Trevor Tucker is a Flagler County School Board candidate running from District 3, but all registered Flagler County voters are eligible to vote in the Aug. 24 election. Tucker is running against Marc Ray. Click here for an overview of the race, and here for a previous article on the candidates.
FlaglerLive submitted written questions to every candidate. The intention of the Q&A was not to enable another campaign brochure but to challenge the candidates to clearly state their positions on some–and by no means all–of the issues relevant to the position and responsibility they’re seeking. The candidates were asked to avoid generalities and the usual campaign clichés and answer as specifically as possible. They received follow-up questions where necessary. Some answered more directly than others. Answers not relevant to the given question were edited. Incomplete or lacking answers were noted as such.
Why are you running for school board, and what makes you think you are the best person for the job?
Flagler County School Board Candidates: The Live Interviews
I am running for school board to ensure my children will have a great education. Attending school and living and working in Flagler most of my life (excluding college) gives me a unique understanding of the area and school system. My background in accounting and running a business helps me to understand the financial side of the school system. As a business owner I am in the position of setting my own hours and creating my own schedule; therefore, I can devote as much time as needed to this job and can get away at any time if a problem occurs. For years now I have been a mentor in the Legacy Program at the Princess Place Preserve though the Rotary Club, and I have also served on the board of directors of the Flagler County Education Foundation. I come from a family of educators; my mother, my aunt, and by mother in law were all teachers. In January of this year I was appointed to the school board by the governor to fill the vacancy left by the late Peter Palmer and I have found that the experience gained while sitting on the board to be invaluable due to the vast experience of the existing board members.
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 affect on a day-to-day basis? What is not in your power to do?
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The school board’s main responsibility is to set policy and review finances for the school system. The school board should not be in the day-to-day operations of the schools. School board members should be advocates for the school system and liaisons of information to the public.
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.
I will not name three things that will be accomplished in four years. I would be foolish to make any promises without knowing the budget or how other members of the board may vote on my ideas. These are three things that I hope to see:
- I hope to see the school district return to an all A school system.
That’s everyone’s goal. How will you make it happen?
In order to achieve this goal, the school board must remain diligent in overseeing that the staff is utilizing all of the policies that are in place. Frequent visits to schools during the school year and listening to parents should give board members an idea if staff is following the school board policy.
- I hope to see more partnership with the county and cities in order to maximize resources and make sure that we are not duplicating services. Example: Using City of Palm Coast parks for sports practice facilities. Another example: Using specialists in areas to teach our staff new innovative ideas or using specialists to teach to our students. The Extension Office is an asset underutilized by the district in my opinion.
- I would like to see televisions and wi-fi on school buses in order to help discipline. This is probably not an option with the budget, but a grant or research project by a university.
What do you mean by television and WiFi? Surveillance cameras, which are already in place, or television programming on school buses?
Television programming for elementary students would keep the students entertained and hopefully cut down on discipline problems.
It’s January 2011. State revenue is tanking. Flagler schools must cut 5 percent of their budget. Salary cuts are off the table, but eliminating positions isn’t. Name three specific programs, curriculum areas or activities you’d cut.
I would ask the staff, or specifically the principals, to cut 5% of their budget. I am not in the day-to–day operations of the schools and do not know which areas are the most important to students at each school.
You’re evading the question. As a policy maker, please name three specific programs you think can be cut.
The areas I feel could be cut without hurting the students are:
1. No more conferences or continuing education outside of the district. The district has many resources that could be used to teach continuing education. When a teacher leaves the school to go to a conference, a substitute must be paid, besides the cost of the travel and hotel.
2. The district could cut out association fees. It seems to me that we are involved with a lot of associations that duplicate information. Example: The Florida School Board Association and the Superintendent’s Association always give the school board the same information.
3. Cut transportation costs by moving to a two-mile radius from each school where students would not be picked up by buses.
The school board split on hiring Superintendent Janet Valentine, with two board members arguing that a national search should have been conducted first, rather than sticking with an internal choice. How would you have voted on the matter? How do you rate Janet Valentine as a superintendent, understanding that she’s only been in the job a few months?
