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Bill Corkran, Flagler County School Board Candidate: The Live Interview

| July 30, 2012

bill corkran flagler county school board candidate

Bill Corkran. (© FlaglerLive)

Bill Corkran is one of four candidates for Flagler County School Board in the Aug. 14 primary election. He is challenging three-term incumbent Sue Dickinson for the District 5 seat. Corkran has not previously held elected office.

The two school board elections are non-partisan races: all registered voters in Flagler County are eligible to cast a ballot in both races–whether registered Democratic, Republican, Independent or from a minor party.

You may cast a vote in both races regardless of the district, the town or the subdivision you live in. The election on Aug. 14 will decide the winner in both races. Since there are just two candidates in each race, there will be no run-offs, no general election. This is it.

FlaglerLive submitted 14 identical questions to the school board candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked, and that all exchanges would be on the record. Follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in italics, and may be awaiting answers.

The Questions in Summary: Quick Links

Bill Corkran: The Basics:

Place and Date of Birth: August 24, 1947
Current job: Retired teacher.
Political affiliation: Democratic.
Net worth: $85,886. Corkran’s financial disclosure form is available here.
Website: billcorkran.info

1.     Why are you running for school board, and what makes you think you are the best person for the job?

As a teacher in this county for twenty-two years, I have served proudly, and as a retired educator serving on the School Board, I will bring my expertise to this position. My many years of experience have afforded me up-front knowledge of what is vitally important in providing a quality education for all students. We must create classroom environments where students are taught critical thinking skills and not just become experts in bubbling in the right answers. Our goal must be for all students to graduate from Flagler County Schools proficient and ready to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. I will come to the School Board with an open mind and will commit my energy, expertise and time to improve our schools. I will look at our schools through the lens of a teacher of twenty-two years in Flagler County and promote positive growth and change.

2.     Describe the scope of your job as school board member as you understand it: what’s your primary responsibility? What’s in your power to influence on a day-to-day basis? What is not in your power to do?

As a School Board member, the scope of my job is to represent the community. I will be involved in the primary responsibilities (but not limited to the following) :

a. Organizational structure of the school district
b. Hiring/firing the superintendant
c. Formulating and enforcing policies for the district including code of student conduct, courses of study
d. Establishing a budget for the district
e. Negotiating and ratifying bargaining agreements
f. Providing for health, safety, welfare, transportation of students while they are in school
g. Maintaining, building school sites, providing insurance for buildings

It is not in my power to influence day-to-day decisions in the schools.

How are school board members involved in negotiating bargaining agreements, beyond appointing a representative?

The School Board and the FCEA/FESPA work closely together on bargaining negotiations. This affords an open dialogue among the groups. In addition to appointing a representative to the bargaining negotiation committee, the parameters for pay raises in the bargaining process are established and approval of contract language is discussed by the representatives of the School Board.

3.     Name your three specific priorities you intend to achieve as a school board members within the scope of the doable-not pie-in-the-sky stuff, not generalities. That is, three priorities you’ll be able to say, four years down the line, that you’ve achieved.

a. In order to promote positive change, a decrease in the size of intensive reading and math classes on the elementary, middle, and high school levels will provide timely interventions and increase the time spent with each student. At the present time, on the high school level, an intensive reading class of twenty-five students in a forty-five minute period does not provide adequate time to reach individual students.
b. By eliminating common planning periods, teachers may choose to participate in “best practices” visitations, meaning that teachers can help each other in incorporating new ideas in lessons and management techniques. This cannot occur with common planning periods. Also, the present schedule in the high schools (which have common planning periods) creates a loss of twenty-two days of instructional time by eliminating one period a day. The schedule should be changed.
c. Evaluate programs that raise or do not raise student achievement and eliminate those programs that are not cost-effective.
d. Increase the graduation rate (I could connect this one to the above statement on programs that are effective and will affect the graduation rate.

Please explain what you mean by common planning periods and how those common planning periods hurt students, and cite examples of a programs that you do not find cost-effective.

At the high schools, teachers share a common planning period, meaning that all teachers have their planning periods at the beginning of their school day. The students’ day or first period begins at 8 A.M. By using this schedule, the students’ day is shortened to five periods a day of instructional time rather than six periods a day, thereby decreasing instructional time. This decrease in class time results in a loss of twenty-two days of instruction per year. In the past, teachers’ planning periods were at different times during the day thereby having available classes throughout the day. The result of having less class periods has an enormous effect on the amount of time spent on instruction. To answer the second part of your question, excessive testing on the district level should be re-evaluated as a possibility for a budget cut.

4. Budget cuts are now a routine part of board members’ duties. Assuming that salary cuts are off the table, but eliminating positions aren’t, name three specific programs, curriculum areas or activities you’d cut. Please be specific, citing actual programs or areas you’d cut before others.

When I am a member of the School Board, I would recommend that the individual schools examine their budgets closely so that they could determine which programs, curriculum areas, or activities would be eliminated in order to decrease the budgets of those individual schools since elementary, middle, and high schools would require different budget cuts. I would need the information given to School Board members about these programs.

