Hilton Head school board candidates talk new superintendent, budget issues

rheaton@islandpacket.comOctober 17, 2012 

District 10 school board candidate Mike Sanz answers a question Wednesday evening during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Candidates for seats in Districts 8, 10 and 11 participated in the forum at Hilton Head Island High School's Visual Performing Arts Center.


Hilton Head Island candidates for Board of Education seats squared off over the next superintendent, budget priorities, and teacher evaluation methods among other topics at a Wednesday night League of Women Voters forum.

Here are highlights from their answers to questions posed by the league and audience members at the Hilton Head Island High School forum:


Criteria for selecting the next superintendent:

Al Bischoff said the school board should choose someone who not only understands education, but knows how to run a business, especially when it comes to budgeting and human resources.

Mary Cordray said she thinks the next superintendent should have integrity, demonstrated leadership performance and a strong instructional background. Cordray also said the new schools chief should be fiscally responsible and willing to reallocate money from programs that are not working well.

Elizabeth Riordan said she'd hire someone with integrity and an understanding of education. She also said the new superintendent should be able to go to bat for the school district in front of County Council and should be committed to teachers spending most of their time teaching.

Budget priorities:

Bischoff said the community should decide if the school board should have fiscal autonomy. County Council currently sets the district's tax rate and approves its budget.

He said his top budget priority was teacher support and salaries, including a bonus system to motivate and encourage them.

Cordray does not support fiscal autonomy for the school board. She said her budget priorities are "whatever touches a student in the classroom."

Riordan said she did not support fiscal autonomy for the school board. Teacher salaries should be the highest budget priority, she said.

The role of student test scores in teacher evaluations:

Bischoff said student test scores aren't the best way to evaluate teachers because tests may not be reliable indicators. He also said teachers should be evaluated, just as employees are in any other business. He said the board and district should ensure teachers have the tools to meet the goals set for them.

Cordray said she thinks student performance on standardized tests should be part -- "but not the entire part" -- of how teachers are evaluated. How a teacher contributes to the school and their colleagues, as well as how well prepared they are in their field should also be a part of the approach.

Riordan said test scores can be included in teacher evaluations as long as there's "some way to make it fair," and take into account teachers who don't teach courses with standardized tests.


Criteria for selecting the next superintendent:

Write-in candidate Joe Kopf said the next superintendent should be willing to listen to teachers, parents and community members. He or she should also stay on budget and be innovative, Kopf said.

Write-in candidate Flo Rosse said it is important the next superintendent understand the county's diversity. The superintendent should also work to close the achievement gap.

Write-in candidate Mike Sanz said the next superintendent should be comfortable assembling and relying on a smart team of leaders in the district. The superintendent should also recognize differences between schools and allow principals to make decisions about their schools, Sanz said.

Budget priorities:

Kopf said he supports fiscal autonomy for the school board. He also supports higher teacher salaries.

Rosse said she supports fiscal autonomy. The district's top budget priority should be the classroom, she said.

Sanz also supports fiscal autonomy and said teacher salaries should increase. He also recommended stopping the use of consultants in the district.

The role of student test scores in teacher evaluation:

Kopf said including student test scores in teacher evaluations is "not necessarily the best, but they have to be evaluated somehow." He said he would rely on the superintendent to determine the best evaluation method.

Rosse said she wasn't sure if including test scores in teacher evaluations is fair. She'd prefer a system that includes a principal's observations and support for teacher growth.

Sanz said he doesn't think the scores should play a role in teacher evaluations. The best way to ensure teachers can teach, he said, is to "return discipline and respect to classrooms."


Criteria for selecting the next superintendent:

Reid Eikner said he like to see the new chief continue the progress former superintendent Valerie Truesdale made in boosting student achievement scores.

JoAnn Orischak said the next superintendent should have experience and success in boosting student achievement in a school district that is similarly diverse as Beaufort County. She added that the superintendent should be focused on "authentic progress."

Budget priorities:

Eikner said he supports fiscal autonomy for the school board. His top budget priorities include directing funds toward student instruction, including teacher salaries.

Orischak said voters should ultimately decide if the school board should have fiscal autonomy, but she does not support it. Paying salaries that attract good teachers is her main budget priority.

The role of student test scores in teacher evaluation:

Eikner said test scores should play a part in teacher evaluations. "It's an indicator like any other," he said. "It can be used to make value judgments and help teachers improve."

Orischak said she didn't see how data and test scores couldn't be a part of evaluations. She added that ongoing dialogue between principals and teachers had to take place so that principals know their staff members' teaching style and can match them with compatible students.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Beaufort County Board of Education hopefuls will campaign as write-in candidates in November; Aug. 15, 2012

Incumbents, retired educator to face off in Beaufort County school board race; July 16, 2012

Upcoming elections spell change for Beaufort County school board; June 23, 2012

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