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School Board candidates look at education bill

Posted: Thursday, Apr 5th, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part series that revolves around issues raised during a two-hour discussion with school board candidates during a forum at the Coffee Tree Saturday. Today the story’s theme will be the candidates’ views on the education bill — House Bill 1234. Tuesday’s story talked about the role of the school board and each candidate’s reaction to failure of a recent opt-out. Sunday’s story centered on the part of the discussion concerning testing and the English as a Second Language program.

HURON — Toward the end of a two-hour forum held at the Coffee Tree Saturday, three candidates for school board were questioned about the Legislature’s passage of House Bill 1234.

On hand were incumbent Steve Fryberger and challengers Brian Hines and David Wheeler. Incumbent Tim Van Berkum was unable to attend the event.

On Tuesday the public will go to the polls at the Huron Event Center to pick two of the four candidates to fill the seats open.

House Bill 1234 has three parts to it that the candidates addressed.

The first part has to do with removing tenure as far as contracts.

The second part of the bill deals with performance pay for teachers and the third part has to do with scholarships for those going into the teaching profession.

Fryberger said he sees both sides of the tenure issue.

“As far as eliminating tenure for teachers, I know the public wants to hold teachers to a higher standard,” said Fryberger, who also sees the side of the teacher, as, according to him, they often feel that they have not just one boss, their building’s principal, but numerous bosses — their children’s parents.

He said at this point he is neither in favor nor against the tenure measure.

Hines said that he regretted not giving his views at the legislative coffee when they discussed the bill, but he does have views on what they came up with.

“In general I think House Bill 1234 is good, I believe teachers need to be evaluated,” said Hines. He said he’s fine with the language of the bill to eliminate tenure.

Wheeler said he appreciated that when the Legislature came up with the final product that for most of the items in the bill there are local control options.

He didn’t directly address the tenure part of the program except to say that the board will have a say in how it will be dealt with.

As far as the bill’s performance pay, he maintains the district must find a way to make it work.

“If the Legislature’s willing to give us money to do this, I am not going to turn it way,” said Wheeler. “I am glad they are allowing the school board to come up with its own incentive program so that we can then work with teachers, staff and administrators to come up with something that works in Huron.”

He also said that teachers need to be part of this process in determining how the incentive program works.

Fryberger said the fact that Huron might have local control should be the option for the district to choose.

He said the district will be given time to make a plan with public input and the input of administrators and teachers.

“As a board I don’t think it is our right or that we have the authority to say how we are going to spend that money,” said Fryberger. “I think as a community, if it comes to that, we are going to have to sit down and come up with a way of rewarding our teachers … that is going to be the biggest stickler to that bill.”

Hines reiterated statements he made at a previous forum, that he would like to see the incentive program be a district-wide evaluation.

He said that the state’s districts should be given a report card and then re-evaluated a year later to see if positive progress was made.

“If your district was well above the average of performing, then you should get the incentive,” said Hines. “If you are below average then you shouldn’t. I think last year Huron probably wouldn’t have gotten one because I think we were one of three school districts that had lower scores, if I remember right.”

He said that would promote teamwork throughout the district, although he sees real problems if it is doled out on a per teacher basis.

“I know this from my kids going to school, there are some teachers that will not take special ed kids,” said Hines.

One concern voiced from the public at the forum is it may pit teacher versus teacher.

Wheeler said he has heard that too.

“I would want to avoid that. I have heard that from a lot of teachers. We don’t want to pit teacher versus teacher,” said Wheeler. “Maybe if there is a way we can refine so that it’s not just a cut-off at 20 percent.”

He said there will always be some kind of competition, though.

“But maybe we can find a way to do that,” said Wheeler. “Because I want to be able to give those teachers that extra couple of thousand dollars a year if we can.”

Hines said he is aware of the pitfalls of pitting teachers against each other; that is why he is pushing a district-wide plan.

He went on to say that he would like to see parents as excited about the Huron students’ academic achievements as they are about their athletic achievements.

“Academics is the foundation and we need to get back to the foundation,” said Hines. “We are doing an injustice by not giving them the foundation for the life ahead.”

He said while there is a place for sports, the system currently is “out of whack.”

Fryberger also said pitting teacher versus teacher and a class’s scores versus scores doesn’t work.

He said each classroom can be just so different.

“If I am a teacher and I have a para-educator my classroom may perform well. Because I have an assistant that helps me versus this teacher here who doesn’t have an assistant,” said Fryberger.

He went on to say even the parents’ actions might play a role in the outcome of who gets raises.

He gave an example, “In our class, I have a good class with 10 parents involved,” said Fryberger. “(Another) class may have very little parent involvement at home and that is going to affect that teacher’s performance.”

He also raised the question if a teacher is rewarded that might have a para-educator or ESL teacher, shouldn’t that person be recognized as well?

As for the final piece of the legislation concerning scholarships, none of the candidates seemed to have a problem with it; however, Fryberger said he would like to see some flexibility there as well.

“I would like to see it extended to not just math and science teachers, but allow school districts to go after teachers that they need,” said Fryberger. “We may not need math and science teachers in Huron; we may need reading specialists; we may need some ESL teachers.”

He said getting more local control of that money would be a bonus for the district.

For the complete article see the 04-04-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-04-2012 paper.

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