Janet McDonald, Flagler County School Board Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | August 25, 2014
Janet McDonald is one of eight candidates for Flagler County School Board in the Aug. 26 primary election, and one of four in the District 2 race. She is married to Dennis McDonald, a candidate for Flagler County Commission.
Maria Barbosa (Dist. 1)
Andy Dance (Dist. 1)
Toni Baker (Dist. 2)
Lynnette Callender (Dist. 2)
John Fischer (Dist. 2)
Janet McDonald (Dist. 2)
Michael McElroy (Dist. 4)
Trevor Tucker (Dist. 4)
County Commission Candidates:
Dennis McDonald (Dist. 2)
Nate McLaughlin (Dist. 4)
Frank Meeker (Dist. 2)
Mark Richter (Dist. 4)
Palm Coast City Council Candidates:
Woody Douge (Dist. 4)
Bill Lewis (Dist. 4)
Steven Nobile (Dist. 4)
Joel Rosen (Dist. 2)
Anne-Marie Shaffer (Dist. 2)
Heidi Shipleyu (Dist. 2)
Norman Weiskopf (Dist. 4)
The three school board elections–for District 1, 2 and 4–are non-partisan races: all registered voters in Flagler County are eligible to cast a ballot in all three 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. 26 will decide the winner in District 1 and District 4, because each of those races have just two candidates (incumbent Andy Dance and Maria Barbosa in District 1, incumbent Trevor Tucker and Michael McElroy in District 4). So this is it for those two races, but not necessarily for the race for District 2, which features four candidates–incumbent John Fischer, Toni Baker, Lynnette Callender and Janet McDonald. The race in this case would be decided only if a candidate wins better than 50 percent of the vote. Short of that, the top two vote-getters will go on to a run-off, to be decided in the general election on Nov. 4.
FlaglerLive submitted 15 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. Questions appear in bold, follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in bold and italics, and may be awaiting answers. When a candidate fails to answer a question, that’s noted in red. The questions and follow-ups attempt to elicit precise answers, but the candidates don’t always comply.
School board members serve four-year terms and are paid $31,640 a year.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Purpose and vision
- Scope if the job
- District’s weaknesses and successes
- Common Core
- Three priorities
- IB Program
- Superintendent Jacob Oliva
- Who would you emulate on the school board?
- Teacher unions
- Charter schools
- Zero tolerance
- Background check
- Questions from other candidates
Place and Date of Birth: New York City, 1950. [Refused to answer more fully. Public records indicate her birth date as March 29, 1950].
Current job: Neurodevelopmental Specialist & Instructor
Net worth: $3 million. Click here for financial disclosure form.
Political affiliation (keeping in mind that school board races are non-partisan): Republican
Websites: Website; Facebook
1- To elevate public trust in the board through thorough research and disclosure on all matters with sufficient time for the community to be included before action is taken, beginning with changing the workshop of any item to at least two weeks prior to action taken.
2- To increase availability at all schools, communication through multiple modes, and collaboration with community members.
3- To focus on accountability for educational decisions and thorough a review of capital assets, use or sale.
My unique personal and professional experience in various roles in all types of educational organizations, working successfully with people inside and outside schools and with students from the most diverse economic, racial and ethnic populations, brings expertise not currently on the board nor among the other candidates. My intent is to contribute without preconceived limitations, or alignments, to help make a Flagler education experience successful for all in the community.
Vision: To go beyond the limited expectations of standardized programming to become an educational community that develops each individual’s knowledge, abilities and talents to enable all to be successful in life and become contributing citizens. I envision our improved system will be a magnet for investment in the county.
You are running against the one school board member whose calling card is his extreme visibility–in schools, at every imaginable school-related event (and more), and all official school functions. Do you see his (John Fischer’s) availability differently? What are “preconceived limitations”? What are “the limited expectations of standardized programming”? Are you saying that this district sets low standards?
Yes, John is probably the most visible of the school board members and very supportive of achievers. I have spoken with folks in several schools over the last six months who feel the board is not as visible, nor responsive as they need to be on a regular basis and for events that are across the spectrum.
