West Orange Times Candidate Survey - Fitzpatrick Shares Answers
School Board Candidate Matthew J. Fitzpatrick shares his answers to the West Orange Times candidate survey questions.
School Board members are provided with Talking Points, School Board Updates, and Background information on many of these issues by the School District Office in order to help them make informed decisions on the important topics that are brought before them. I know this, because I provided this type of information for two years when I was the District Athletic Director over all of Orange County Public Schools--High Schools, Middle Schools, and Elementary Schools. I don't have access to that information on many of the topics addressed in this questionnaire, but I look forward to one day having that access as well. On the questions dealing with Maxey Elementary School, I would like to talk to the community and further read the School District information in order to base any decision that I would make on sound perspective and counsel, just as I would on and decision regarding District 7 schools.
On standardized testing and Common Core:
What are your thoughts on students and teachers being assessed by a standardized test at the end of the year? Do you have any ideas on alternative forms of assessment?
I don’t agree with teachers or students being assessed on one day, by one test. High-stakes testing and teaching is a misguided approach to education. We have allowed the education process to be turned into a very stressful experience that is no longer fueled by a love of learning. The best of students can grind through and survive, but the strugglers are kicked to the curb when their weaknesses become the sole focus of their education, and they end up leaving our schools no closer to discovering, developing, and moving in the direction of their dreams. We must remember the true purpose of school…helping students reach their dreams.
The teachers that take on the toughest assignments will never have the data to compare with teachers working with Honors, AP and IB students. This is true for teachers that work at less-affluent schools, and also teachers that work with ESE students. Under the current conditions of education in Florida, teachers are removing ESE from their teaching credential in order to prevent school leaders from assigning them to positions where they feel they will not receive the support needed to succeed. Using student data to assess teachers, beyond being harmful to teachers, also hurts the students that need the most help.
High-Stakes Tests for Students?
I don’t agree with high-stakes tests. They simply do not work for many students. I’ve read that a student’s GPA is a far better determinant of future success than a student’s test scores because the GPA reveals how hard a child is willing to work day in and day out. Please allow me to share a story that illustrates this fact.
I know of one particular student that struggled on the Reading portion of the FCAT during her sophomore year of high school--she missed the passing score by two points. She was enrolled in intensive reading for her 11th grade year. Just being in the class made her feel stupid. When testing time arrived during her junior year, disaster struck once again—she missed a passing score by just two points. She was obviously devastated. She was enrolled in intensive reading, once again, during her senior year. As she describes the class, she was the only student in the class that really wanted to succeed. The teacher picked up on the fact that she was different, that she really wanted to learn, and he took her aside and made sure she had everything she needed, and that the class environment wouldn't keep her from getting as much help as she could get in order to pass the test. Well, at the end of the year, she passed the reading test by 10 points. She now qualified to graduate high school. Things didn't work out so well for the teacher that helped her. Her reading teacher was let go at the end of the year because the other students, the ones that didn't really want to be in the class, well, they didn't make enough progress.
The story doesn't end there, though. The student went on to Lake Tech to be part of their massage therapy program. Massage therapy was something she was really interested in. The student excelled in the program, and she didn't have any trouble reading the textbooks for the class--and these were detailed, college level textbooks. It's amazing how a student's ability to read is directly related to whether or not they are passionate about what they are reading. If a student is reading about their passion, not only are they moving in the direction of the dreams and gaining valuable knowledge related to the vision they have for their future, but they are also, naturally, becoming a better reader. We have to find ways to mix in passion with our approach to educating our children.
But wait, there's more...the story doesn't end there. Through the success she experienced in the Massage Therapy class, the student regained the academic confidence she had lost during her years of Intensive Reading, and she decided to continue to pursue her education at the University of Central Florida, where she just graduated in August 2016 with her Bachelor's Degree. Passion and confidence can make all the difference in the world when it comes a student reaching their dreams.
Alternative Forms of Assessment?
