementary schools, especially schools with large at-risk populations.

What is your position on:
Charter Schools? I think charter schools are a great idea so long as they are within the publicly funded school system. Many students would see immediate and long-term benefits from specialty charters (arts, technical skills, science, etc). It would also not only be satisfying for parents to have choices but also give a better educational experience for students.
Vouchers? Bad idea. Public money being diverted to private, for-profit and/or religious schools undermines the basic tenets of publically provided and equal education for all.

Would you support adding a one-mill school property tax like Sarasota County to provide additional funding? I would support it but I wouldn’t push for it. The citizens of Manatee County will not vote for, or support in any way, a tax increase. Therefore, we need to plan and budget within our current tax rates.

What is your vision for the Manatee County School District? By devoting resources and talented school employees to early childhood education we will see returns on those investments for many years to come. Manatee County’s ranking among Florida counties will rise into the top 10%. We’ll become a state leader in reading, math and science. We will be financially responsible which will lead to better credit worthiness and respect of the community. In addition, the entire community is improved by the economic benefits of investments in early childhood education, as demonstrated by multiple economists who have studied and documented this trend.

Bradenton Herald questionnaire

MANATEE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

What will be your priorities as a school board member?  My first priority is students.  The school district has made a dramatic financial turnaround in the past 18 months, however further cuts will have to be made.  I want to make sure children are the last stakeholder to be affected by those cuts.  My second priority is teachers.  As a high school teacher myself, I understand the challenges of the job and what is required to be successful.  Our district’s teachers haven’t seen a pay increase in years; in fact the cost of benefits is rising for teachers and the district.  Once the school budget is back on solid footing, with the required fund balance and a budget surplus, I will advocate for a modest increase for teachers that is fair for them, and for taxpayers.

How will you accomplish those goals?  I will accomplish these goals by being a school board member who does their homework going into board workshops and board meetings.  I will foster good relationships among board members and with the superintendent’s leadership team.  One of our current impediments to success is some of, what I perceive to be, the personality driven dynamics of our current board and the district leadership team’s relationship with the rank and file.  I would like to make sure school board deliberations focus on students, and their safety and success.   In addition, as a teacher I hear conversations about the leadership team which is not healthy for the organization.  The superintendent and his team have had to make difficult financial decisions and have dealt with difficult personnel decisions.  I will facilitate open communication between the leadership downtown and the teachers in the field to build trust again between labor and management.

In light of improvements in test scores, how can you as a school board member further improve student achievement and their education?  As a school board member, I will be tasked with the oversight of budget spending items.  Each spending item on the agenda must be studied and analyzed for the most cost-effective means to help students continue to make incredible gains they achieved in the latest state assessments.  Upon release of the 2013-14 scores in June, students and teachers had much to celebrate.  We must continue what has been effective, for example intensive reading and math courses for those who struggle with the FCAT.  This will be, in coming school years, state-mandated EOC (end of course) exams.  But the process is the same.  Find creative, cost-effective ways to give students the support they need to be successful.   For example, the extra hour of class time for schools with low reading test scores has had a positive impact.  Yes, it does carry a financial impact on the budget, but as I said above, board members and district leadership must look at the cost/benefit analysis of that extra hour and determine if that is money well spent.  I believe it is.

Which programs would you like to institute to accomplish that?  I have said this from day one of my campaign: we must allocate maximum resources to early childhood education.  Mountains of education research show the benefits of early education.[1]  It is successful across racial and economic lines.  It is relatively inexpensive considering the educational gains that are achieved in later school years.  In addition, there is economic benefit to our community as one study predicts a benefit of $8 saved for every $1 spent on early childhood education.[2]

The district’s budget outlook for next year looks challenging though promising. The draft plan reaches the state-required reserve minimum. What are your thoughts on this budget and future district spending?  I was in attendance at the school board meeting on Tuesday, June 24 to hear Mr. Hall’s presentation of the first draft of the 2014-15 budget.  There was an air of relief, perhaps even celebration, in the room as Mr. Hall announced that we had not only achieved the reserve minimum, but there was also a surplus of $2.4 million dollars.  Supt. Mills made the observation that the school district had made a financial turnaround of $17 million in just one school year.  To achieve such a dramatic turnaround has required tough decisions to be made, especially around personnel issues, however our district has gone from a near takeover by the state to one that is now on solid financial footing, in just one year.  Supt. Mills and his team of Dr. Greene and Mr. Hall should be commended for their professionalism and transparency in the budget process.