What are “preconceived limitations”? We have students who are not ready to learn, promoted with less than demonstrated abilities, setting them up for more struggles in the following year. We address them with remediation of three levels, often without change, yet they are ‘remediated.’ It is clear that the system is designed to mold the students to the demands of the one-size-fits-none system rather than take into account what they are uniquely presenting and engage them where they are, as they learn and function best. That is the design for education rather than the instruction mode we are using. What are “the limited expectations of standardized programming”? There is no documentation that the ‘standards’ created by educational reformers at Achieve have validity, reliability, or integrity as educational standards…so that in itself sets up inappropriate goal setting…just because a handful of business folks call these ‘standards’ does not make them so, and they have not provided documentation to defend this position…nor has the State of Florida to justify keeping them, renaming them, and changing .9% to ‘make them “FL Standards.” Are you saying that this district sets low standards? Yes, by accepting this marketing marvel without substance and then perpetuating the myth. If you are not using critical thinking skills on the board and watch the progression of this travesty and intimately engage in the acceptance by signing the memorandum of understanding without research or getting all questions asked, and you continue to defend the position of the marketing jargon used to promote cc, while across the country you hear and see a vastly different narrative from experts inside and outside schools from all political perspectives, and you choose to continue the mantra of the sales pitch, you are not a critical thinker, community advocate, nor champion of education which supports full development of independent thinking skills. What does our standardized testing show? What are the college entrance results? What are the operational evidence elements that we see from our graduates in and around Flagler County?
2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the board, what your temperament is like: what would your enemies say is your best quality, and what would your friends say is your worst fault? Give is real-life examples to illustrate your answer.
I am a good listener, thoughtful communicator, and collaborative contributor. I work at balance in all things.
I’ve reached out to my enemies, yet they haven’t responded. My friends think I have no faults…so I can’t answer part two of the question.
Are you telling us you’re perfect? You’ll be asked far tougher questions than this on the board. Perhaps avoiding questions is one of your faults? Please try again.
On a board you need to listen, think, communicate clearly, and contribute collaboratively. I do the best I can with each situation. I may disappoint others in what they wanted of or from me, yet that is their limitation, and without communication from them, I can’t address their needs. As for friends, I am often told I am too nice. I find it increasingly difficult to criticize those around me to fit my expectation of where they are in their life journey and what I think they should do. To clarify, I never once used the word ‘perfect’ nor intimated that. I regard One perfect to strive toward.
3. 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?
By law, produce a balanced budget; hire a superintendent and board attorney; negotiate contracts for unions; be a community agent for responsible use of public funds, capital assets, and oversee plans for quality education for students and results of plans. What’s in your power to influence on a day-to-day basis? The amount of frank communication with the public & community engagement. What is not in your power to do? Everything else.
We’d like to get a clearer understanding of how you understand your limitations as a school board member, in contrast with popular expectations and misconceptions.
I think the ability to create policy to affect change for students can be challenging because most people on the board do not have an understanding of how people learn and function best to be successful students. We continue to use resources to shift the focus of addressing the core challenges and that takes time to evaluate, since your are evaluating the delivery method rather than addressing core issues….so you continue on hoping for new results, though the foundational misunderstandings are not addressed.
Students are unique individuals and learn best with various options, so a limited curricula of strict procedural requirements valued over learning is a huge weakness for most students; students who are not ready to learn, those who have surpassed the curriculum, and those who learn differently than the mode of the one-size-fits-none standardized common core curricula are being underserved by common core. What are the brightest successes? As per your article on our teacher of the year, who was chosen because she thinks and creates “outside the box,” those professionals who engage the students before them with what inspires them to think and learn.
There is a glaring contradiction in your answer. How could Jill Espinosa, the Belle Terre teacher you refer to who won Teacher of the Year, have achieved what she achieved if you assume that the district enjoins “most students” to “a limited curricula of strict procedural requirements”? Espinosa won this year’s title, but the district is rich in teachers who are given the same breadth of initiative. You provided a specific example about the successes. Can you provide more specific examples about what you mean, in our district, by “the one-size-fits-none standardized common core curricula” and the students it is underserving?