There are alternative forms of assessment that can be used to evaluate the teaching and learning process. Students can be assessed by portfolios of learning, project-based learning, unit-tests that are developed by teacher teams at their school, or oral assessments with the teacher where the teacher and student discuss different topics and the student is given the opportunity to show mastery of the subject matter. No two students are alike, so evaluating students in one manner only benefits the students that are geared and designed for that particular method. We must broaden our perspective on intelligence and mastery.
Alternative Teacher Assessment Ideas
1. Student Evaluations. The students are the ultimate customers. Have students fill out an evaluation at the end of every quarter about the product they are receiving. This would provide valuable feedback for the teacher, and it would also give administrators a view from ground zero. Administrators can spend more times in the classrooms where the customers aren’t satisfied. Students already provide evaluations for teachers at the college level on the website Rate My Teacher. After one year in college, my daughter made the comment that the ratings and comments that students made about the teachers she has had seemed right on. Students who make vindictive comments against a teacher can easily be discovered by the fact that their ratings are out of line with the vast majority of the class. In such a case, the computer will downgrade the weight of such a student if they are continually out of step with the majority of the students who are in a class. This obviously wouldn’t be as appropriate for elementary students.
2. Parent Evaluations. This would also work much like the student evaluations. Parents can speak to items and issues that they have encountered, both good and bad. Some parents are obviously biased, and may even be slightly crazy, and those kinds of things will come out in the wash. Ultimately, the parent is a customer, and their perspective should be considered. If a significant percentage of the parents of the students in a particular classroom make mention of similar problems, these are things to address and work to improve.
3. Peer Teacher Evaluations. This idea would include the opportunity for teachers to observe and evaluate each other. Experienced teachers can give spot-on evaluations of beginning teachers—including helpful hints for problems and challenges they observe. Beginning teachers should be able to return the favor and evaluate experienced teachers—hopefully, what they observe will be good, and also beneficial for their own teaching. Observations and assessments are meant to both evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher’s instruction, and also to help a teacher improve. I can think of no better way than to tap into the expertise of an experienced teacher. This type of evaluation also lends itself to the opportunity of a teacher giving credit to another teacher for all that they add to a particular department in terms of resources, collaboration, encouragement, knowledge and mentoring. These factors should come into play when we talk about assessing a teacher and determining their right to performance pay.
4. Cameras in Every Classroom. Put a camera in every classroom and make the video feed available to both the parents of the students, and also to the administrators at the school. Obviously, this would be the best way to evaluate what is actually happening in the classroom, but it is also an invasive method that would scare off most teachers, so don’t expect teachers to work for the same pay if this method of assessment were implemented. Some schools already have this feature, and the reasoning is, “If something is going on in that classroom that shouldn’t be going on, then everyone needs to know about it, and something needs to be done…now!” My guess is that this will happen across the board at every school in the future for liability reasons. What I would like to see, in the meantime, is for performance pay to be tied to adding a camera to a willing teacher’s classroom, and if what the teacher is selling is worth it’s weight in gold, then the teacher should be paid accordingly. The videos can then be used for professional development for both beginning and also “not-so-great teachers”—there’s nothing like professional development that is tied directly to what you are doing every day. The best professional development that a teacher can engage in isn’t found in a book or at a conference, it is probably down the hall in the classroom of a dynamic teacher. As a profession, the education field has not properly valued or tapped into the best in our business.
5. Trust Administrators. Trust administrators to evaluate teachers. In the perfect world, administrators would care about their school—their kids, their teachers, their parents, and their school community—and they would want the very best for them. I’ve been told that at one of the most expensive private schools in the area, evaluations and assessments aren’t even required. If you aren’t getting the job done, you get called to the administrator’s office and you are told, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.” End of story. If you were a great teacher getting the job done, the students and parents would complain, and the administrator would be called to the office and questioned. If it was found that he got rid of a teacher for reasons that were unacceptable, such as personal grudges and the like, he would hear the all too popular line, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.”
