John Kim: Candidate for School District of Indian River County, FL School Board / District Five.



This response is from John Kim.

 1. The School District of Indian River County (SDIRC) self-insures its health insurance programs, which means the SDIRC offers its estimated 2,000 employees health insurance through its own program rather than through a private company. The premiums it collects from the employees through its own program have not covered the claims and has put the SDIRC approximately $ 7 million in the hole.

How would you address this shortfall and what is your position on switching from a self-insured to a private insurance program?

“Due to the Affordable Care Act, we have seen a 31% increase in insurance premiums for SDIRC employees. It is unrealistic and unfair for us to ask our employees to pay for this increase, taking into consideration their current pay levels. We must switch from self insured to a private insurance program. Indian River County employees are part of a private insurance program and barely saw an increase in premiums compared to SDIRC employees. With over 2,000 employees, the SDIRC is the largest employer in the county and likewise can easily bid out to multiple insurance companies.

Furthermore, we must close down the SDIRC health clinic. When I toured all 27 schools in the SDIRC I would often hear complaints from our employees about the clinic and how they prefer not to use it. Why should our school district spend $1.4 million per year of taxpayer dollars that our employees don’t even like. Most other governmental and business organizations do not possess their own internal health clinics either. By shutting the clinic down, we can save $1.4 million annually and use that towards more important issues such as lowering our health insurance premiums or improving our children’s education.

The money saved from switching to private health insurance and closing down the health clinic, can provide our employees competitive and affordable healthcare, better use of our tax dollars, and more resource availability for our children.”

2. Common Core has evolved as academic standards that apply specifically to English language and arts and mathematics. Defined as learning goals by the State Standards Initiative, Common Core standards stipulate the type of knowledge students should know and master by the end of each grade level. It has been criticized as top down federalization of our school curriculums. That it is cradle to grave pre determination of a child’s job designation as per the government, not the child’s choice and that parental participation is denied.

What is your position on Common Core?

“I oppose Common Core. Children learn differently, grow up differently, and each have varying aspirations. While standardization is important, this rigid one size fits all approach does not allow for our children to learn and improve individually. Growing up in Indian River County is very different than growing up in Tallahassee or Washington. A cookie cutter approach to education does not allow for flexibility that is needed to improve education in our community. As a local business owner, I know from firsthand experience that when government gets involved in our day to day affairs, they tend to mess things up. Our parents and teachers know best about our children, not government. Our local school board knows best about the needs of our community, not the state and federal government. Individual states and school districts should be given the option of accepting or rejecting Common Core curriculum without fearing any financial repercussions from the federal government.”

3. As best as can be determined, of the approximately150 SDIRC teachers needed this upcoming 2016/2017 school year, as of last month the SDIRC has hired around 80.

What can SDIRC do to attract qualified teachers?

“Yes we have a problem of both recruitment and retention of quality teachers. Our community faces seven challenges:

  1. Indian River County is relatively expensive compared to other counties
  2. Indian River County is much older and not as diverse as other counties
  3. Compared to the larger cities which are relatively close to us, we do not have much to offer in terms of entertainment for our young teachers
  4. Because of the intensive amount of unnecessary testing and overly regimental curriculum, our teachers lack control of their classroom to the point of where a robot could do it
  5. There is a cultural difference and lack of communication between district staff and our teachers
  6. Student discipline is at an all time low
  7. Our teachers are paid below the state average

As a school board member, I cannot change the first three, but I can try to alleviate the latter four issues. Our greatest investment is our children, and our greatest asset are our teachers. Our teachers know best about their students, not our government. My job as a school board member is to break any obstacle that stands in the way between our teachers being able to teach our children. As a school board member I will do whatever it takes to advocate for our teachers and parents to the legislature. We must fight to lower the amount of unnecessary testing and return control of the classroom back to our teachers. We need school board members who are willing to go to bat for our children when it comes to our legislature.

As the first candidate to ever visit all 27 schools within our district, I hear time and time again from teachers that they feel the school district is not doing all they can to assist our teachers. As a school board member, my job is to support our most valuable employees, our teachers. It is our teachers who are the ones who educate our children, not the school board or the administration.

Because of the over amount of testing, our school administrators are forced to be dealing with the regulation that follows it. They do not have the time to help our teachers deal with disruptive students. Instead, teachers are encouraged to not remove disruptive students from the classroom. This becomes a further disruption and even safety issue for the whole class. Many of our children come to school with problems from home and our teachers do the best they can to help those children. However, the classroom is supposed to be a place for safe and productive learning. Disruptive children must be sent to school administration so their needs can be attended to in a safe manner, and the rest of our children can learn in a productive manner.

Finally is the issue of teacher pay. SDIRC teachers are paid $2,000 under the state average. As a business owner, how can I attract the best employees if my competitors in other districts are paying more? Teachers do not go into their profession to become wealthy, however they do need to make a decent living. We must analyze our budget, cut the fat, and raise their salaries. Our children deserve the best teachers, not average teachers.”

4. Once again, as best as can be determined, an estimated 500 SDIRC teachers are retiring or predicted to leave over a period of the next five years. 71 new hires left the District in the last three years.

Why are so many teachers leaving SDIRC?

“We are having a problem with teacher retention because of:

  1. Indian River County is relatively expensive compared to other counties
  2. Indian River County is much older and not as diverse as other counties
  3. Compared to the larger cities which are relatively close to us, we do not have much to offer in terms of entertainment for our young teachers
  4. Because of the intensive amount of unnecessary testing and overly regimental curriculum, our teachers lack control of their classroom to the point of where a robot could do it
  5. There is a cultural difference and lack of communication between district staff and our teachers
  6. Student discipline is at an all time low
  7. Our teachers are paid below the state average”

5. Specifically, with regard to the SDIRC Career and Technical Education Program at Sebastian River and Vero Beach High schools, if elected to the School Board, how would you and the teachers schedule yourselves to shadow each key technical career in the District? What jobs would be on your calendar and what would be your focus?