See above #1. In every swing of the educational pendulum over the last 40 years, good teachers have done what is best for students within each new fad. This common core non-education model leaves very little ‘latitude’ for supporting those not ready to take in the ‘group plan’ for the day, and those who have surpassed that goal. A new nickname for comon core is “No Child Allowed Ahead.” The inappropriate curriculum procedures and methods are creating extra stress for students and teachers without enduring benefit or future application. And with the teacher evaluation being tied to one time test results of inappropriate curriculum for all students, even though the testing company doing this for the first time has no documentation that this is an accurate, reliable, and valid measure of their claims (our tests were being field tested in Utah this year, and Utah pulled out of common core! Probably saw the beast from head to tail), this is a travesty of boundary violations, integrity on a human and professional level. Who can opt out of this nonsensical system? Anyone involved is underserved!
5. Common Core has caused a good deal of controversy, much of it invented out of thin air, most if not all of it irrelevant to Flagler County. Define common core as you understand it. Explain your position regarding common core. And understanding that the Florida Standards have rendered it a non-issue for Flagler, tell us whether you are campaigning for or against common core, and if so, why.
This question insults all readers who research issues, and enslaves those who don’t to misinformation. For those readers who want to know more about common core(cc), which is still the ‘legislated standards,’ HB 7031 simply ‘erased’ common core references and replaced with ‘Florida Standards’ label… a legislative sleight of hand. As far as “standards” go, none of the common core standards meet the ANSI – American National Standards Institute – requirements to be considered bonafide standards, so really can’t qualify “as standards” and the contents prove that. Neither standards/content area specialists (Dr. Sandra Stotsky & Dr. James Milgram) would sign off on the standards because they lacked research, continuity, educational merit, demonstrated validity and reliability, and international benchmarking data. (Dr.Sandra Stotsky, ELA expert, presented an annotated cc standards document detailing its limitations and is available on www.flstopccCoalition.org as are annotated math standards by Dr. Ze’ev Wurman.) Only two content specialists were asked to review the creations that were mostly authored by education reformers without content, classroom, or standards experience. Five of 23 people who sat on the validation committee refused to agree to validate and their reports and comments were expunged from the record of the proceedings! As for “FL Standards” changes made equal 0.9 percent – and will NOT be tested on the Common Core aligned tests that AIR was contracted to produce –its first ‘academic’ test, being field tested this past year in Utah ( costing FL $5.4 M), so it will be invalid and unreliable for evaluative purposes in FL. The legislative sleight of hand this past session did nothing to change cc in FL – HB7013 renamed it ONLY! SB 188 only changed three of 400 data points collected on each student. And HB 864 allows districts to select between common core texts, not different ones.
Brief details to give a thumbnail historical sketch: Bill Gates contracted with UNESCO to create standards for UN education promoting career and college-readiness for global, sustainable citizenry. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation then spent Billions investing in national PTA, Chamber of Commerce, Prentice Hall, Exxon, US Dept of Education, GE, and other corporations to promote Common Core standards before they were written. The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief States School Officers (CCSSO), two private trade organizations, which lobby for businesses, aligned with Achieve, Inc., to write the standards, all procedures were without “sunshine,” are not available by “freedom of information” requests, and they hold copyright, even as states ‘rebrand’ them for state consumption. So this unconstitutional federal intrusion into our classrooms is having a huge negative impact on our students and teachers daily and needs to be discussed openly and removed.
Jason Zimba, math lead common core writer, said math standards only get students ready for maybe 11 grade, maybe a nonselective community college, not geared to prepare kids for STEM careers. Evaluated to be two years behind other countries by 7th grade, many more by graduation. FL inserted Calculus into the requirements/options for our students, yet will not factor into testing other than End of Course exams.
