What is your background?
I am a computer guy. I graduated from J-town high school. I graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor of science in business administration with a focus on finance.
Why are you running?
For years I've thought that education needs to be changed. Even when I was in school, even when I was in college. It kind of amazed me that we were still teaching the same way we were teaching for a really long time because like for instance, myself, I'm a hands on learner and I learn better by actually doing things than I do by sitting and listening to someone so the way I made it through college was reading. I could read so I read a lot of the books and texts as opposed to just sitting and listening to lectures. I'm not a good note taker. I realized early on that there's a lot of differences in the way people learn. One of the things I noticed over the years since my own children are in school. Two of them have been in JCPS schools now there's only one left in JCPS school and we all learn differently but yet we don't always teach differently to the different styles of learning. That I think that is something we really need to change.
What makes you the best candidate?
I have a background in business. I run my own business. I do computer and phone work for small businesses in town. I think that perspective would be very useful on the board. The school system is over a one billion dollar business basically. I think a business person would have a much better perspective than maybe somebody that's been in administration or somebody that's been a school teacher. I think there needs to be a different perspective because in industries, even in my industry sometimes if you've been in it for awhile you tend to get a little narrow minded and you tend to look at things the same way as you always have, as opposed to looking at it from a broader perspective.
What is the biggest issue facing JCPS?
The biggest hot button with most of us parents is test scores. I don't like the fact we put so much weight on test scores. I like to look at education more as creating lifelong learners. We need to create more students that come out of school learning how to learn. They need to learn how to learn so they can go into higher education or if they go into vocation they can learn how to learn to get better through vocation. Something someone pointed out to me recently that I really like is that even if you go to a vocational school sometimes people think you have at trade you can go work for somebody. Actually a lot of vocational school students, plumbers, electricians etc., end up starting their own business and they become employers. And so I think that we need to make sure we are teaching our kids for life skills to learn to be good productive citizens and not so much how to take a test. Eventually what will happen is and what is happening is we have people that are coming out of school who are really good at memorizing things and really good at regurgitation and not necessarily critical thinkers.
What are the specific examples of things you want to change in the way kids are educated?
One of the things I pointed out before is that I'm not a educator. That is not my training in education, but it seems to me that the important thing as a school board member is your one of seven people. We need to get the seven people on the school board to work together as a team with a common vision. That is the first thing we need to do because there seems to not be so much cooperation in the past and I don't mean the current school board but other times. That's the first and foremost and most important thing is to get the school board together to work with a common vision. But, the big thing is that the school board needs to be able to point the CEO of the business, let's say the superintendent in the right direction. We need to say okay, Dr. Hargens here's what the goals are we have as a school system that we want to have as a school system. We want you as a educator to set forth the goals and the ideas of how to get there. Now, of course as a school board member each one of us school board members will have ideas how to get there. Some specific things that I think will help our system and it seems to be a big issue in District 7 and with me is neighborhood schools. With neighborhood schools we put less resources into transportation and more resources into teaching and more resources into getting parental involvement in the local schools as opposed to putting so many resources into transportation.
Any ideas on how to make neighborhood schools happen?
we were a neighborhood school community back in the 70s when we changed. I was in the school system when we changed. I was in fifth grade when we started busing. We were able to transition then to what we do now and what we've done over the years. I think we can transition back. It wouldn't be an overnight thing. Some of my opponents have pointed out that you'd have to build schools, etc., etc., but I think if we did it smartly, and I mentioned the other day we could build a model. We have plenty of data on what we need for our students. We have lots of data on students. We could build a model and say here's what it would look like and if we had a neighborhood school in this neighborhood we know how many kids are in this neighborhood. We know how many schools we have in that neighborhood, here's how we could start going back to neighborhood schools. It can be done. It would be a large task. It can be done. At least the people in my district that seems to be what they want most. That seems to be the hot button. It seems to be the most important thing to have the neighborhood schools.
Do you think that would cause a diversity issue in JCPS?
I don't know about the community that some people live in but the community I live in is already very diverse anyway. I live in Jeffersontown and we're a very diverse community. I don't see at least in my district or the area I live I don't see that would be a problem. I know there are some districts that would be. It seems that we've been doing the same thing for a long time and it hasn't seemed to work. Yes we've accomplished diversity and that's a great thing and that's one of the things that our city is great at. We have lots of diversity. Some would argue that's because of the bussing that we did, but I think we've reached the point now where we need to concentrate really more on the education aspect because we've fallen so far behind the state and the national levels in education.
Would you say the student assignment plan is getting in the way of a good education?
I would say it's not helping.
What is your opinion on the recent board approval 3.4% property tax increase?
I wouldn't have voted no on a tax increase. The reason I would vote no on a tax increase is because the taxpayers have had a tough time enough already in the last five years or so with the economy. This is not the time to be raising taxes. The problem I have with the board's increases in taxes in the tax rate is once you've increased that tax rate it stays there until somebody raises their hand and says hey we need to remove the tax rate. It just keeps going up and up even though people keep saying well it was only a 3.4 percent tax increase. The maximum is four. That's still a lot of money to people when you're already trying to pay for gas at almost four dollars a gallon and your struggling some people are struggling to pay for their homes and the groceries that are going up and everything else. I don't think we need more taxes for that. I think that what would have to happen is the school system would have to learn to live in the budget they have at least temporarily.
How would you get your funding?
It depends on a lot of factors, but we do need to tighten up. They have done a lot of tightening. I know they've done a whole lot of cuts. There's always somewhere to cut. Something I've noticed with friends I have that work for U of L and they've had a lot of cuts in the last years. Some of the department chairs I know said yes it's tough but we always seem to be able to find that little bit of extra that we can figure out how to do it differently. When times are tough you've got to make tough decisions. I do think the obvious thing would be if you went back to neighborhood schools and you stopped busing kids all over the county there would surely be some savings there as well.
What is something you think the board is doing well?
If you're in a good school in Jefferson County then they're doing a really good job. My daughter goes to Eastern High School. She loves it. She's in the AP program and she does a great job. She excels. If you're in Manual, Male you're in a great school and you have opportunities that not everybody has. That's what we're doing well, but that's only for a small portion of the community. We need to be more mindful of all the other kids in the community as well.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I kind of like to think that I'm just a common sense candidate. I'm not a politician. I don't always say things the best way necessarily but I like to think I have some common sense and I would like to bring that common sense to the school board. I'd like to be able to like I said pull together the school board as a whole and try to move forward and have some more vision than we've had. Have something where we try new and bold and different things and not keep trying to do the same things or not be satisfied with itty bitty increments of improvement because I saw a study that said for our student achievement gap for instance that the gap in reading and math between under achieving students and normal high achieving students let's say, the study said that even though we're making improvements at the rate we're going the best possibly we could do it would be 25 years to close the gap. That's unacceptable. That's two whole cycles of children coming to the school that are not going to get the benefit of the best education they can possibly get.