6. Administrators as Teachers. Every administrator should teach at least one class. You cannot be an instructional leader if you cannot teach. Teachers find it simply amazing that administrators that weren’t very good as teachers are holding positions of evaluating them—this is probably why it is best for an aspiring administrator to become an assistant principal at a school other than where they recently held a teaching position. The best teachers at every school will always feel this way, and rightfully so. But it should be remembered that even the best of athletes still need to be coached, just don’t “overcoach” them. Administrators could gain immense power on a campus if they could say, “Come watch what I am doing.” Department Chairpersons have traditionally been the instructional leaders on campus because of this very fact. If administrators had this kind of daily experience—teaching their own class—they would be far less likely to hold feet to a fire that isn’t cooking up the desired results that the school is shooting for. Administrators would focus on what truly makes a difference, and they would know what makes a difference because they would still be on the front lines putting strategies into practice. Teachers will listen to an administrator that knows what they are talking about, as demonstrated in their own classroom. The teaching profession was never meant to be a profession of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Another added benefit to this plan of action is the development of a system for administrative evaluation—if an administrator can’t teach or manage their classroom, they would be called to the office and told, “Your services are no longer needed at this school.” I know some would say there simply isn’t enough time for this type of arrangement. Well, I would have to respond that the Marzano Observation System is supposed to take up more than 50% of an administrator’s daily allotted time on the clock—many would argue that there isn’t enough time for the Marzano system either.
7. Class Registration Numbers. Guidance Counselors have always known the names of the best teachers on campus—a simple scan of the teachers that every student on campus wants as their teacher will tell you who is getting the job done. There must be a performance pay system that could take this data into account. If there was ever an issue that needed a data-driven decision, it would be the issue of deciding how to best take care of these highly sought after teachers. The fact of the matter is this, these teachers are what make a school great, and they should be recognized in some monetary fashion. On the other hand, if students don’t want to sign up for a teacher’s class, there’s obviously a problem that may need extra administrative attention. Once again, administrators already know who the great teachers are on campus, and they also know who the “less-than-great” teachers are—it doesn’t take a multi-million dollar system to reveal something everyone already knows. The question is providing data and documentation—class registration numbers can certainly help in those areas
8. AP Testing Assessment. Another way to assess teachers is to have an end-of-the-year test and pay teachers a certain amount for every student that passes the test. Teachers receive $50 per student that passes their AP test currently, up to $2000, or something like that. This type of arrangement creates a partnership between the teacher and their students—they are both on the same team, seeking the same goal. AP teachers put in a lot of extra time getting their students ready for their subject area AP tests. One of the best AP US History teachers I’ve ever supervised would willingly give up his lunch time and planning period in order to accommodate students who wanted to watch subject area videos in his classroom—these videos would help build up his students’ background knowledge of the subject area, and I’m sure it also added to the team mentality—they were all in it together. I love Stand and Deliver, a movie based on a true story about a high school teacher, Jaime Escalante, and his work to help his students of Eastern Los Angeles succeed in school by challenging them to excel in mathematics. He had a goal of his students taking AP Calculus by their senior year of high school. He had his students taking summer classes and Saturday help sessions in order to prepare for the exam. Ideally, the team spirit that is created in an AP environment should be what occurs in all of the classrooms of a school. Obviously, not every student comes to the table of education ready to eat, so there would definitely have to be a way to adjust any kind of assessment and performance pay done in this fashion. Maybe the current system of End of Course exams will morph into something like this—this remains to be seen. I don’t like using tests in this manner, but, to be honest, this system is what we are currently using with every student; we just aren’t paying the standard classroom teachers the bonuses we are paying the AP teachers. Why aren’t we? I believe achieving success with these lower level students is just as impressive as a teacher who works with AP students.
