Candidate questionnaire: Brian D. Herrmann

info@islandpacket.comOctober 23, 2012 

Name: Brian D. Herrmann

Age: 40

Office: Beaufort County Board of Education, District 4

Number of years living in the area you seek to represent: Six

Family: Divorced from Jodi C. Herrmann; one son, Mason, 9

Education: Master's degree in urban and regional planning from Florida Atlantic University; bachelor's degrees in urban studies and historic preservation/community planning from the College of Charleston

Current occupation/employer: Community planner, Beaufort County Planning Department

Employment, military and volunteer history: Florida Public Officials Design Institute at the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions; Charming Inns of Charleston, Charleston S.C.; Chairman, Port Royal Elementary School Improvement Council; community representative selected to participate in district interviews for a new principal at Port Royal Elementary School; chairman, Port Royal Elementary School 100 Year Anniversary Committee (A Century of Learning); volunteer, Da Vinci Days Program; vice chairman, Experience Green Board of Directors; Design Review Board, town of Port Royal; USGBC Lowcountry Branch Steering Committee (Beaufort County representative); head football coach, boys ages 4-6, Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services; head basketball and T-ball coach, ages 4-6, Wardle Family YMCA; head basketball coach, boys ages 12-13, Town of Mount Pleasant and City of North Charleston Recreation Department; Daniel Island Buildings and Parks Committee.

Please list all public offices to which you've been elected, when and where: None

Please list any unsuccessful candidacies for public office and when: None

Other prior political and government experience: Florida Public Officials Design Institute, Jupiter, Fla. Originally modeled after the Mayor's Institute on City Design, the Design Institute trains public officials in understanding design so that they can take the lead in creating places that enhance the quality of life in their own communities. Projects ranged from the redevelopment of major transportation corridors, to evaluating planning policies for newly annexed land, to the revitalization of residential neighborhoods. I was responsible for organizing regional charrettes, performing university level research, and authoring a variety of materials.

In my current role as a community planner, I am also a member of the administration for the Beaufort County government. Because planning related decisions have such a dramatic impact and often cross jurisdictional boundaries, we make every effort to maintain a cooperative and transparent relationship with the staff from other governments, including the Beaufort County School District. This position also affords me the opportunity to work with local communities to draft a plan and establish a vision. Multiple stakeholders participate, including staff from local government and the school district. As such, I am cognizant of the desired goals for these communities, including specific projects.

Key endorsements you've received: I have neither sought nor will I seek the endorsement of any group or person other than the parents of the children and citizens for which I will be representing across all of Beaufort County.

Contributions: No campaign contributions or expenditures reported as of Oct. 12.

Expenditures: No campaign contributions or expenditures reported as of Oct. 12.

Highest contributor: No campaign contributions or expenditures reported as of Oct. 12.

Why should people vote for you? What separates you from your opponent?

Today, in my role as parent, volunteer, former spouse to a school employee, School Improvement Council Chairman, and community planner, I am afforded a variety of perspectives regarding the health and status of our schools and district. Perhaps no other candidate has such a well-rounded lens from which to view these issues and make decisions. While the schools in District 4 are high performing, I believe a school system is only as strong as its weakest school. Therefore, I not only bring a wealth of personal and professional knowledge to the table, but a well thought out and comprehensive plan to address all of our schools.

What are the three most important issues you would address if elected? How?

  • The district should endorse and embrace the "community schools" approach. The "community schools" concept is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and leading national educational facilities planning organizations. A "community school" is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. In a "community school," youth, families, and community residents work as equal partners with the school and other community institutions to connect children and families with a range of opportunities, support services, and resources (i.e. the Port Royal Elementary School Improvement Council has established multiple partnerships with the YMCA, LINK church, and the Historic Port Royal Foundation, as well as internal programs such as "breakfast with dad"). This model is ideal for schools such as St. Helena Elementary.

  • A "community school" also provides opportunities to co-locate other public facilities on or near campus (i.e. school gymnasiums and ball fields that double as recreation facilities and community parks, auditoriums that serve as community theaters, shared libraries). In these difficult economic times with limited governmental resources available, shared public facilities provide a model for efficiency, fiscal responsibility, and inter-governmental cooperation.

