Tuesday, April 17, 2012

HT BOE Candidates' Night 2012

The Hillsborough High School US Government and Politics Advanced Placement students hosted a forum for the five 2012 Board of Education candidates yesterday evening. The five candidates - Dana Boguszewski, Deena Centofanti, Aldo Martinez, Lorraine Soisson, and Allen Zdroik - are vying for the three open BOE seats in today's elections.

The students designed and ran the forum, which was divided into two parts. Part one included the candidates' opening statements, followed by five questions previously chosen by the students. The second half included questions submitted by audience members and candidates' closing statements.

First Half
The first five questions asked for the candidates' positions on the most pressing issues facing the schools, the budget, capitol improvements, the movement of BOE elections from April to November, and random drug and alcohol testing of students.

On the pressing issues question, the candidates mentioned variations on communication amongst students, taxpayers, parents and staff. There were mentions of anti-bullying, library hours, balancing the budget with the quality of education, facility repairs, class size, technology,and curriculum.

While all five candidates generally thought that the current budget was acceptable, Zdroik and Soisson thought that it could have gone closer to the cap. Martinez stated that he thought the budget balanced student needs and economic reality.

Regarding the half-million budgeted for capitol improvements, Soisson thought that amount was not a lot to keep up with the needs of the schools, Centofanti thought that teachers and staff could identify building problems, Martinez felt that capitol improvements can't wait and pointed out that each building was different, Boguszewski felt that the recommendations of the BOE Operations Committee should be used, and Zdroik mentioned planning ahead and looking into state incentives and matching funds.

On the movement of BOE elections from April to November (which Hillsborough did not do), Centofanti, Martinez, and Boguszewski agreed with keeping the April vote, while Zdroik and Soisson thought the November vote would have been better.

Four of the candidates did not have a concrete opinion on random drug testing, preferring to have more information with data on past effectiveness. Boguszewski and Centofanti felt that this was the parent's responsibility, not the schools.

The textbooks to etexts seemed to be generally accepted as necessary in the 21st century, but there were questions about the cost, access for all students, and alternatives.

Second Half
The audience-submitted questions covered paying for participating in extracurricular activities, the switch from textbooks to etexts, recruiting and retaining the best teachers, and a multi-part question regarding teacher evaluations, school vouchers/charter schools, and teacher tenure.

The question about paying for extracurricular activities seemed to elicit more questions than answers, about what activities, number of students participating, the impact, what amount, what about students who couldn't afford it, and number of activities per student. Zdroik mentioned that it could be seen as another tax.

Teacher recruiting included suggestions on pay, training, recognizing good staff, and attracting experienced teachers from other districts.

The final multi-part question elicited a "no charter schools" opinion from all the candidates. Regarding evaluations, all agreed that there had to be multi-part means as students learned differently and classes were different. Tenure brought various responses with Centofanti saying that we did need some goals and standards, Martinez felt it did provide some protection for teachers, Boguszewski thought it should be connected to updates and following goals, Zdroik thought there should be some means to adjust tenure if needed, and Soisson felt that there should be some means to assist teachers who may be having problems.

The Hillsborough Patch has candidate profiles available.

Disclaimer: The HNJJ crew has done their best to condense the evening's information from their notes.

Next year the forum should be held a little sooner than the day before the vote.

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