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WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for a seat on the York County School Board.
Incumbent Barbara Haywood is running unopposed in District 1. Haywood’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place Nov. 3.
1. What are the three major issues facing the school district right now? How would you address those issues?
There are numerous issues facing the school division. Each year the School Board along with the Superintendent and Administrators identify the top priorities. The top priorities may change each budget session.
The three major issues that the school division focused on for this budget session:
Teacher Compensation: There is a need to regain the step increases that were frozen over the past years due to budget shortfalls. There is also a need to maintain the other incentives such as health insurance and retirement benefits without passing on the increases to the employees.
Transportation: The school division is required by law to provide transportation to and from school. This is a service that the school division fully funds. Investigation into outsourcing found that costs would greatly increase with contracting out for this service. Transportation costs center on three areas, namely cost of buses and schedule for replacement/purchase, cost of gasoline, and hiring an adequate number of bus drivers for our fleet of buses.
Technology: Technology can be considered a tool or strategy to enhance education. This has and will continue to be a costly endeavor. Technology, whether it be infrastructure such as bandwidth, computers/ipads, software or programing needs to continually evaluated and upgraded. There is a need to continuously upgrade all of our schools thus providing opportunities for all of our students.
2. Population data suggests several school zones face an overcrowding problem in the coming years if adjustments are not made. Beyond the new elementary schools slated to be built in the Magruder and York zones, what strategies would you support to address the issue? Why?
Over the years, the School Board has believed in the concept of a community school concept. In addition, the belief has been to maintain an appropriate student:teacher ratio of 20:1 for students in grades K-2 and 25:1for students in grades 3-5.
The school administration works closely with the county projections with regard to new and existing communities. With respect to new developments, there are projections regarding the number of students estimated to live within these developments. These projections are used with respect to CIP recommendations, number of teachers and classrooms needed.
There is a need to re-evaluate this information each year. The strategic plan provides a rotational basis for school repairs, maintenance and new additions if space is available.
3. What budget items would you want to ensure are fully funded and not cut back as the York County School Division builds its fiscal 2017 budget?
Teacher Compensation: There is a need to restore the salary steps.
Compensation for non-licensed personnel.
Low class size for each class not an average.
Instructional programs are maintained, and/or improved.
Transportation – constant need for safe, reliable buses and qualified drivers which are fairly compensated.
Technology – Continue to maintain and upgrade technology services to the students.
Focus on behavioral and mental health concerns.
4. Later start times for high-schoolers is currently in serious consideration by both the York County School Board and the division’s administration. Do you support later start times for these students? Why or why not?
York County is very unique in its demography. We are unique in that the county has a large amount of federal property dispersed throughout especially dividing the upper county (District 1) from the rest of the county. I support and understand the data supporting high-schoolers needing more sleep. I also support a slow, thoughtful, and thorough process to evaluate and assess all avenues in this endeavor. It is my desire to allow the superintendent and staff to slowly investigate later start times. This means meetings with parents and the community in all five districts. All parents need to understand the specifics of a later start time and have an opportunity to determine how this change will affect their households. There are many variables that must be considered such as arrival time for all students (depending on which grade level goes first, second, third), sports, family dynamics just to name a few. I want to be assured that all districts, especially District 1, are well informed of any proposed change and are able to voice their preferred decision. It is not my desire that parents find out at the start of the school year that there are changes to the school start times.
5. Which school improvement projects do you think need to be priority items for the school division? Why?
The school division uses a rotational process to focus on school improvement projects. Each school has a school improvement plan that is updated each year. In addition, school division staff have an annual schedule for inspecting the schools. The CIP lists projects over a multi-year period, however the CIP is approved on an annually basis. This provides for revisions to the CIP as the needs arise. This multi-year focus allows the School Division to plan and provide instruction in safe and secure schools. Thus the priority items are identified based on a number of sources.
6. Talk about the achievement gap in York Schools. Are the current strategies to close the gap working? Why or why not? What are your ideas to help progress in this area?
Each year since I have been on the Board, I, along with the other Board members receive information regarding the achievement gap. While it has been disappointing that the gap was significant, I realized that I could not solve this myself. As the only African American on the Board, I have held the superintendent and administrators accountable over the years because they are the ones with the educational expertise and are in place to make a significant difference. I have been very pleased that the members of the School Board have supported me in this endeavor and have made this focus a goal of the division. So in addition to receiving data on an annual basis, I request that the superintendent and administrators be prepared to make suggestions for narrowing this gap. The school division has been very successful in narrowing the gap with regards to African American students and Economically Disadvantaged students. The School Division will continue to monitor, evaluate and make recommendations of the instructional programs in place for all students.
7. How would you describe the working relationship between the school board and the Board of Supervisors? What can the school board do to improve or enhance this relationship?
The relationship between the school board and the Board of Supervisors have improved especially over the last year. While our duties and responsibilities are different, our overall goal to the citizens of the county are similar. There are several opportunities that have been used to discuss our issues and concerns regarding the services and resources to our schools. The chair and vice-chair of both board along with the superintendent and county administrator have regularly scheduled meetings regarding budget forecasts and possible funding issues. The superintendent and staff meet regularly with the county administrator and staff to discuss similar issues. In addition, both the school board member and member to the board of supervisors for each district will plan to meet to discuss budget issues prior to the budget cycle. Thus, both boards have used a variety of methods to improve the working relationship between them.
8. How well do you feel the school board members work together? What do you feel you can bring to the school board’s dynamic?
Each School Board member brings a very different dynamic to the table. We each are unique based on our values and life experiences. I believe that it is also important to know what the School Board member does outside of school board activities, such as profession and family/children. This helps you to know the whole person. While our personal experiences are different, there is one unifying goal – that of advocating for and supporting public education for all the students in York County. It has been the practice of the York County School Division to have a retreat workshop where the goals and beliefs about education are discussed and agreed upon. There is a need for respect and unification. Where there is unity, much can be accomplished.
I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to serve the students in York County, especially District 1, for 25 years. I have always given serious consideration to reelection prior to each appointment or election. I desire to represent the students, parents and citizens of District 1 in the best way I know how. It has been my continued desire to make a positive difference in the community in which I live and work. In addition, I believe that I have a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding the role and responsibilities of a School Board member and the board in general. With this in mind, I believe that I am qualified and capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of this position. I am also very pleased that I am able to add the diversity that is greatly needed in an elected position. Lastly, I am very grateful to the citizens of District 1 requesting that I continue in this position.