9. FPMS and Professional Growth Plans. Many teachers would refer to this alternative system as the “Good Old Days”. The Florida Performance Measurement System consisted of two columns—one for the positive actions of the teacher, and the other for the negative actions of the teachers. Administrators were tasked with the job of keeping track of each instance of various behaviors such as beginning instruction promptly, handling material in an orderly manner, orienting students to classwork, maintaining academic focus, giving instructions and conducting a review. Some of the negative behaviors were delaying the start of instruction, allowing talking unrelated to the subject, allowing students to call out answers, posing multiple questions, posing non-academic questions, posing procedural questions and ignoring students or responding with sarcasm, disgust, or harshness. Some of my favorites included "uses loud, grating high pitched, monotone, or inaudible talk"; "frowns, deadpan or lethargic"; and "extends discourse and uses general nonspecific praise". I must admit that using that particular system was a pain for me. I had to add so many comments at the bottom of the assessment just to make the observation meaningful. The FPMS system was used for all teachers that had not yet received tenure. Tenured teachers had the choice between doing a Professional Growth Plan or using the FPMS system. Most experienced teachers used the Professional Growth Plan for their assessment, which meant they did not receive a formal observation during the school year. The Professional Growth Plan would typically include something the teacher would focus on in order to improve their instruction or reach a specific goal. The teacher would develop an action plan of what they were going to do in order to reach their goal or grow in a certain area—such as being a part of a book study, attend a conference, take a college course, or become part of a group of teachers implementing a new strategy together. Teachers gravitated to the opportunity to grow without being formally observed. The system was great for great, conscientious teachers, but it did little to motivate the “less-than-great” teachers to improve. This system was also great for the lazy administrator that wanted to simply call in their teachers at the end of the year and have them sign on the dotted line. And so we find ourselves where we are today, with a multi-tiered system of teacher accountability designed to smoke-out both the weakest and best teachers among us.
10. Scour the Nation – I believe that the School Board, along with the School District, should be scouring the nation to find a teacher evaluation system that has found the favor of both a School District and its classroom teachers. The teacher evaluation system we are currently using is not working…it is driving great teachers away from public education. When teachers are willing to take a $10,000 pay cut in order to work at a private or charter school, a serious problem exists. School Board members should be very concerned with our current system.
What is your opinion on Common Core? What do you believe is an advantage of Common Core? What is a disadvantage?
I believe in having standards, I just don’t believe we need this endless search for the secret super standards that will magically transform all of our efforts into success. Honestly, we have been on a wild goose chase for better standards for at least the last 17 years. It seems we are always just missing it. Now we need more critical thinking. Or maybe we need to work on rigor. Or maybe we need to focus on the “trajectory of the rigor”. In recent days, we’ve changed the standards so often that many teachers probably can’t even keep track of what the latest upgrade is…it has become much like updating your phone to the latest software improvements. I like the emphasis on critical thinking and productive struggle in Common Core, but I think great teachers were already hitting those standards under the many previous standards our state has used.
Common Core? The Downside…
I vehemently oppose Common Core because of the inherent destructive nature of a test-driven education. The Common Core philosophy has flopped in China where they had a national curriculum, national common assessments, extreme high-stakes testing, and national control over what is taught on the secular and spiritual level. Their system may have won the testing game on the international level in 2010, but it utterly flopped in the human resource department. Their test-centered approach to education systematically killed the creativity and innovation of their own people. China was forced to admit this because their country of 1.3 billion people, all educated in the same way, quite obviously was not producing proportional numbers of creative types like the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs...one of the main employers of the top test-takers in China. The Chinese were puzzled by the fact that the United States, a country that has historically not done very well on comparative, international tests, yet the United States leads the world, by a long shot, in the areas of patents, business enterprises, technological advances, military weaponry, entrepreneurs, GDP, etc. The creativity gap isn't even close. Those who find themselves tingly over the concepts of Common Core seem to be content and intent to learn nothing from the Chinese experience. I find this to be shocking when educated-types take such a blind stance toward extremely relevant facts...it completely undermines their credibility. For further study on my perspective, please look at the work of Yong Zhao, author of World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.