    Many "community schools" also provide opportunities to walk or bike. Walking or bicycling to school is an ideal way to incorporate daily physical activity that is crucial to healthy living. Studies have shown that students that walk or bike to school are more alert, perform better on academic tests, and respond better to stress than students that are driven or bused.

  • Cooperation between Beaufort County government and the school district must improve. Beaufort County and the school district must collaborate to address the planning of schools and local communities as integrated components rather than independent parts. Whether the issue is the budget, census redistricting, or a major planning decision, I will use my knowledge and relationships within the community, government, and school district to bridge existing "silos" and leverage more informed and coordinated decision making where the ideas and opinions of all stakeholders are accounted for.

  • The district must guarantee the rights of children with disabilities and special needs. Far too many parents (and even some teachers) question whether the district is truly committed to educating our children with disabilities and special needs, or simply doing the minimum required to meet the law. While this is clearly an emotional issue, I will work to regain trust by ensuring that the district appropriately screens and identifies children, establishes an atmosphere that recognizes the unique circumstances of every case and every child while actively engaging parental input, complies with the full continuum of federally and state mandated laws, and ensures that all children have access to the same high quality instruction.

  • What other issues do you see as important?

  • The district should increase support and communication with non-traditional families. Education begins at home! Like my own family, a significant number of Beaufort County students are raised in "non-traditional" homes that include single parents, divorced parents and grandparents. While a "traditional family" in no way ensures success, studies agree that increased parental involvement does.

  • While the district is making significant strides through the use of technology (online communication and access to grades), opportunities exist to dramatically improve outreach to all families. For example, single fathers are a highly vulnerable subgroup that is often absent. However, the majority of school communication is designed for just one parent. It is possible that there are dads out there that might become more engaged if given the chance.

    As chairman of the School Improvement Council at Port Royal Elementary we now ensure that all correspondence is sent to, or can be accessed by all parents. This year we are also seeking new opportunities for on-campus, face to face involvement with all of our parents. For example, we are inviting fathers to come to school every day and eat breakfast with their children. This provides dads with a glimpse into their child's school day in a relaxed atmosphere that does not interfere with instruction.

  • The school board should adopt a committee format. I believe the school board should use County Council as a model and continue to move towards a formalized committee system. Committees allow board members with a particular expertise to more readily contribute to the process. Committees provide an opportunity to vet issues before they arrive in front of the full board. This is more efficient. Finally, committees provide an opportunity for more detailed discussion or "give and take" with district administrators and staff. This improves communication and increases overall accountability.

  • What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?

    The Board of Education must ensure that our school district is committed to improving parental involvement in education, specifically through more effective communication with residents of each community, including parents. The state has established enabling legislation and provided significant authority to each school's School Improvement Council. SICs should serve as the bridge between the school and the local community. Yet, for a number of reasons this incredibly powerful tool is not being utilized as envisioned, nor living up to its full potential. Therefore, the first major step that the school board should take is to ensure that our SICs are functioning as required by statute. Secondly, school board members MUST be more engaged with the SICs in their district as well as all schools.

    While we have tremendous room for improvement, I am proud to say that the Port Royal Elementary SIC provides a model of an SIC that actively facilitates improved communications and partnerships with parents and other community institutions. This is the essence of the "community school" concept.

    Have you ever been convicted of a crime, been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you?

    No.

    Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.

    No.

    Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?

    When I went door to door seeking signatures, I was shocked by the number of parents that expressed frustration about the way the district was handling special-needs children. While I already addressed this issue above, I believe it demonstrates exactly what I mean when I say that my personal and professional experiences afford me a variety of unique perspectives on each issue.

    For example, nothing makes you appreciate the plight of others more than when you go through a similar situation yourself. When I was younger, I battled a chronic illness that dramatically disrupted my education and resulted in my receiving "special accommodations." Had I not received these services, I never would have passed my classes, nor graduated. Furthermore, I was married to a school speech-language pathologist, and have a child that receives special services at school.

    As with so many school related issues, I would approach this particular issue having had a personal experience, an experience as a spouse, and an experience as a parent. As such, I know that there is always another side to the story (or different perspective). I will always keep an open mind, listen to the citizens, and thoroughly examine each issue before acting.

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