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WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for the District 3 seat on the York County School Board.
Newcomer Julie Reichle faces incumbent Mark Medford, who is currently the board’s chairman, in the race. Reichle’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place Nov. 3.
Read a completed questionnaire from Medford here.
1. What are the three major issues facing the school district right now? How would you address those issues?
The three major issues facing the school district are 1) teacher retention in light of compensation and initiative overload, 2) growth, and 3) funding.
Teachers and staff are the most important part of our school system. Over the past six years we have had a new initiative or educational fad each year such as Hybrid 4×4, Middle Years Program, Project Based Learning, Transformative Learning, Bring Your Own Technology, and now Blended Learning. During a time when our teachers have gone 5 years without a raise, this puts a significant amount of pressure on our system. We need to adopt more consistent policies and make teacher retention and compensation a priority.
The school district also is dealing with growth throughout the entire district, but especially in the north end of the County. Currently, York Elementary School has approximately 744 students. The School Board should be meeting with the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission and be preparing for this growth. On my watch, I will be more proactive. We cannot postpone building an elementary school in the north end of the county any longer. To address the overcrowding now, we should allow and advise parents to send their child to another elementary school if they are able to provide transportation.
Funding for schools must be addressed in several ways. First, we need to have better communication with the Board of Supervisors not just at budget time but all year long. The Board of Supervisors needs to be aware of the schools needs and also be assured that the schools are using tax dollars wisely. Every dollar counts and the School Board should lead by example. Secondly, funding depends to a great degree on the state and the state re-indexes every two years. The next re-indexing will be in 2016. Thirdly, we need to look at the budget in detail every year and not just pass last years budget with changes.
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?
Right now we are beyond the planning stage, Yorktown Elementary is overcrowded with 744 students. To immediately address overcrowding, we should advise parents that they may take their child to another elementary school in the district if they are able to provide transportation. In the immediate future, we need to look at attendance boundary lines in adjacent zones with community and parent input and support.
One of the issues in the future is where the new school will be located. With the bussing situation in York County, we need to locate this school closest to where the students live.
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 salaries and restored steps are first in my mind to be fully funded in 2017.
Teachers have been asked to do more and more even when their pay was frozen for 5 years. We have a new pay scale and we need to derive a plan for those missed steps to be restored.
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?
We cannot ignore the science behind later start times for high-schoolers. The question is whether or not we are able to make this work with the shape of our County and our bussing system. It may require more busses or reworking of routes.
5. Which school improvement projects do you think need to be priority items for the school division? Why?
The new elementary school is the most important item on our capital improvement plan. With 744 students at Yorktown Elementary we cannot delay this project any longer. Other capital improvement projects must be prioritized based on need.
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?
Class size and family engagement are two of the main things that affect the achievement gap. We must work to keep class sizes small, especially in grades K through three. We also must work to include families in the educational process and welcome them in the schools. Families and good teachers are very important in helping students succeed.
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 Board of Supervisors and the School Board should be cohesive. We have had years where they have been unable to sit down together and solve problems. It is ok for members of boards to disagree, but they must be willing towork together toward the common goal of keeping our schools on track and planning for the future. The School Board needs to continually reach out to the Board of Supervisors, be transparent with school expenditures and inform the Board of changing conditions and concerns throughout the year. We all must work together to be problem solvers. Communication is key.
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?
School board members should listen, ask questions, and bring solutions to the table. We have smart members in our community, on the school staff and in our schools. We must listen and engage to find the best solution for our problems. School board members do not need to always agree as long as they all work together towards a common goal.
With my experience as a Certified Public Accountant, I will bring valuable skills and experience to the table. I am a problem solver, and as a school board member I will be engaged and visible in the schools. By being visible and accessible, I will be aware of the issues we face and be available to the staff, teachers and the community. I work well with other people because I believe even when there are disagreements; there is always common ground.