One would have to assume that if you are running for school board, you would have prepared rigorously enough to be informed about a variety of programs that have been discussed in recent years. Can you not cite any programs or sectors that you would consider cutting?

When I consider this question, it focuses on programs, activities, and curriculum areas to be reduced/eliminated. I mentioned that school administrators need to look at their individual budgets to make these cuts in their schools. For example, if we have an academic coach who is instrumental in helping teachers, perhaps an administrator in an individual school may have to also utilize the talents of that academic coach in a teaching capacity during the day if classes continue to increase in size. Then that would eliminate the need for an additional class and would help to improve the budget restraints of that school in one way. That example is not the only solution to budget cuts. An individual administrator may need to evaluate the class sizes to determine why there may be a class with a few students and reconfigure the schedules to save money without actually eliminating a teacher, but avoiding additional hiring at the time of a budget crunch. I agree also that textbook adoptions can be put on hold until a brighter financial picture emerges.

5.      The IB program at FPC is the district’s most academically rigorous and accomplished program, serving a small but high-performing class of students beginning with the pre-IB program in 9th grade. What is your opinion of the program, how committed are you to its continuation, and would you support its expansion, or an expansion of a similarly themed feeder program, at Buddy Taylor Middle School, as is being considered currently?

The IB program at Flagler Palm Coast High School has been recognized many times at the state, national, and international levels, and I applaud the rigorous preparation of our students in this highly valued program. I fully support this program and will continue to do so as a School Board member. As far as expansion, I understand that, worldwide, many countries have successful feeder programs. I would evaluate the possibility of having a feeder program on the middle school level.

6. Superintendent Janet Valentine will retire during your four-year tenure, making her replacement one of your top responsibilities. Explain how you’d go about replacing her: would you favor an internal candidate ahead of an external one? Would you conduct a national search? Also, explain your assessment of Jacob Oliva, now the deputy superintendent, and whether you see him as the next superintendent.

I would look seriously at the qualifications that match the needs of Flagler County Schools. If, in fact, we do have a candidate in this county who would be our best choice, then there would not be a need for an expensive nation-wide search. As far as Jacob Oliva, our assistant superintendent, I cannot assess him at this early date since he was recently appointed to this position.

7.      What place should standardized testing have in schools, and how accurate of a representation of a student’s abilities does it provide?

As a teacher, I have observed students who scored poorly on standardized tests such as FCAT. These same students did well in class, were motivated, had excellent attendance, and would probably have a successful standardized test score. What happened? Factors that can affect a student’s performance are impossible to predict- illness, death in the family, divorce, test anxiety etc. I am not opposed to standardized testing when it can be used as a predictor to monitor student progress. When test scores are used effectively for the higher purpose of helping our students by analyzing problem areas, great strides occur.

8.      Sum up your position on sex education: is abstinence-only education scientifically sound? Is it sufficient? Would you support an expansion of sex education, as was considered last year, to include broader information about and access to contraception?

At this time, Flagler County School District has an abstinence- only program. You asked if it is sufficient. To weigh the premise of abstinence-only as a scientifically sound program, we have to look at research-based studies. One by the APA (the American Psychological Association) suggests that a program of abstinence-only plus sex education in the areas of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases etc does not increase sexual activity among teens. However, this is only one study. Abstinence is the best policy. I support the policy of the district.

9.      The Legislature just passed a law enabling school boards to grant students permission to conduct prayers or their variants, such as “inspirational messages,” at public events. But the burden is on you as a school board member to enact a policy allowing it—or to leave the matter silent, as it is now. Understanding that private and personal prayer has never been forbidden in schools and may not be, do you think public prayer should be permissible? What will you do regarding the new law?

Prayer is a personal matter. Students are guaranteed the right to conduct prayers/inspirational messages at public events, and that is the law. As a School Board, we have the duty to enact this policy allowing it or leaving the matter silent. I believe that public prayer is an issue that needs to be discussed in-depth at a School Board workshop.

But what is your preference–is it for the board to approve a policy enacting the legislative allowance, or to leave it silent?

As I mentioned previously, there has been a legislated decision on prayer/inspirational messages at public events. Before school hours, “prayer at the pole” has been an accepted practice at schools. However, the question particularly cites “public events.” Can we, as a School Board, act on the legislated position? I believe that the School Board can develop a well-defined policy of prayer in public events that falls within the guidelines of the legislated decision and supports its guidelines. So, I do support that policy.

10.      Who on the board currently is the board member most closely aligned with your idea of a school board member and why?

Each member has attributes that reflect both positions and personalities. When I look at the positions of each member, I can say that I have agreed with decisions that Andy Dance has made such as voting to close failing charter schools and approving a referendum on half cent sales tax.

11.  If you had a choice of running the school district with a teacher union or without one, what would that choice be, and why?

There is a benefit in running the school district with the help of the teacher and staff associations. Working as team with the unions and the School Board benefits both in a collegial community. The teachers and staff are directly connected and see the day-to -day needs of the school. They understand how to create good learning environments. Teachers/staff also require good working conditions. Therefore, the commitment and communication between the School Board and the teacher/staff unions is vital in order to achieve good learning environments and good working conditions.