The 2009 sales tax bond issue remains up in the air with some $3 million unaccounted. Missing emails put an investigation in a tough position. What are your thoughts on this, too?  Like many of the problems that are just now coming to light from previous years, I think it is time to move forward.  Don’t get me wrong, we do need to find out where the bodies are buried, so to speak, so we can learn from our mistakes of the past. However, to spend more district time and resources to pursue dead ends should not be a priority for the district. Nor should we be diverting resources to support investigations to criminally prosecute our former superintendent and the former leadership team. More lawsuits and more investigations mean less money for students. We should not punish our students, who have no culpability for the sins of the past. To this point, on June 20 the Office of the Inspector General informed the district that no charges would be brought against our former superintendent.  Supt. Mills and our board Chair have accepted that determination and I believe the taxpayers of Manatee County should do the same. It is time to look to the future, having learned from the past.

Besides the sales tax bond, audit after audit have exposed one problem after another. Is the district now heading in the right direction?   Financial controls are now in place. The school district’s new email server system to be implemented with the 2014-15 budget (Windows 365) will ensure disappearing emails never happens again.  Mr. Hall and his budget team have displayed competency and professionalism in their delivery of the new budget.  As I said above, our district has made a $17 million turnaround in one year.  I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say this is miraculous.  Clearly, the district is heading in the right direction financially and, while the auditors should complete their work of uncovering the mistakes of the past, we can move forward knowing that we know have systems, and highly competent people, in place that will ensure this never happens again.

Public trust in the school board and district is still shaky, though improving. How can you further that progress?   My experience as an educator in Manatee County will give the public trust that they have a classroom teacher on the board who knows what students and teachers need to succeed.  Further, I don’t bring a particular ideology or personal agenda to the board.  As stated earlier, I want to build consensus among the board, leadership team and the public.   Education is filled with political land mines but, despite these, sometimes vitriolic, arguments, I’m sure we all want the same thing: for our students to succeed and our schools to operate efficiently.  If we can remove our own egos, partisan viewpoints, and personality conflicts and focus on our number one priority – kids – public trust can be fully restored in our school district.

What concerns do you hold about the current direction of the board? Which direction should it take under your stewardship?  My only concern regards the, sometimes, personality-driven dynamics of the board.   I realize that board members don’t have to agree with each other all the time; however, as an observer of board proceedings, I sometimes feel there are personal conflicts that are getting in the way of conducting school board business.  Even if a board member believes another to be wrong, or to be misusing the best use of board time, I believe each member should respect the others’ efforts and opinions.

Do you support the current administration, that is Superintendent Rick Mills and his deputies, Diana Greene and Don Hall? Why or why not?  I do support Supt. Mills, Dr. Greene and Mr. Hall.  For all the reasons mentioned above – our dramatic financial turnaround, the transparency of board deliberations and documentation,  the budget and accounting professionalism and expertise shown over the past 18 months and the measured, educational gains that our students have shown.  While students and teachers deserve much of the credit for those jumps in test scores, the district’s leadership should get some credit for putting resources, and the right people, in place to facilitate student achievement.

My only concern for Supt. Mills is how to rebuild trust between the leadership and the teachers.  There is a perception among teachers and administrators that Mr. Mills has been heavy-handed in his personnel decisions and further, through investigations of school board employees.   Whether or not these perceptions are fair is a matter of opinion; however we must deal with the reality that these perceptions are felt by teachers and administrators of the district.  If elected, I would like to improve relationships among, not just our leadership downtown and teachers, but among all stakeholders in the school district.

[1]http://heckmanequation.org/content/resource/invest-early-childhood-development-reduce-deficits-strengthen-economy

[2]http://www.childrenslearninginstitute.org/library/publications/documents/Effective-Early_Childhood-Programs.pdf (pg. 15)