Tell me about your background?
I live out in Jeffersontown. I'm running for School Board in District seven as you know. I have two kids in the school system. I have a 4 and 6 year old that are just now starting off their school careers at Farmer Elementary. In addition to that, I've been lucky enough to be married for almost 10 years. We're coming up on our 10 year anniversary to my wife Deanna. We've lived out in that area for about 10 years now and we've really gotten involved with the community. I've volunteered for several organizations. I've volunteered for Brightside Voice for Cleanup and I also serve on the neighborhood association board for my neighborhood.
Why are you running for school board?
The reason I'm running for school board is because I think student achievement is an important aspect, is the priority for me. We have to do a much better job of educating our kids. We have a 68 percent graduation rate, which his actually 10 percent lower than the state average and is something I feel needs to be changed. The kids we do graduate we need to make sure a lot of them are much more ready to go to college. They have to be ready for a career. They have to be ready for college. Not every kid is college bound and those that aren't if they're going to choose a vocational school for example we need to make sure that when they go to that vocational school that they have the tools they need to be able to succeed. The last thing I'd want to do is take the wind out of their sails by having them take a remedial class that they need to be able to start that process.
What is the one thing you think needs to be done to achieve student achievement?
I really don't think there is just one thing that needs to be done. It needs to be a multi-tiered approach. It's a very complex issue. There's lots of things that affect student achievement and lots of things that affect student achievement that aren't even the preview of teachers in a classroom. We have 10 thousand homeless students within Jefferson County. That's something in and of itself fully impedes student achievement. One of the things I'd like to do to at least address that issue is to have a bit more focus on our family resource Centers within our schools and to offer more wrap around services. Not just, to go beyond simple making sure that they qualify for free reduced lunches but ensure that they get the programs they qualify for as a family. Whether that's financial literacy services, making sure they qualify for earned income tax credit or making sure they're a part of the K-chips programs. Some of those services are offered now at some of our family resource centers but not in all of them and are not consistently, so that's something I'd like to be able to have a refocus on and I think that is something that could improve student outcomes. It's something that traditionally we have not really gone into.
What is something the Board is doing that you agree with?
A couple things. They recently changed the student assignment plan. The current plan that we have today is a six cluster assignment plan. Personally, I find that to be a mess. I don't support that plan. I didn't support it when it first came out. We will be going to a 13 cluster assignment plan that's going to happen next year. That plan, I like that because it eliminates school depots or where busses have to go and transfer students. It reduces school ride time because the cluster sizes that a student will be assigned schools within will be much smaller than what we have today. Additionally, it also meets our JCPS diversity goals. I do believe diversity does play a role, important role in the education of our students. It also provides me as a parent parental choice. It gives me the choice of a selection of schools within my cluster to be able to enroll my sons in. I think parental choice is a very, very important thing and I feared if we went to a neighborhood school system then if I don't go to the school that is closest to me which I currently don't and my kids currently don't, then the school I'd like them to go to would be overcrowded or at least full and I wouldn't be able to have that ability to say well if this school doesn't work out for me, maybe I can go to this school or maybe this school. I fear that if we went to that type of model then if I didn't go to the school I was closest to me then I actually might send my kids further than what you would do possibly now with six clusters assignment plan. In addition to that, some of the other things I think the Board has done right is they are transitioning over to the Common Core Standards which we have to do that, but I think that transition will ultimately pay out dividends because what we're doing there is we're taking the curriculum that and standardizing pretty much across the US. There's 46 states that are involved. Kentucky's the first one to go with this system. Now what an A means in Louisville will be what an A means in Portland, Charlotte or Nashville or New York or Los Angeles. I think that's really important to actually judge our students against the bar of being career and college ready.
How do you think the current student assignment plan plays a role in student achievement? Hurt it or help it?
The current plan now because the ride times and the geographical areas of those clusters are so big I think in many ways it disengages parents. For example, if you're a parent that relies on the public transportation system to be able to get around and your son or daughter goes to a school that's on the other side of town, you're probably not going to show up for PTA events. You're probably not going to be able to do those things. I think that that is a bit of a disengagement. One of the things I look for when I was enrolling my kids into schools was PTA volunteer hours. I've generally found that the higher number of PTA volunteer hours the better achieving that school becomes because the parents are engaged and those parents are engaged not only with their students education, or their kids education but with the schools themselves and the kids are more engaged too because they're able to do more after school activities. I think going to a 13 cluster assignment plan where you shrink the cluster boundaries will enable parents to more easily connect with those schools and be able to become more active, not only just as I said with the school stuff but also with their child's education.
What is your opinion of the recent property tax increase approved by the board?
The tax increase was 3.4 percent. They can go all the way up to four but they didn't. the reason they didn't I feel is because they are just trying to fill in the hole of funds they were not getting from the state. In the past they actually increased it by, I want to say, don't have the exact number but I want to say it's .06 percent or something along those lines and the only reason they did that was just to keep their current funding levels even with what their budge was so they wouldn't actually by not having an increase they wouldn't avoid having a budget shortfall for that year. I think they've been pretty responsible in that regard, but what I'd like to do as a school board member is reach out to our state delegates and try and redo some of the funding that we have that we get from Frankfort. Louisville's the economic engine of Kentucky. I think we have a responsibility of being the biggest city in Kentucky of being able to give back. At the same time though, Louisville has very unique challenges especially when it comes to public education like the 10 thousand homeless students I mentioned that needs to be addressed in our SEEK funding. SEEK funding is part of the formula to how we get funding from the state. One example of that if you take a look at transportation cost some districts within the state will get reimbursed a dollar fifty for every dollar they spend. For us it's more like we get reimbursed 50 cents for every dollar we spend. Some of those guidelines for example let's say well if you're going to pick up kids have them cross the street. Well in this area you really can't do that because that street might be Dixie Highway. I think there needs to be an urban component to this that needs to be in the SEEK funding that takes into account larger urban areas such as Louisville or Lexington when they're doing their funding.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for giving me the chance to be here. I really do believe that what we do today with our kids, you know, I know there are some folks out there that might look at having charter schools come in to a degree I believe that is to privatize public education or taking away, ultimately takes money out of our public funds and we can't look at public education as a business per say. It's more of an investment and it's not just an investment in our kids but it's an investment in all of us and what we're going to be doing and how we progress as a community. Louisville has a great opportunity here and we have a lot of potential. We need to make sure we do everything we can to invest in our kids because ultimately that's going to result in our future success.