School Board District 1 race – my decision

Yesterday I laid out the issues I am considering in deciding who to vote for for the District 1 School Board seat. This afternoon I watched the Naples Daily News 30-minute interviews with Pat Carroll and Rosanne Winter to be sure I was clear on their positions. Now, by evaluating each priority issue, I’ll make my decision.

Which candidate is most committed to providing the best possible education to all of our community’s children, despite the many challenges?

In the NDN interview, when asked about the progress of the District over the eight years she has been on the Board, Carroll said she felt that the sheltered program for non-English speaking students was one of the positive improvements during that period. In the sheltered instruction program, students who enter the District not knowing English are taught academic subjects in their native language, while separately learning English. The idea is that this way, they won’t fall behind academically by being placed right away in an English-only classroom. Carroll said, “…after a year, when they’re embedded into an English class, they have the gist of the English language, they understand our academic programming, and they have made a year’s gain [academically.] I like that.”

According to a NDN profile of Carroll last July, “When you ask her about the successes she’s seen in her past two terms, Carroll immediately speaks about career education and the Collier County School District’s support of the Lorenzo Walker Technical Institute and Career and Technical High School, and the Immokalee Technical Center…. Carroll said she believes that career education will need a champion now more than ever.”

During her 30-minute NDN interview, Winter only mentioned the challenges of the District’s ethnic, language and socio-economic diversity in the context of how teachers should be resourced or evaluated when they have non-English-speaking or special education students in their classroom. Her focus was how to make it easier for the teachers to teach, rather than on how to raise the performance of the students.

After careful consideration, and based on what I’ve seen and heard, I believe Carroll is more focused on the interests of Collier’s children than Winter.

Which candidate is most likely to buy in to the draft strategic plan’s vision and goals, quickly come up to speed and contribute in a meaningful way to the process?

Connect Now was an 18-month process in which citizens all across Collier County participated in conversations about what they wanted for the community and schools. The culmination of this process was a Community Statement, published in April 2009. That Community Statement was the basis of a School Board workshop on April 14, 2009, in which the Board accepted the statement as a starting point for its formal strategic planning process that would set the vision and goals to guide the district’s work for the next three years.

In response to a question at the end of the NDN interview, Rosanne Winter said, “I think [Connect Now is] a fantastic program…. The strategic plan that has grown out of that is fantastic… We are now at the point that we need to take that strategic plan and turn it into operations. How we will measure…. The standards, the alignment, the evaluation, that’s the work that has to be done now.”  Based on that comment, I assume Winter has bought in to the vision and goals, and would contribute positively to the process.

However Pat Carroll was involved in and, from what I’ve seen and heard, supported the  Connect Now process since its inception. Knowing what was involved (since I was a participant in parts of it myself), I give Carroll an edge over Winter on this question.

Which candidate shares my values on social issues?

In yesterday’s post I shared some of Carroll’s and Winter’s responses to the League of Women Voters / AAUW candidate surveys, and reported that Carroll was unwilling to provide yes/no answers. Today, when visiting Winter’s website, I discovered that she had in fact posted lengthy responses to all of those questions there. I’m sorry I didn’t know that sooner, as I am impressed with her answers and find they are aligned with my own values.

Since Winter didn’t want her responses truncated, I urge you to read them in full, but for purposes of my analysis, I would summarize them as follows:

  • Do you support policies that prohibit school prayer and the distribution of non-academic religious materials during the school day and at school-sponsored athletic activities (excluding student clubs)? Yes
  • Do you support the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes? No
  • Do you support the teaching of man-made climate change as fact in science classes? Yes
  • Do you support the practice of religious invocations at the start of School Board meetings? No
  • Do you agree with the new School Board policy that mandates the teaching of comprehensive sex education from the 6th grade and up, and which includes information about contraception, condoms and abstinence? Yes
  • Do you support mandatory diversity training for all school personnel and School Board members? Yes

Clearly Winter’s values are much closer to mine than Carroll’s. If this were the only basis for my decision, Winter would get my vote.

Which candidate adds more to the diversity of the Board?

This issue specifically concerns the possibility of a Board made up of a majority of educators. Please read yesterday’s post for the backgrounds of the candidates.

After watching her NDN interview, I’m a bit puzzled about Winter’s background, which she described more broadly than what I reported yesterday. Neither her own website nor the NDN summary from which I drew my report mention having been a classroom teacher, yet in the interview she said she had taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, both special education and general education, as well as at the university graduate level. I’m not sure what might explain the omission, but it leaves me a bit troubled.

Regardless, I believe Carroll’s business experience would provide much-needed diversity to the Board, while Winter’s professional experience would not.

In addition, Carroll brings an important experience with and awareness of the political realities of our state, whereas Winter is more knowledgeable about Virginia, as she said in the NDN interview. In her interview, Carroll brought up Senate Bill 4, passed by the legislature earlier this year. According to the NDN, this “so-called graduation bill will usher in new requirements for high school students to take harder math and science classes and pass end-of-course exams to earn high school diplomas.” Carroll said that in order to meet those requirements, the District would have to take away opportunities for electives, and said “we need to lobby to get flexibility in graduation requirements.”

Asked about tenure, Carroll said it’s not as big a problem as in other states “because Florida is a right-to-work state,” but “there are some in the state legislature that want to get rid of any existence of tenure whatsoever,” as would have happened had Governor Crist not vetoed Senate Bill 6. When asked, Carroll said, “I don’t support tenure…. I believe that they should negotiate a three-to-five year contract on a rolling basis based on their accomplishments and performance.”

Asked whether merit pay is really possible in the schools, Carroll said, “I don’t know. But the education community in the state of Florida must meet the state legislators half-way. Because the state legislators absolutely are convinced that it’s do-able and it will improve education.” According to the NDN, “Carroll, who has been asked to serve on an state ad hoc committee to develop a plan on teacher tenure and performance pay, said Collier County needs to stop being told what to do and to become part of the solution. ‘With something like performance pay _ I want to put it out to teachers and have the teachers come up with the program. No program is not an option. So what do you want?’ she said.”

When asked about teacher evaluation in the NDN interview, Winter spoke at length about evaluation of teachers’ teaching methods and the value of videotaping teachers at work and reviewing the tapes with them. She said that in Fairfax, VA, “we did have a performance pay system…. Did it improve the quality of teaching? Yes, but I don’t think it was worth what we paid.”

There’s no doubt that Carroll’s views on these subjects are more aligned with mine than Winter’s.

My decision

This process has been fascinating for me. Other than the process I went through (and blogged about in So what do you think about that?) in deciding who to support in the 2008 Democratic Primary, this is the most time and effort I’ve ever spent on a voting decision. I was forced to identify my priorities and recognize that neither candidate gave me 100 percent of what I wanted. I found that whatever information I wanted to help me differentiate between the candidates was available, thanks to Google and the online Naples Daily News. As a result, I have made my decision.

I’m going to vote for Pat Carroll for School Board for District 1.

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