12. Understanding that charter schools have been the only schools to experience substantial growth in Flagler County, how do you see charter schools fitting in public-school equation, and how successful has that fit been in Flagler, with heritage’s closure and Palm Harbor Academy getting an F this year?

With the closing of Heritage and the failing grades at Palm Harbor Academy, we need to analyze and further evaluate recent data on the success of charter schools. All of our traditional schools in Flagler County on the elementary and middle school levels have received “A” rankings from the State. (The high schools grade rankings are not posted yet.) The charter schools do not demonstrate that success rate, yet in your question you mention substantial growth in the charter schools. The charter schools may be experiencing growth but at what price?

You mentioned at a recent forum, quite categorically, that you were opposed to charter schools. Please elaborate.

At a forum, I responded that I do not support charter schools. I must expand on this issue. Our charter schools have small class sizes, access to technology, very good teachers, and a supportive environment. Yet, several charter schools in Flagler County have demonstrated difficulties. Imagine Charter School is absolutely not one of the charter schools in distress. It shines as a charter school. All of our traditional elementary and middle schools have shown much success, all with state rankings of A’s. I affirm that we, in our traditional schools are doing very well, and I have always been a proponent of this education system.

13.  Is the notion of zero tolerance as a disciplinary approach effective?

In our district, zero tolerance is the policy. Zero tolerance for instances of drug use, drug sales, carrying drugs or weapons, and fighting is appropriate.

14.   What is your position on sheriff’s deputies in schools-in elementary, middle and high schools, and what weaponry should these deputies be allowed to carry in schools?

As resource officers in our schools, sheriff’s deputies should have the equipment assigned by the Sheriff’s Department as defined by the State of Florida statute. Resource officers serve a function of helping to deter serious incidents and acting as positive role models.

Please clarify: do you support the presence of deputies at all grave levels? And with what specific weaponry at each of those levels?

The resource officers at our schools are our deputies who are equipped by the Sheriff’s Department with equipment approved by state statutes. So, their equipment should be the same as deputies on the road –gun, handcuffs, taser, since these are part of their uniform no matter where the deputy is serving. As far as the presence of the deputies at all levels- elementary, middle, and high school, the deputies help to provide that safe environment and furthermore act as role models and should be in all of our schools.

15. What is your understanding and personal opinion of the Sunshine Law, and how will you ensure that you are always operating in the Sunshine?

The Sunshine Law refers to not holding private meetings among Board members discussing School Board issues. All such meetings should be held in a public forum. I will not discuss School Board issues with School Board members unless the forum is a public approved forum. I will respect the Sunshine Law and follow its guidelines.

16. You’ll be making roughly $31,000 a year as a school board member. What proportion of your income does that represent, including all salaries, retirement income, annuities etc.? Former school board member Jim Guines argues that school board members should not be paid. Do you agree? Should salaries be reduced?

Salaries are determined by State statutes and the letter of the law should be followed. I believe the present Board has turned down recent raises. The salary of $31,000 represents 57 percent of my income.

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7 Responses for “Bill Corkran, Flagler County School Board Candidate: The Live Interview”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    Disappointed that FL did not ask the candidates their opinion of the district’s new uniform policy. To me that is an issue at the forefront of my mind as I go to the ballot box – especially since I am in the middle of having to spend several hundred dollars, that I absolutely can’t afford and wouldn’t have otherwise had to spend, on clothes for my special needs daughter that will comply with the uniform code AND accomodate her disability. Theoretical questions that will never exist in reality about whether they would like the district better without a teacher’s union don’t do me much good. I want to know about the stuff that is literally affecting my family’s day-to-day life, and affecting my ability to pay my family’s bills!

  2. Joanne says:

    You have my vote.

  3. MIchelle says:

    FYI
    Imagine Town Center Charter School received and ‘A’.

    I will vote for Bill but make sure you have all the facts and don’t lump ALL charter schools together. Imagine has some awesome teachers!

  4. Independent says:

    As much as I would have preferred to have both incumbents win, I cannot in good conscience vote for Mr Corkran after reading his answers to the questions posted, and his deliberate avoidance on those that were also very important.

    The school board salary will make up 57% of his salary and he is a retired police officer and teacher. So he is only receiving 43% in retirement benefits. Doesn’t sound right. Can we get some fact checking on this?

  5. meh says:

    i had bill as a teacher when i went to school. the amount of disrespect i received during the school year as his student has stayed with me and will continue to. this could be my way of giving him the finger, without actually doing it :D

    you sir, do not have my vote and i will encourage others i know to also not vote for you.

  6. Melissa Kiernan says:

    Bill Corkran in my opinion was one of the best teachers at FPC. He was extremely nice and would help you with whatever you needed. Go Corkran!

  7. susan says:

    To me all the school board menbers as well as supers should reduce there incomes. They make too much as it is. If we the struggling people who have to work (2) jobs to make ends their salaries should be cut . Should board postions are volunteer in most states, why are they being paid that much money for meeting once or twicw a month, WAKE- UP!!!! Florida.

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