And then there were two…..
Byron Watson, challenger for the District 1 School Board position now held by Rich Ellis, who is running for re-election, has submitted his answers to our questions, and we are posting them here for your edification. For each item, we repeat our question from the earlier posts, and then show Byron’s answers indented and in red text.
Enjoy. And thanks, Byron, for taking the time to let voters know where you line up on the points we raised.
Questions for School Board Candidates:
1. Do you think the Brunswick School Department exercises responsible stewardship of our physical building assets?
No. Somebody is responsible for not shoveling off the roof of Jordan Acres when that beam collapsed a couple years back and there has been no desire to hold anyone accountable.
2. Do you think the School Department should institute a merit based pay system for the teaching corps, or retain the current automatic increase, one size fits all pay scale system?
We should absolutely be looking into instituting a merit based system. However, I am against a merit system that is solely based on test scores. We should form a focus group consisting of Taxpayers, Board Members, Administrators, and Teachers to collaborate together for a merit based system that will be a great fit for Brunswick. We’ll need to incorporate different aspects of the individual position in order to determine what kind of increase if any is deserved. I believe the right merit based system can bring out the best in our teachers making our students the top priority.
3. How should the School Department evaluate its performance?
One of the ways the School Department can check in on their performance is through the Adequate Yearly Progress shown in the State Department of Education figures. The last round of statistics viewed from the State Department of Education revealed that both our Jr. High & High School are failing to meet A.Y.P.
4. How should the School Department plan for and implement continuously improving student achievement?
When teaching is the focus our children will fare the best. Unfortunately it feels like our powers that be have forgotten that we are supposed to be here for the children and not the adults. Teachers need time to develop curriculum, stay up to date with the latest useful technology, and also to collaborate with other teachers for the best overall experience of the student. The Freshman Academy we developed for our most At-Risk students back in 2009 has been a resounding success at Brunswick and may just be the template for future achievement.
5. Should the tax rate for School finances be capped to an upper limit, or allowed to increase continually? And how much per year is a reasonable increase?
The School Budget should be capped by the School Board Members themselves and the public should start to hold them accountable to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers money. We have had our property taxes increased over 15% in the last three years and that is irresponsible. The citizens I have spoken to are shocked to hear that the municipal side of the budget actually went down 2% last year and are outraged at the huge unsustainable tax increases being laid upon them by the School Budget.
6. Do you think recruiting students from Asia and other distant lands is a legitimate function of the Brunswick public school system? If so, why? If not, why not?
Clearly it is not a legitimate function of the Brunswick School System, especially when the School Department has snubbed their nose at the tuition paying students from Harpswell, West Bath, and Durham. I will say that when they make an agreement (as they did in the China case) they must follow through on their word, but for them to think they have the authority to approve Chinese students over the Federal Government & State Government is absurd. We should first be looking to collaborate with our neighbors, keep in mind when the Durham students left due to the School Consolidation Law, they took with them over $1 Million in tuition fees as well.
7. Do you think the virtual doubling in per student budgetary costs in recent years is justified? Do you think $15,000 per year per student is not enough, just right, or too much? If not enough, how much should that increase?
No. When a taxpayer can look at a solid Catholic School like St. John’s and realize tuition is under $5,000 annually, how is it possible to justify $15,000? We need what is best for our students and maybe a roughly $3 Million surplus every year is not the answer.
8. Do you think children are the first priority of the Brunswick School Department?
No. There is no question that the children unequivocally need to be the first priority.
9. Describe the primary responsibilities of a school board member. Emphasize the relationship between the board and the department.
There is no question that the School Board as an entire 9-member unit is the Superintendent’s boss. For the past three years it sometimes has appeared to be the other way around, but our representative’s should understand that they direct the Superintendent. For example: State Law requires a Civics Class, yet no such class exists. If a School Board Member wanted to abide by the requirements they would not go to a faculty member, they would go to the Superintendent.
10. Did we miss any questions you wish we had asked, or that we should have asked?
Why did the School Board hire a principal that was fired two months prior to them hiring him?
11. This item is a place for you to make any statement you wish to town voters.
I’m running for the District #1 School Board seat. I will bring common sense, sustainable and achievable solutions to the Brunswick school system. My student-focused plan emphasizes the importance of our tight-knit community, saves our district millions of dollars and focuses on collaboration with our adjoining school districts. It’s time for Brunswick to spend tax dollars on what will benefit our children the most. Thank you for your support and I’m asking for your vote on November 5th. Please visit my website for more information:
Extra Credit Questions For School Board Candidates/Incumbents:
1) Do you think the school board should set a budget NTE figure for school department staff before budget preparation begins? If not, why not?
The idea of zero based budgeting can work as well, but yes setting a figure at the beginning to go by for the staff would help in the budget preparation process.
2) Would you support requiring school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year budgetary plan that projects revenues and operational and capital expenditures, and consequent property tax demand? If not, why not?
Yes. This is already required under Article IX, Section 909, of the Brunswick Town Charter.
“The school board shall prepare and submit to the council a 5-year school capital program at the same time that it submits its annual budget. The school capital program shall be prepared and revised in the same manner that is required of the manager under Article VI of this Charter.”
3) Would you support requiring cognizant school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year building maintenance and repair plan, complete with estimated costs? If not, why not?
This is a solid model to go by, keeping in mind it would be a road map. Sometimes there are other routes to take then described in the original plan and sometimes we are forced to take other routes as well.
In view of the foregoing submission, we hereby award Byron one
For those still hiding in the goose-egg contingent, we can only presume…..
What if the rest of us didn’t have the time or interest to pay the taxes you so enjoy spending to live out your good intentions? You’ll send who after us, with what?