How does Common Core kill creativity?
Those involved in any way in education within the last 10 years saw the destructive forces of high-stakes testing as it naturally tried to impose it's will upon the education world in the form of dropped electives in order to accommodate extra classes designed for test prep. Those in power felt the backlash. When test scores become the primary focus, it is natural to think that everything else needs to be dropped. That's what China did. They got rid of recess and play, extracurricular activities were discouraged in order for students to study after school, and intellectual freedom and dissent were forbidden--both by teachers and students. In fact, the dissenters were removed from society--there went a great majority of their creative, innovative, divergent entrepreneurs of their future. (We follow this same pattern when we don't create ways for students to pursue Career Technical Education opportunities at their own local high schools. At one of the most important times in their lives, we lose the divergent types who aren't interested in college.) The very things the Chinese educational experts thought were unimportant in terms of producing high test scores, turned out to actually be the cornerstones of creativity. If leaders cannot understand how Common Core Kills Creativity, they either are not paying attention, or worse, they have a hidden agenda. I hope they aren't paying attention...I can fix that.
Confirmed on the Campaign Trail...
While out campaigning, talking, and begging for petition signatures, I came across a couple that was very interested in education. They would not "just sign" my petition form, they wanted to know what I stood for, and why. While the 30 minutes I spend with these kinds of voters may seem like time wasted when I could have gotten 30 signatures from low-information, compliant voters, I enjoy talking to people about education, so I always leap at the opportunity to launch into a stump speech. I mentioned to this couple that one of the things I opposed was high-stakes testing for the purpose of comparative data. I explained the Chinese dilemma with testing and the resulting lack of creativity across the board within their country. I explained how China was looking to us on how to create innovators, yet the United States was looking to China on how to become better test takers. At this point in my stump speech, one of them stopped me and said she would sign my petition. She explained that they were both engineers in a very large firm, and they hire many Asians in their company. They are all very skilled at the technical side of the work, but they cannot think outside of the box...they are not very strong in the areas of creativity and innovation. Now, mind you, these aren't my words...these are words from the unsuspecting, voting public. I may have only garnered two signatures during that 30-minute time slot, but those two signatures meant oh so very much to me...my content was confirmed on the campaign trail.
In conclusion, I believe in teachers having standards to follow...especially standards that include elements of critical thinking. I don’t believe in common standards set by the national government, or philanthropists, or a proxy national groups like the National Governors' Association. I also don't believe in standards monitored by high-stakes testing. What kind of testing do I believe in? I believe in diagnostic testing designed to find out what students need help, and what do these students need help with. I find little use for comparative data, unless, of course, you want to compare what really matters—the end results of education--jobs, patents, standard of living, compassionate giving, healthcare innovations and discoveries, business enterprises, military strength, freedom, and all other sorts of analytics that are relevant to a strong, healthy society.
NAEP and Common Core
One last thing about Common Core…A new study seems to be showing that the non-adoption states are showing larger NAEP gains than the Common Core adoption states. Here’s a quote from an article on the topic:
"But between 2013 and 2015, students in non-adoption states made larger NAEP gains than those in Common Core states, leading some to question if the largest impact of the new learning standards has already occurred."
NAEP stands for National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is an assessment that was congressionally mandated in 1969, specifically designed to assess what “students know and can do in various subjects”.
Here’s the article…it provides a balanced evaluation of the results of Common Core from a test results perspective, but it does not address my concerns about the loss of creativity and other important healthy developmental traits that students need to acquire.
On technology in classrooms:
This year, technology is being implemented more into the student’s curriculum, with more devices such as laptops and tablets coming into the classroom. What are your thoughts on technology? How do you think it will affect student learning? Is there any other technology you would like to see in the classroom?
