Funding, keeping teachers focus of Centerville School Board candidates

Five candidates are running this fall for three seats on the Centerville School Board.

Board members John Doll and David Roer are running for re-election and John Dinsmore, Marshall G. Lachman and Megan E.M. Sparks are also running.

We asked all of the candidates about the issues they will deal with if elected. Here’s some of their responses:

Q: What are the 3 biggest challenges facing the school district? How would you deal with them?

John Dinsmore: 1. A burgeoning teacher shortage. A school system is only as good as its teachers. And, unfortunately, fewer and fewer are going into teaching. Even in districts as desirable as Centerville there is higher competition for quality teachers. Depoliticizing school systems, reducing standardized testing and enhancing the pay system to incentivize retention and experience will be key.

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2. Multi-track education. While there are core pillars of education that should not change, there should be more paths to a degree that include apprenticeships, work experience and more.

3. Expanded pre-school. Research shows that investments in pre-school pay the biggest dividends. Centerville should expand to universal pre-school.

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John Doll: 1.Funding. The state of Ohio has failed to adequately fund education for decades and more recently diverted funding from public school districts to charter schools which are failing students at an alarming rate and which have little if any accountability for the public funds they receive. the state and federal legislative bodies need to focus on the proper funding of public education consistent with the constitutional mandates. These legislative bodies also need to deal with the problems associated with those few school districts which are not as successful as they should be and could be.

John Doll

2. Measuring success by test results. The elected officials have been constantly changing the system by which they want to measure the success of a school district, the students and the teachers, somehow concluding, without listening to education professionals, that having students take more standardized tests. It has not worked.

3. Parent involvement. Too may times parents are not involved.

Marshall G. Lachman: The biggest single challenge is school funding. We are living in a time when there are more and more programs fighting for federal, state and local tax dollars, and we cannot always rely on taxpayers agreeing to an increase in their property taxes when the money gets tight.

Even in relatively good economic times, the focus must remain on fiscal responsibility and ensuring that the focus stays on the children, and not bureaucracy. Along those lines, teacher training and retention is another big challenge. Our schools are only as good as our teachers, and a priority must be placed on having, and keeping, well-trained teachers.

Finally, it is more important than ever that our children graduate from high school prepared for the unique challenges that face them in the 21st century. This may require new ways of doing things to ensure that our children are prepared to meet these challenges as adults.

David Roer: 1. School funding

2. Maintaining and improving the quality of education in our district

3. Ever-changing school report cards/graduation requirements

Megan E.M. Sparks: The biggest challenges are meeting the needs of the growing special needs population, drug use, and the overall well-being of our children.

First, we need highly qualified teachers and staff throughout the year in our classrooms, creating appropriate lessons and behavioral plans while providing the best education in the safest environment. Second, the drug prevention programs are the greatest tool we have to keep drugs out of our schools and we need to invest in to them. Finally, we need to look at the overall well-being of our students.

The amount of homework many of our students are required to do every night is alarming. Students are also expected to participate in extracurricular activities and then go home and complete large amounts of homework. This results in students not getting proper rest which hinders school performance. We need to look at what we are expecting of our students and how those expectations are effect the students overall well being.

Megan EM Sparks

Q: What is your position on state testing and graduation requirements?

John Dinsmore: Occasional, standardized benchmark testing is a necessary and good way of identifying children or school systems who may need extra resources. However, it appears to be overdone at the expense of both the teaching and learning experience.

Dedicating weeks of class time to “cramming” for such a test likely does not accomplish the original intent of the test—assessment of skills.

And, in the meantime, it discourages curiosity and discovery in the classroom. Additionally, these tests, in-and-of-themselves should not be make-or-break criteria for either student graduation or teacher promotion. They do not convey an entire universe of information about a school, teacher or student. Our evaluations of schools, teachers and students should reflect that understanding.

John Dinsmore

So yes, let’s benchmark students and test. But let’s be more thoughtful about it.

John Doll: The state testing requirements are ever changing and do not provide any demonstrable improvement in the education of our students.

Testing can be one method of measuring the success of some of our students, but state testing cannot consume the education process so much that it stifles critical thinking. State graduation requirements can be another measure of a school district’s success as long as the graduation requirements are not the only measure.

There needs to be consideration given for children who move into a district from other areas in Ohio and from other states who have not been exposed to the Ohio education requirements. Additionally, there has to be a recognition that foreign students who speak very little if any English moving into a district may not be able to meet the state graduation requirements. The inability to meet the state graduation requirements should not be counted against the school district.

Marshall G. Lachman: I believe it is important that we have a mechanism for ensuring that all children are on target and not falling behind, and state testing and baseline graduation requirements allow us to make sure that is not happening to any child.

That said, too much emphasis has been placed on state testing, and we have all heard the stories of teachers teaching to standardized tests rather than focusing on teaching in a way that the teachers believe would be most beneficial to the children. I am glad to see that the state has limited some of these standardized tests, and I hope we continue to shift the focus away from testing to teaching.

David Roer: The requirements on both State testing and graduation requirements have become a joke. They have changed so many times it is becoming impossible to keep up with. Testing is out of control! Although I agree that certain standards need to be met, it appears that the state does not know what they want, how they want to implement them, how to grade them, and how to use the data they get in any constructive way.

We need to do less testing, allow our teachers to do their jobs and come up with a graduation requirements that make sense and do not constantly change.

Megan E.M. Sparks: Holding both staff and students accountable for academic success is important, but we also must remember that all this testing takes time which takes away from valuable instruction time. I am excited about the idea of having options outside of standardized test as being requirements for graduation. There are some students who do not do well on these types of test, so allowing them the opportunity to show what they know outside of a standardized test is really exciting.

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