Corrective note: For someone so concerned with misinformation, your answer is a good example. Two instances in the first few sentences: you mention that Common Core doesn’t mean the standards of the American National Standards Institute, “so really can’t qualify as standards.'” We should hope not, at least not under ANSI. ANSI, in its own words, ensures “norms and guidelines” that impact businesses, “from acoustical devices to construction equipment, from dairy and livestock production to energy distribution,” and it accredits such things as management and environmental programs. Not universities. Not school districts’ curricula. Diane Ravich, an opponent of Common Core, made the tendentious connection between ANSI’s method of setting standards and the way Common Core standards were set, which you reproduce here with none of the context or background about ANSI. You mention Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram, two perennial opponents of common core, and that neither “would sign off on the standards,” which is like saying that Bjorn Lomborg, a long-time opponent of global warming theory, hasn’t signed off on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings, or that Dick Cheney hasn’t endorsed a Democrat lately. It’s also important to note that while Bill gates’s heavy backing of Common Core is undisputed, the connection to UNESCO, obviously intended here to raise the ire of individuals who see nefarious world-domination plans in anything related to the UN, is flat-out non-existent, in so far as Common Core is concerned. The fact that his foundation has contributed to UNESCO grants does not legitimize the leap to concluding that UNESCO is somehow pulling Common Core strings. The statements about Jazon Zimba are not only undocumented: they are directly contradictory to what’s readily available, in his own words, on the web. If you can document that he himself said that, we’ll be glad to link it. With that in mind, it appears that asking for further elaboration on the subject would lead to more polemics than analysis.
6. School taxes: Do you consider them high, low or just right? How much do you, as a school board member, control the setting of school taxes, and if you’ve been campaigning against high taxes, explain your position, and how relevant it is given your very limited powers as a school board member in that regard.
Florida formula for ‘required local effort’ demands that Flagler increase contribution by 5.48 percent, in order to receive about $30 million in state grants. Construction and maintenance projects are necessary to serve capital asset needs. An area of concern I have is investment in additional technology for hardware, software, and digital classroom plans, before research is collected on the validity of technology as a superior delivery system for learning, suggested limits of microwave exposure, suggested limits of screen time, result of reduced complex manual dexterity, and impact on health, cognition, and behavior.
7. 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.
More careful analysis of all items before the board requiring detailed documentation of proposal, defense of benefit, cost, and analysis plan; changing workshop to action cycle to be at least two weeks between initial workshop and board approval to allow community to consider, study, research, and discuss with board members to provide public feedback to guide action; invest daily in helping to create quality education for all Flagler students, by being a familiar participant at all locations; and connect with the community through timely communication.
8. 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 premise of this question is without documentation, and possibly unfounded. Before committing to expanding this, or any other program, claims such as ‘most accomplished program’ and ‘most academically rigorous’ need to be validated. During last year’s Connect 2 Academy I inquired about this and other programs and found that data has not been collected longitudinally to determine that these claims can be justified by comparative analysis of IB, AP, Honors, or other students’ success in college or other avenues of endeavor. A cost comparison has not been done to justify the premium invested in this program, which is copyrighted and directed by an unknown board, undermining the local responsibility of the Flagler School Board. The claim that the more narrow and deeper study of IB is superior to the other Flagler options is probably just opposite of what high performing students in middle and high school benefit from most. Exposure to and challenge of exploring as many different aspects of any subject from many different domains to expand their voracious and creative minds, exercises their abilities to be multiply skilled for a future no one knows nor can instruct toward.
The premise of this question is based on documented evidence that the IB program can boast the highest proportion of students successfully getting admitted to the best state and national universities, when compared to non-IB peers. Education Week has referred to the IB program as the “‘Cadillac’ of College-Prep programs.” If you sense impatience on our part with your attempts to evade questions by questioning the validity of our questions, it’s because we are: we do not ask unsupported questions. You are also incorrect by stating that the program is “copyrighted and directed by an unknown board.” The IB organization is highly transparent, its board membership is public, as are its methods and requirements, down to such specifics as the required and dreaded Extended Essay. Corrections aside, and since you brought up costs, can you tell us how much it costs the Flagler District to run the IB program?
Yet curriculum is copyrighted and materials are delineated by a board other than local – which was my comment. My question of Janet Valentine was how do these folks do compared to others in high level or regular high school prep courses in college or post college, since it is a premium cost to the district, and her answer to me was that they do not do any longitudinal follow up for beyond college acceptance. So getting into a college does not address my comment that we don’t know if it makes a difference. I know of districts which evaluated IB and found they could do a better internal specialized curriculum without the limited curriculum and costs.
Corrections aside, and since you brought up costs, can you tell us how much it costs the Flagler District to run the IB program? I attempted to source that answer, and curriculum and Tom Tant were rather evasive on those specifics….maybe more forthcoming, should I be a board member.