As a former Computer Applications and TV Production teacher, I believe in and use technology. Students love using technology, so I think we need to use technology whenever appropriate. Students should not have to power down when they come to school. I don’t believe technology will ever be able to replace a great teacher, but I do believe it can serve as an enhancement to the learning process…especially things like Khan Academy and Flipped classrooms. I also like the use of clickers to assess student learning and to keep students actively engaged. I would love to see history students creating documentaries using the latest video editing software. I think teachers would benefit from having video-editing software in their classrooms for students to create video projects designed to demonstrate mastery. Students love to express what they know in a creative manner. As a former TV Production teacher, I’ll lead this charge. I think Edmodo is a great application for communication between teachers and students. I also like Google Drive…I think it is a great way for students and teachers to share work back and forth, and for teachers to collaborate with other teachers. I think Skype and Google Hangout have great potential to connect classrooms with the outside world.
Do you think greater use of technology potentially could have a harmful effect on learning? Why or why not?
Too much screen time can certainly become a problem. Students can also become distracted when they are using electronic devices and cascading between various applications. There are studies that show test scores have gone down when students use technology. We need to keep an eye on this dynamic to make sure it doesn’t happen to our students. I think great teachers can make any learning environment work. Technology is a tool to enhance learning. The goal is student learning and mastery of the material, not using technology for technology sake. Technology does seem to be the language that students are using to interact with each other more and more, so the challenge is to find ways to engage students by using their chosen medium. It’s a paradigm shift for learning…great teachers are needed to navigate these new, uncharted territories of learning.
Why do you think Orange County has a teacher shortage? What do you propose to correct this?
Orange County is experiencing teacher shortages for many reasons, but I believe the greatest reason is because of the demoralizing Marzano Teacher Evaluation system that we are using to assess our teachers. Mention the name Marzano to any teacher you know and watch their reaction. This evaluation system is driving great teachers to early retirement. Many new teachers just walk of the job because of what teaching has become is not what they signed up for. New, young teachers are going back to grad school to find a career where they feel properly respected, appreciated, and compensated. We are losing a generation of teachers, right now, and I believe it is because of the Marzano system. Also, college students are not going into the education field—down from 11% to 4% of college students going into education. Students want to make more money, be respected, and have a secure career. The only teachers that are staying are those that have to stay due to the fact that they don’t want to lose their retirement. Many of these teachers are looking to get out of the classroom in whatever way possible. It is a terrible climate for people to work in. When school administrators and teachers tell their own children to go into any profession other than education, we have a supreme mess on our hands. We are heading for a teacher-talent cliff if we don’t make changes to the way we are treating our teachers.
In order to fix this problem, we need to replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System with an evaluation system that both district and teachers approve of. Our School Board and District management should be scouring the nation to find the right evaluation system. I believe we need to severely limit the criteria that we use to evaluate teachers—keep it as simple as possible. We have made teaching and learning so complicated. Set teachers free to express their passion for teaching and making a difference in their students’ lives.
In this growing county, there are often labor shortages, which include teaching, faculty and other staff positions. How do you propose OCPS should attract the most qualified teachers?
We need to create an environment that is “people-friendly”. We need to appreciate people. We need to fix our evaluation system. We need to major in the majors, and minor in the minors. We need to get everyone moving in a positive direction that builds on itself, to the point that those working in OCPS begin to become the greatest fans of OCPS…they will spread the word and reverse the trend of teachers leaving. We need to stop pressuring administrators to keep teacher evaluation scores lower—this not only damages teachers, but we will also lose great administrators who resent such mandates from above. We need to support our teachers with the resources that they need to succeed. We need to keep the cash in the classroom. We need to use and compensate our best teachers to train up the new teachers—the best professional development we will find is in the classroom of a great teachers. We need to identify these teachers, and then compensate them for their contribution of making all teachers at their schools successful. We need these great teachers to continue teaching rather than leave the classroom to become instructional coaches, because the best coaches are the ones who can say, “Come by my room and watch how I use this strategy with my real students.” Teachers don’t want to simply be told what to do; they want to see the advice, instruction and strategies in action. The problem is, currently, so many great teachers want to leave the classroom because of what the Marzano system has done to the teaching and learning process.
