SINCE OUR CHILDRENS’S EDUCATION IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DETERMINANTS OF A HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS SOCIETY, WE ASKED EACH OF THE CANDIDATES FOR INDIAN RIVER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, FL TO ANSWER 10 QUESTIONS WE GATHERED FROM MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY.
This response is from Stephen J. Sczurek.
1. The Indian River County School District (IRCSD) self-insures its health insurance programs, which means IRCSD 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 IRCSD approximately $ 7million 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?
“I would want to determine what went wrong with the School District’s plan, find out why it resulted in a $7 million debt. Then, see how it can be fixed, maybe with a private carrier. Let me further state that I would need to do more research on this matter before I can say anything further about it.”
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 would like to know what the teachers think of Common Core, and whether or not they see any benefits to it. Based on what I’ve heard of sample problems, it does not seem to be a good program; it seems to make subjects more complicated than necessary without really improving student performance. I am not so much afraid of federal or state guidelines provided that they are just that, but they must be part of a program that works, in which students truly learn things. I’m not satisfied that Common Core is good for that, but again – I’d like to hear what the teachers think.”
3. As best as can be determined, of the approximately150 SDIRC teachers needed this upcoming 2016/2017 school year, as of last month the IRCSD has hired around 80.
What can SCIRC do to attract qualified teachers?
“We need to consider making teaching in this county worthwhile. We need to support teachers, and be ready and willing to provide for better wages, perhaps ways of helping new teachers pay off student loans, or other incentives. I am guessing that we also need to review our hiring process; are we being too stringent about qualifications, e.g. requiring several years of experience when candidates haven’t had a chance to get it? We need to take a look at how we’re hiring people and do what we must to make them want to stay.”
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 need to find out why so many teachers are dissatisfied with working for our school district. As for retirees, I believe that the answer ties in with Question 3; review how we hire replacements and be ready to do what we must to get new teachers to come here.”
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 careers in the District?
What jobs would be on your calendar and what would be your focus?
“I would seek to work with the Chamber of Commerce and various trade organizations to establish communication with the trade programs. I would propose to have all parties meet at least twice a year, preferably once a quarter. This would not only keep our educators on top of new technical developments and business needs, but also would help to get students placed when they graduate. I cannot say at this writing what jobs would be my focus, but besides trade education I would like to see the return of industrial arts, I.e., “shop” to the middle and high schools. Also other life skills such as consumer (formerly “home”) economics and auto shop.”
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? I need to research further.
“I would like to see more internships that provide students with relevant and necessary experience.”
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?
“I do not think this question can be answered with a simple yes or no. I am in favor of school choice, but that choice needs to be available to every student or as broad a scale as possible. Also, charter schools can choose their pupils whereas standard schools cannot. These and other factors must be considered. Taxpayer money could, I think, be shared perhaps on a pro-rata basis, but measures must be put in place to insure the things I’ve mentioned, and to protect the taxpayer’s interest. There is more to fairness and equity than dollars and cents alone.”
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?
“At this writing, I do not have an answer to that question. I would refer to what a third-grade teacher would say about what is a third-grade reading level. But it seems that there are students with special needs, or students who need a different approach to help them learn. I would want to allow the teachers the authority and the flexibility to deal with this matter.”
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?
“I don’t believe that money from any non-public source should be allowed to control any curriculum. The school districts must have the authority to determine the subjects taught and how they are taught. Since all schools, charter and non-charter, are public schools, the districts must have authority to control not only the curriculum but how money going into the schools is spent.”
10. How do you explain that from 2008-2009, 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?
“I would have to further research this matter before I can give an answer.”