Sunday, July 31, 2011

Unofficially Official

The deadline for filing nominating petitions for School Board is August 18.  I turned in my completed petition about two weeks ago, and found out last week that I had more than enough signatures to get my name on the ballot.

So, while it's not technically official until the Election Commission places my name on the ballot, I have met all the requirements and will be officially running for School Board in a few weeks.

Thanks so much to all of you that signed!  Now let's start looking toward November 1!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What are you actually going to do?

If you get on the School Board, what are you actually going to do?

It’s an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself.  I’ve talked about why I think I’m qualified to be your representative on the School Board.  I talked about why I want to be on there and the vested interest I have in the success of our city schools.  But, I haven’t really answered the question of what I actually plan to do as a member of the Board of Education.

Now, I’m not going to fall into that trap of making a bunch of promises I can’t keep.  I’m not going to be na├»ve and tell you I’ll fix everything in a couple of years, or that I’ll propose this certain plan to accomplish this certain outcome.  That’s not honest and not practical, and there’s no way to know what I can actually do until I get in there and assess the situation.

So, what can I say about what I plan to do as a School Board member?  The most important thing I can say is that I plan to do something.  There is so much more to being an effective Board member than showing up to a meeting once a month.  There are a lot of positive things going on in our schools, but there is a lot of room for improvement.  Here are the areas of concern I plan to focus on:

Enrollment
It’s no secret the enrollment in Humboldt City Schools has been declining for a long time.  In fact, we have lost more than 1000 kids over the last 20 years.  That’s nearly half of our student population!  This trend must stop, because it is obviously not sustainable for the long-term.

So, how do we stop declining enrollment?  I don’t think there is a silver bullet.  There is probably not one single thing we can do to stop the decline; it will be a package of policies, initiatives, and improvements that will work in concert to reverse the trend. 

We have to start by getting to the root of the problem.  We have to find out first, what parents base school choice on, and second, how they rate Humboldt on those factors.  When we do the research and get some definitive insight into the true perceptions of Humboldt and the real reasons people shun our schools, then we can work toward addressing those problems that can be addressed.

Along with addressing problems, we also must recruit!  It may seem like a ridiculous prospect to have to recruit for public schools, but in urban schools districts, this has become very much the norm.  With our proximity to Jackson’s private schools and our border with the burgeoning Medina school zone, we can’t just sit by and wait for parents to choose Humboldt.  All they hear is what their friends tell them about our schools, and most of the time it’s not very flattering.  We have to target those parents that are willing to consider Humboldt, and actively recruit them to enroll their children here.

Image 
People that know me know that I talk a lot about our schools’ image.  Obviously, the most important thing we can do in public schools is provide a quality education.  But, we absolutely have to focus on the image we project, because a lot of people might see a run-down building or an unorganized website first, and never see that we have great technology and teachers in the classroom.  We have to take a close look at what parents see in Humboldt City Schools, and focus on always projecting an image of quality.  This is not to say we should put lipstick on a pig.  But there is no reason we should allow people’s first impression to be skewed by things that are in our control.

I think some progress is being made on our online image, but when I am elected to the school board, I will focus on the first impression people have when they check out Humboldt City Schools online.  This is something I have been making progress on in my role with the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and I plan to carry that work forward to the School Board.  I will also look at the school facilities and see if there are improvements we can make to clean up our image.  The school board alone can’t get capital improvements done, but we can at least ensure we have spotless facilities and take care of our assets.

Professionalism
This goes along with image, but I will take this school board position seriously.  You won’t catch me missing meetings, showing up late, being unprepared, or taking board meetings off on tangents.   What you will see from me is a commitment to do the research and propose initiatives to try to actively improve our schools. 

The School Board is responsible for policy and big-picture direction of the school system.  It is the job of the superintendent we hire to handle operation of the schools according to our policy.  So, I won’t be meddling in the day-to-day operations of the schools, unless they conflict with the larger direction of the entire system.  I will focus on policy and ideas that will move the entire district forward.

Ideas
I am a problem-solver – by nature and by trade.  It’s always been my nature to find solutions to problems, and I guess that’s what led me to a career in engineering.  Engineers are people that take a problem or a need, and come up with a feasible way of addressing it. 

I do a lot of thinking and research about ways to improve our schools.  My process of problem-solving is to think about the ultimate goal, propose a solution, then see if there is a way to make it happen with the limitations we have.  I don’t start by thinking about our restraints and limiting the possible solutions.

 In my role as Chair of the Chamber’s Education Committee, I have brought new ideas that are being carried forward and will be beneficial to our schools.  Our mission on that committee is Research our city schools’ market, Re-engage people in our schools, and build our Reputation as a premier school system.  The ideas I brought to the table to fulfill this mission included starting the HHS Alumni Association, conducting a market research study on our schools, and working on our online image.  The results are that the Alumni Association is up and running, an opinion survey is going to be published this fall to gather information for the market research project, and one of the computer classes at HHS will be getting real-world experience in online media this fall by maintaining the school’s website.

The bottom line is that I am willing to work for a better school system, and I think I have proven that I have what it takes to get the wheels of progress turning.