On the fast growth of the county:
In the county, growth is occurring rapidly. Many schools are overcrowded. How do you plan to address overcrowding in schools?
We need to build schools according to the best growth projections available. Overcrowded schools have an impact on the overall school experience of the students that attend such schools. It is very difficult for students to make an athletic team when there are over 100 students interested in the 15 spots on a basketball team. This scenario plays out in every extracurricular team and club. Studies show that the more a student is involved in extracurricular activities, the better they attend and achieve at school. Too many students translates into fewer chances for students to participate and be involved at their school.
I like the way Lake Nona HS and Lake Nona MS shared a campus for a time while both campuses grew—they built the high school earlier than needed, and obviously bigger than needed, at first. They shared facilities, faculties, and administrators. They were under capacity for a while, but they have grown into their own separate campuses. I think this approach is a better way to handle growth.
Residents with students who live in fast-growing areas often face the challenge of their students being rezoned to new schools. What are your thoughts on regular rezoning and what do you propose to mitigate the effects rezoning has on families?
That is a very difficult problem to solve. I’ve seen schools where students were rezoned 3 times. We need to limit this type of situation. Building new schools is a good problem to have, thanks to the Orange County taxpayers, but we have to make sure we are properly planning to minimize the effects of excessive mobility from school to school without a student actually changing their residence. I think if we can build great schools composed of great faculties and facilities, and we restore the confidence of the public in public education, students and parents will be more prone to understand the tough decisions that the School Board and the School District have to make. These decisions must be reached with community input and constant communication. The earlier parents know about upcoming changes, the better—it gives them a chance to make any changes that they deem necessary.
In fast-growing areas, many residents consider growth to be outpacing schools, as schools aren’t built until after another is filled past capacity. Do you think it is necessary for a school to be filled past capacity before it is built? Why or why not? If not, what solutions do you propose?
I think schools should be built long before capacity becomes an issue. Again, I like the approach that was used at Lake Nona HS and MS, where they shared a campus while they grew in numbers. I think we need the best minds working on many different available options to address growth.
On Maxey Elementary:
Do you believe that Maxey should be relocated? Why or why not?
I like schools to be near the students they serve—the home school approach where parents are more likely to be involved. I know that there are many different reasons to move schools—make room for other municipal projects, integration, build bigger facilities, etc. In situations like this, I think it is best to look for the win-win as much as possible. I think we need to ask what is best for the students. We also need to listen to the stakeholders and be sensitive to their concerns. In the end, in my heart of hearts, I believe in community schools that are near the students they serve.
What magnet program do you hope to see come to Maxey? Why?
1. Debate - I would like to see a state of the art school for Maxey Elementary School. I would like to see a strong elementary school debate program that would teach students to argue their ideas in a civil manner. A debate program at this early of an age would also teach the students valuable critical thinking skills, research skills, listening skills, and organization skills. When students succeed in debate, it helps them in all of their other classes, and it sets them up to be recruited by the most prestigious universities and colleges in the land.
2. Maker Movement - I would also like to see Maxey Elementary School develop a strong Maker Movement program to help students develop critical thinking and creativity in a fun way.
3. Digital Media - I would also like to see Maxey develop a digital media program that would offer various opportunities for students to learn the skills involved in making professional video and audio recordings using the latest technology.
4. Young Biographers - I think we need to have a young biographers program that encourages students to acquire a love for reading and writing. Students need to gain words in order to reach their dreams. Reading biographies can also expose students to the great potential that their own lives hold. We have to go beyond simply teaching students how to read, we must teach them to love to read. We need a state of the art Media center that has creative reading areas.
