York County School Board District 5 Q&A: Robert George

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Dr. Robert George
Dr. Robert George

WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for the District 5 seat on the York County School Board.

Incumbent Dr. Robert George faces newcomer Sean Myatt in the race. George’s answers are unedited and presented below.

The election takes place Nov. 3.

Read a completed questionnaire from Myatt here.

1. What are the three major issues facing the school district right now? How would you address those issues?

  1. State Funding: Recent JLARC article states that we are being funded by the state today at the same level we were funded at 10 years ago. We need to continue to lobby our legislators in Richmond. The source of the problem lies within the state budget and not our local government. Our local government has increased its contribution to the school division in recent years.
  2. Staff Compensation and retention : Our strategic plan states that we will move into and remain in the top third in compensation packages when compared to the 9 surrounding school divisions. We will continue to make step increases as well as restored steps a priority to attract highly qualified staff. I believe that retention of staff depends not just on compensation but also on supportive leadership in the school building as well as the School Board Office.
  3. Safety and Security: We will continue our close relationship with Fire and Life Safety. Fire drills and intruder drills will continue to be effective and frequently observed. We will continue to alert and update parents of any unsafe circumstances. As we upgrade our facilities we will need to do so with security in mind. Nothing is more important than the safety 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?

Staff continues to assess and review options with regard to our student population. This information is then presented to the school board. Approaches to overcrowding could be construction of additional classrooms, use of temporary learning facilities, and biennial review for the need to rebalance attendance zones.

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?

  1. Increased staff compensation as well as restored steps for staff will always remain a top priority.
  2. Our fleet of buses is aging and will need to be addressed.
  3. Continuing to support our current instructional initiatives such as K-5 Literacy model, and our Tiered System of Supports. These resources and professional development opportunities have made a profound difference for our students and staff.

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?

I support full research of the issue. I believe the data shows benefits to a later start time. We need community input, student input, cost estimates, and the input of credentialed medical professionals. In addition I would like to continue our conversations with other divisions that have implemented later start times.

5. Which school improvement projects do you think need to be priority items for the school division? Why?

Staff does an excellent job prioritizing the needs of our facilities through our 10 year Capital Improvement Plan. Issues with leaking roofs, malfunctioning HVAC, and Safety and Health concerns would be examples of what I would consider to be top priority. Bethel Manor Elementary and Waller Mill Elementary are two aging schools that are currently in need of window replacement and bathroom renovation.

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? 

This year Students with Disabilities (SWD) saw double digit gains in Math in 12 out of 19 schools and double digit gains in English in 11 out of 19 schools. In addition, African American students (Gap Group 2) showed an 8% gain in Math for the division. When comparing divisions across the state Gap Group 2 in YCSD moved from 24th in 2014 to 8th in 2015.

This success is the direct result of programs such as our onTRAC assessment system, Leveled Literacy Intervention Program (LLI) and Tiered System of Supports.

Moving forward we have moved our LLI training to the secondary level. Also, at the Middle School level we are providing professional development in math intervention for our special education teachers.

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?

After 8 years on the school board I can say that our relationship with the Board of Supervisors is at an all time high. I believe that there is a mutual respect for the challenges that each board faces.

I believe the reason for the improved relationship is largely due to the early and frequent communication that the two boards share. The Superintendent and the County Administrator meet every other week to share information. Additionally the Chair and Vice Chair of each board meet semiannually to share thoughts and strategies.

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?

There are those on the board that I consider to be some of the hardest working and most selfless people I know. My hope would be that the board would always be unified in purpose yet diverse in thought. Our primary focus is always what is best for the student. To that end I believe we do pretty well.

My 25 years of experience in my dental practice allows me to bring management, budgeting, and people skills to the board. Having my own kids in the division assures that I have a vested interest in the success of YCSD.  Being in the Medical field requires a desire to serve others. It has offered a tremendous opportunity for me to serve and give back to the community. Being on the school board has allowed me to extend this into my private life.