2018 School Board Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Joe Smith


Candidate, School Board District 3

Responses submitted May 1, 2018 to UnifiEd via email. Responses are published here exactly as submitted without editing.

 

Question 1 – Racial & Socioeconomic Desegregation
As a school board member, I commit to working together with the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to develop a plan to end socioeconomic and racial segregation. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Question 2 – Racial & Socioeconomic Desegregation
As a school board member, I commit to actively partnering with community members to demand the end of socioeconomic and racial segregation in our schools. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Answer for 1 & 2: I have read and carefully studied every word of the APEX report. I agree with the concept of a broad approach to dealing with all the factors that impact if a student learns or not. I have spent 31 years doing what is needed for the hundreds of young people I had in YCAP. I think the School Board and Dr. Johnson should and will do more to add counselors and social workers. I agree that the business community should support our schools. This has been happening since merger, so it is not something new. I think the business contributions are higher than they ever have been, and that is good. The Future Ready Institutes are very good. Giving students the skills to get a respectable job out of high school or with more focused training is a concept that has been around for decades, and I support what 2.0 has done. I do wish there were more details and more information provided to the School Board and the taxpayers who fund schools about what business is doing what things and what money is being contributed. I have worked in the non-profit world for 30 years and know businesses here always rise to a challenge. I remember the adopt-a-school program. And, like YCAP with its limited numbers, that program worked but was not sustained. If you want to save a generation, use the elements of the YCAP model and do it in what you call centers of poverty.

As for the recommendations for socio-economic desegregation, or integration based on poverty not race, or integration based on poverty and race, little of this aligns with what I believe, what the people I represent believe or what most people who live in Hamilton County believe. Diversity dramatically increased when Dr. Register implemented the magnet schools, and with 17 more on the way, (Future Ready Institutes) it seems we have this covered. The idea of open enrollment has been promoted by School Board member Rhonda Thurman for more than a decadeand I am ok with open enrollment. Parents and students in our community deserve choice, but you must figure out how to pay for transportation, and that will come with a huge price tag. I do not favor using busing to integrate anything. Our country has been down this road before and simply does not work. 

One last point. I just do not think the way to get the School Board, the County Commission or the “community” to consider policies is by telling someone they “must” do anything. It seems to make more sense to those of us who have some idea of what all of this would cost.

Question 3 – Supporting the People in Our Schools
As a school board member, I commit to supporting better relationships and engagement by working together with the schools in my district to ensure students and teachers have a voice in issues that matter to them. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

The most satisfying part of being a Board member for the past 17 months has been helping my schools. I am not the kind of servant to make lists, but I am sure if you ask any principal in my schools, they can share with you their views of my service to District 3 schools.

Question 4 – Supporting the People in Our Schools
As a school board member, I commit to working with central office to ensure teaching and student programs provide personalized support, especially to those with special needs and minority identities (like English-language learners and LGBTQ+ students). Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

It’s the central office’s responsibility to bring to the School Board issues or policy relating to any need that any specific student group has. I never worry about the “identities” of young people I work with. Every student, regardless of race, gender, nationality or orientation should be treated the same.

Question 5 – Community Engagement & Empowerment
As a school board member, I commit to working with school leadership to provide creative, accessible avenues for parents and community members to support schools and children. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Yes. That is what I am currently doing in several ways. For 30 years I have been laser focused in working with foundations, business and industry and philanthropists to creatively meet kids and families right were they are and wrap them with supports to allow them to reach their potential in life. 

Question 6 – Community Engagement & Empowerment
As a school board member, I commit to partnering with local organizations and businesses to support and provide resources in our schools. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Yes. That is what I am currently doing. I welcome the support of the private sector, but I would like to gain a better understanding in terms of the exact financial contributions from all entities outside the school system. Every day I’m learning something new about how so many community folks are becoming engaged in our Public Schools here in Hamilton County and that is exciting ! 

Question 7 – Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to working with schools to ensure students’ mental and emotional health needs are supported. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I addressed this above in the first answer. Further I have spent most of my adult life working with special needs at risk young people both in my home as a parent/guardian and as the Regional Director of YCAP and now as a school board member. 

Question 8 – Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to partnering with and supporting community organizations to ensure children can access mentoring, field trips, and early childhood education. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I have done this very thing for more than 30 years. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish through the various outreach and program components that have over the years impacted and literally changed the lives of thousands of young people and their families. 

Question 9 – Funding & Budgeting
As a school board member, I commit to prioritizing funds for capital expenses to make sure all school facilities are safe and healthy learning spaces, and ensuring there is a long-term plan to keep them that way. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Is there anyone who does not want to make sure all our facilities are safe? I believe we had a good process of prioritization of capital needs last year, but we can do better. The community just invested $125 million in facilities. I believe Dr. Johnson will bring us a long-term capital plan for our review. Ultimately, however, we can all commit to wanting this, but money to fix things comes from the County Commission, not the School Board.

Question 10 – Funding & Budgeting
As a school board member, I commit to prioritizing funding to recruit, support, and keep the best teachers. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

We currently prioritize the recruiting, supporting and keeping the best teachers. I think every Board member supports this. I know Dr. Johnson does. If Dr. Johnson believes we should invest more, then he can share that with us. 

Question 11- Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to ensuring all students have access to early childhood education programs so every child enters kindergarten ready to learn. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Every person who cares about public education understands and supports early childhood education. I do, but it is one thing to support it and another to fund it. The challenge is to get funding from the state and federal governments, and I know Dr. Johnson understands this and will bring us a recommendation if he sees where more taxpayer money needs to be invested in this area. Further we must never forget education is from the womb to the grave and it begins at home with the parent. 

Question 12 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to working with community partners and HCDE to expand community schools throughout the county to provide holistic support to neighborhoods and communities. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Given my background, the concept of community schools is one I can support. How you pay for all that may be required is another issue. The school need be the lighthouse to any community. For the past 17 months since being appointed to set on the school board, I have on numerous occasions been able to utilize my personal relational capital to get a lot of things donated in particular needs areas to not only in my District 3 schools but other schools across the county. I will continue this practice. 

Question 13 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to setting standards for our board and actively participating in a transparent self-assessment process. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

In my opinion, the School Board (each and every member) already has in place a self assessment process) and does not need the self – assessment you described in Natalie’s answer to me. In my 17 months on the Board, I have learned that each Board member regularly looks at the work they do and evaluates him/herself. And, we are very transparently assessed every time there is an election. I would ask that each voter in my district call principals, teachers, parents and students and evaluate my work as your school board representative . 

Question 14 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to ensuring current school system funds are efficiently spent. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Yes. We do this at every board meeting. For the second year in a row we have approved a balanced budget to present to our funding body. If you were following the budget process last year then you are aware that I was able to get my colleagues on the board to come along side of me to develop and present to our funding body (County Commission) a balanced budget. That was the first balanced budget in over a decade presented by HCDE to the county commission. For the first time, in a long time the School Board has and is becoming very transparent and fiscally responsible. I believe that this is what the citizens of District 3 want as well as all taxpayers, parents, students, and education stakeholders all over Hamilton County. 

Question 15 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to working with HCDE to create a 5-year budget and strategic plan connecting money to improved student outcomes. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I supported Board Member Tiffanie Robinson as she has requested this on numerous occasions. We have been told that next year’s budget could bring zero-based budgeting, and I would expect Dr. Johnson to bring us a forward-looking budget plan. If you have followed our most recent (incredibly transparent budget process) you will see where we have outlined some areas that are going to need some close attention in the budget process over the next couple of years.