I voted for Janet Valentine without a national search. I would not pay fifty thousand dollars or more for a search when a qualified candidate is already available. I will not rate Janet Valentine until she has students attending school for at least six months.
Who on the board currently is the board member most closely aligned with your idea of a school board member and why? If you pick Evie Shellenberger, that’s fine, but in that case who, other than her, would be your second choice, and why?
I do not feel there is a person on the school board that fits my idea of a school board member. Every school board member (as long as they are for the kids) needs to be different. With a diverse set of opinions all options can be weighed on multiple subjects.
Let’s try again: who do you think is closest in line with your thinking on the school board?
My opinions usually are closely related to Evie Shellenberger’s opinions or Andy Dance’s opinions.
If you had a choice of running the school district with a teacher union or without one, what would that choice be, and why?
It is easier to run a school system with a teachers union. A district that has a union only has to negotiate one contract instead of each individual teacher’s contract.
Outgoing School Board Chairman Evie Shellenberger said in May: “The folks in Tallahassee, to me, their goal is to shut down public schools. Shut down public schools and go to charter schools.” Do you agree? How do you see charter schools fitting in public-school equation, and how successful has that fit been in Flagler?
I do not believe the state government is trying to shut down public schools. Charter schools have been established to give parents a choice as to where their children attend. Ideally, charter schools would be as good or better than the public schools to create friendly competition, ultimately raising education in Florida. Unfortunately, Flagler County charter schools are not performing as well as public schools according to the FCAT. Some charter schools are making progress, while others seem to be going backwards. Ultimately, parents make the choice as to where their children attend school. Evie Shellenberger was referring to the class size amendment that the charter schools do not have to abide by.
Is the notion of zero tolerance as a disciplinary approach effective?
Zero tolerance is the best policy for the safety of students.
Please specify with examples.
Example: John hits Ted between classes and is caught on video surveillance. Ted is injured so John gets expelled. If we do not expel John, but instead give him a referral then we are empowering John to hit other students. In order for the parents to trust the school system with the safety of their children, John must be removed. All students get a handbook in the beginning of school that outlines expected behavior.
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?
Deputies should be in all of the schools. I believe they should be allowed any weapon that is part of their uniform. The only problem I have with the deputies is the cost to the school system.
Please specify the weaponry you mean: guns? Tasers? Night-sticks? Pepper-spray?
Guns, Tasers, Nightsticks, Pepper Spray and any other item the deputy feels they need to carry. The deputies have been trained for this job and it is their responsibility to carry any item they feel is necessary to protect the students, faculty, and staff. I would not tell an officer of the law how to do their job or what weapon to carry.
In a choice between raising taxes and laying off teachers and other personnel, what would you do?
If the district staff came to the school board and recommended cutting staff and it would not affect students education I would vote for it and I would wonder why the position was their in the first place. If we could not cut staff then I would gladly vote to have a referendum put on the ballot to raise taxes. Only the community can give the school board the authority to raise taxes.
Are you suggesting that the school district is staffed at optimum levels now? You face recommendations every month regarding hiring and firing staff, and you vote on those recommendations. The question is specifically theoretical, assuming you had the authority to raise taxes (as you did until this year, for example, regarding the .25 mils heading for the ballot): which would you do first, lay-offs or taxes? The question doesn’t relate to referendums, but to what board members are willing to do.
The only positions the school board can cut are the superintendent or the school board attorney. If the district staff came to the school board and recommended cutting staff and it would not affect student’s education I would vote for it and I would wonder why the position was there in the first place. If we could not cut staff then I would gladly vote to have a referendum put on the ballot to raise taxes. Only the community can give the school board the authority to raise taxes. The school system at this moment is not staffed at optimum levels according to state law. The class size hard count means we need more teachers at this current time. If the school board had the ability to raise taxes, and the school district needed the money to continue to provide education, I would have no problem raising taxes.
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 as I understand it is to have all government business done by elected boards in public meetings. Board members should not meet to discuss any issue that could pertain to government business in private meetings. There are exceptions to the rule, safety plans (example bomb threats to school reaction plan), or employee contracts. In order to operate within the Sunshine Law there can be no discussion between board members about anything that may be voted on. This does not exclude a board member talking to another board member about things outside of the school system. Example: A discussion over the surf at the beach.