Superintendent Oliva has begun several initiatives, which seem to be embraced by district personnel, though I don’t recall hearing about systems by which initiatives will be evaluated. Several staff changes may indicate that he has determined some efficiencies or needs to better serve students. New staff assignments have been planned for this year, some surprising and concerning, and one mutually agreed to, that seems to be doing well. Supporting staff through necessary changes is essential, though yet to be assessed, for overall benefit. When serving on the board, I can inquire about those areas I know are critical for beneficial learning communities for coordinated function and culture improvement.
You seem to be concerned about staffing changes: are you suggesting that you would get into the managerial aspect of Oliva’s job?
McDonald did not answer the question.
Most candidates attempt to evade this question. The question is about who most closely aligns with you, not who might be your soul mate. It goes to your philosophy as reflected by current leadership, to whatever degree. Please try again.
None, emphatically. I may be misguided in your perception, yet I do believe that I bring a different perspective than what is currently on the board.
Our current union membership is less than 50 percent of the teachers. Professionals need to choose how they want to be regarded and represented. I have worked with teachers’ unions which are adversarial and those which are collaborative. Obviously, it serves the overall culture of the system to be respectful co-creators for best possible working/learning situations.
That does not answer the question. Can you be more specific to the question?
McDonald did not answer the question.
12. Charter schools have had a very checkered history in Flagler, with pronounced failures—Heritage, Outreach Academy—several rejected applications, and sharply contrasting growth and success for Imagine School at Town Center, and this year’s remarkable turn-around, from F to A, for Palm Harbor Academy. How do you see charter schools fitting in public-school equation, and what are the most important criteria by which you’d approve (or reject) a charter school application? Also, what’s your position on vouchers in public education.
Choice potentially makes for healthy competition by offering various learning environments or courses. Held to many of the same requirements as public schools, the possibility for much variety in charter school offerings is limited. Parents are looking for more of a “community” where they feel their child is respected and appropriately challenged, or curricula that offers a specialized focus to enhance foundational expectations.
Criteria to guide review of applications would include documentation of mission statement and related focus curricula, identification of target student population to be served, evaluation methods and tools to assess learning, teacher selection criteria, and financial plan.
A voucher, tax monies that ‘follow a student’ to another institution if the public schools cannot provide a successful experience for that child, can serve as a short term solution and an incentive for public schools to address needs in their offerings.
Zero tolerance means specific recourse following a defined infraction of a clearly stipulated expectation. I have not yet met an adult one who rigorously applies the code of conduct 100 percent, nor an omniscient adult who could ‘evaluate’ most infractions related to the code of conduct and respond with accurate zero tolerance discipline. Building respectful relationships in a learning community goes much farther than a document, though the reference is an essential guideline.
Should zero tolerance as applied in Flagler County schools be reformed and how?
Ethical and socially responsible behavior and interaction comes from inside. Values demonstrated create a society of respectful and responsible people, not codified rules with threat of increasing punishments. Students remark that the “rules” are situationally and specifically enforced. Reform our ways – seek to be the golden rule and 10 commandments.
14. Do you find the Flagler County School Board accountable to the public on student achievement and school performance over time? If not, how should it become so? And how should the district address underperforming schools?
See #1, #4, and latest school scores. Addressing students’ physical development necessary for academic work, before expecting them to perform determined by age, will eliminate most of the marginal, remedial, or failure profiles that continue. In tandem increase creative programming that engages, inspires, and motivates students to actively invest in their success. Expansion of community participation in flagship programs may be an enhancement that inspires, like the successful strings program. Underperforming schools need leadership review, staff and community reflection process and objective professional analysis to assist with identifying areas of need, solutions, and action for remedy.
What do you mean by “Addressing students’ physical development necessary for academic work”? Are these processes you refer to regarding underperforming schools not taking place already?
The nervous system/brain and body integrity are developed by sufficient movement, nutrition(all levels), stimulation, and interaction with environment/others. The brain only develops relative to the quality of input and limit of stress.
Are these processes you refer to regarding underperforming schools not taking place already? No, that’s why I mentioned them. And the more technology and inappropriate curricular demands placed on students the more stress created…which negatively impacts functioning, learning, and performing. I have been sharing with FS staff and may begin to focus on the underdevelopment evidenced by those not ready to learn at every level.
15. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies? If so, please explain, including cases where charges did not lead to conviction.