“As the first school board candidate to visit all 27 schools in our district, I made sure to visit all of our current vocational programs when I visited our two traditional high schools. Our high schools are doing a good job with what they have and it is time we expand vocational education. As a member of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Steering Committee, I am honored to help guide our future CTE program in the right direction, and as the next district 5 school board member, I plan on being the biggest cheerleader and supporter for our CTE programs. As a local born and raised business owner, I am running to provide our children a 21st century education that will earn them a career in the future. Vocational education is my number one issue because of that. I will support whatever initiatives our administration and the steering committee sees fit. I plan on visiting each of our programs on a regular basis so I can know what support our individual programs will need. Our focus on what programs we should provide must revolve around local economic demand. We must meet with the various industries and individual businesses of our county so we can meet the needs of our business community. We must also encourage our businesses to play a major role in our expanded vocational programs. If willing, our businesses should help us with experienced instructors, internships for students, and even just speaking to our students about their personal journey to business success.”

6. Do you think the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce does enough to engage businesses to sponsor internships for high school students related to their area of interest?

“As a member of the Chamber, I believe they are doing the best they can, but it is time the SDIRC allows for the Chamber to do more. Prior to the Great Recession and the introduction of Common Core, the Chamber had a program with the SDIRC that allowed business people to speak to our high school students about the various industries and personal success stories. However, the Great Recession led to a decrease in resources and spending that cut support for the program. Also Common Core and with it the unnecessary amount of testing, decreased the amount of time our students were allowed to have with the program. The two combined practically gutted the program. Thankfully, our economy is slowly beginning to recover and our culture is finally beginning to see the importance of vocational education. This will hopefully allow us to bring back the Chamber program. We could incorporate it into the new Career and Technical Education program the SDIRC is looking to expand.”

7. Several years ago SDIRC funded a study wherein the results showed the public charter schools needed $7.7M to bring their facilities up to traditional school standards.

Yes, or no – would you support proportionate sharing of the $ 1.5 million tax with the public charter schools?

“Yes. As a PTA member of the Imagine School of South Vero and whose nephew and niece attend charter schools, I am the only lifelong supporter of school choice. Charter schools are public schools and the SDIRC should support school choice. There are over 2,000 students in our five charter schools, which means there are thousands of parents and grandparents who are forced to pay their fair share of taxes. It is not fair and insulting that only 5% of the millage money is shared with our charter schools although they make up 12% of the population.”

8. American Educational Research Association (AERA) released a study in 2011 that “A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.” The study also revealed that if you add poverty into the mix “a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.”

How do you define reading on grade level by 3rd grade? What does it mean?

“Reading by grade level can be measured by one of two ways. The current and most efficient way is based off of their reading test score. While it may be the most efficient method, we can not base a student’s progress off of that alone. The student’s parents and teachers know best so their evaluation of the child must be taken into consideration in addition to the test score. The two methods combined will produce not only an efficient assessment, but more importantly an effective evaluation. Furthermore, as a school board member, I would take it one step further. Children are always developing, it does not simply stop at 3rd grade. It is vital to keep our students interested in reading throughout their time in our school system. It is important to teach them the fundamentals of not only the English language, but to develop a passion for learning, and reading is one of the best ways to make this happen.”

9. Jeff Solochek wrote in the Tampa Bay Times on October 6,2012 that: “A group of Chinese investors have put $30 million into the state’s (Florida) charter school program to date and are looking to invest three times that amount in the next year, Ilona Vega Jaramillo, director of international business development for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, said in a US-China roundtable discussion last week.”

What is your position on this Chinese investment? And how much of our curriculum content do you believe the charter schools intend to tailor toward their Communist investors?

“First and foremost, we must put children above politics, right or left. The Chinese investment is helpful and I believe none of our charter schools are tailoring a curriculum towards communist investors. Charter schools, like traditional schools, must abide by the curriculum set by the federal, state, and local government. I would be more concerned with the political bias in our textbooks set by our governing officials and academia’s rather than foreign investors. A group of investors is the same thing as a bank giving out a loan. They do not care about the product itself, all they care about is their return on investment.”

10. How do you explain that from 2008-2016, according to the Florida Department of Education, Traditional Indian River County schools lost 1,095 students and Indian River County Charter schools gained 1,306 students?

“The answer is school choice. Our parents know best about their children, and are blessed to have the right to choose where and how their child should be educated. Traditional and charter schools offer different environments that are suited towards individual children. The charters with their smaller class sizes allow for more individualized attention. Charters, such as the Indian River Charter High School offer a unique and diverse fine arts programs. These are unique selling points that can persuade parents to send their children to a charter school. However, traditional schools offer more resources and programs than our charter schools do. For example, our traditional high schools offer strong marching band and athletic programs, neither of which the charter high school offers. It is vital that we provide our parents with the choice of how and where they want their child educated. Regardless of traditional, charter, or homeschooling, they are all children within our public school system, and must be honored as such. This is the reality of taxpayer funded public school education.”


John Kim

One thought on “John Kim: Candidate for School District of Indian River County, FL School Board / District Five.

  1. Mr. Kim,

    Your responses were interesting, but the Chinese investment must have strings attached of some sort. Perhaps you could explain what prompted such interest in Florida.

    Some time ago I received a mailer from you listing five key principles. One of them stated: “End liberal bias in education ‘Children over politics’ – textbooks should show all views.”

    I would like you to expand on this with examples of “liberal bias.”

    Would creationism be one “view” you would like to see included in the public school curriculum?

    I emailed you a similar request, but you failed to respond.

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