I believe reading is key to lifelong learning. Students who have access to great books, learn to love to read. With strong encouragement for reading, students will improve their background knowledge, their vocabulary, their spelling, their writing skills, their confidence, their ability to learn in all of their classes, and an expanded vision of what they can become one day. I firmly believe that a love for reading can eliminate any achievement gaps that exist. I would love to see the story of famous neurosurgeon Ben Carson also become a reality for many of the students at Maxey ES.
Ben was being raised by a single mother and was called “dummy” by his classmates where he was the only African American in the class. Ben was always out first in the Spelling Bees, and when the teacher read off everybody’s test scores, Ben’s was always the lowest, to the relief of the other students. Ben’s mom prayed for an idea to help her make education important to her two boys. Ben’s mom got the idea to require her two boys to do two library book reports a week. Ben didn’t like the reading at first, but after a while, he started to like it. Ben was reading about all kinds of different people who did great things. Ben began to believe that he could do something great with his life. Ben’s mom couldn’t read or write, but she used highlighters to mark up her boys’ book reports, and they never figured out her secret. When Ben was in the 7th grade, everyone came to Ben when they had a question—Ben knew things about everything. Ben had become the smartest student in the class in just four years. Ben went on to become the first neurosurgeon to separate two individuals joined at the head. Ben has written several books and was a recent candidate for President. I believe Ben’s success started with reading, which started with an illiterate parent who was working 2-3 jobs that prayed for help in order to make education important to her children. If she can do it, any parent can do it. I believe we need to reach out and encourage all of our parents to expend the same energy and effort toward their students to support the growth and development that is being nurtured at school. Reaching out to parents starts with teachers who build positive relationships with the parents of their students…relationships where all involved know that they are all on the same team with important roles to play.
5. Young Entrepreneurs - One last program would be a young entrepreneurs program that would teach students how to start and run a business from the idea level forward. Students have so much creativity when they are young. I think we need to tap into that creativity and help them reach their dreams by giving them the skills and knowhow to make them a reality.
What qualities or skills do you bring to the position?
I love to work with people and help them find success. I went into teaching because I wanted to help students during the formative years of their lives. I went into administration because I enjoyed helping teachers with technology, and I figured I would enjoy helping them in other areas related to teaching, all in the hope of helping even more students succeed. I want to become part of the School Board in order to help even more students by helping every school succeed.
I like to read and write. I like to find the win-win when presented with problems or challenges. I like to create positive learning environments that make students and teachers what to come to school every day. I like to listen to people and get their ideas on different situations. I care about people…I believe we are all the same, and we can accomplish anything we set our mind to if we work together.
Why are you the best candidate?
I believe I would be a great candidate for this position because my career has prepared me for many of the challenges that schools face. I have experience working in a private school, middle school, a few high schools, at the district office over athletics, and now in career technical education at Orange Technical College. When I worked at the district office over athletics and extracurricular activities, I worked with every floor of the District office from the 1st floor to the 9th floor. I am very familiar with how the district works behind the scenes. I’ve also worked at three different high schools in our district—Apopka HS, Boone HS, and Ocoee HS. I’ve worked with affluent schools, and title 1 schools.
More importantly than all of my experiences, I care about people. I care about students and teachers. I believe the person who cares the most about people should be the one in charge of people. I’ve got a solid track record of caring about the people that I have worked with over the years. I believe in servant leadership. I believe I have been prepared for such a time as this…and such a task as this.
Personal information: Age, city of residence, family, education, experience and endorsements?
48 years old
Wife Sandy of 24 years…and 3 kids…
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science Education from UCF
Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University
23 years in education…12 as a teacher, 11 as an administrator. 3 years as an AP at Apopka HS, 3 years as an AP at Boon HS, 2 years as the District Athletic Director, one years as an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College at the Westside Campus in Winter Garden.
Dr. Mike Armbruster – Former Principal of West Orange HS and Ocoee HS
Dr. John Edwards – Former Principal and OCPS Area Superintendent