The Middletown City School District is entering a new era with a new superintendent. And next month, Middletown voters will elect at least one new member to its five-member school board.
Incumbent Todd Moore and newcomers Cathie Mulligan and Bruce Hughley Sr. are the candidates for two open seats on the board that oversees the Butler County school district of 6,400 students.
Ohio school board members serve four-year terms and the boards hire district superintendents and treasurers, while overseeing and deciding on the spending of millions of tax dollars as well as whether their districts will seek school tax hikes from local residents and businesses.
The Journal-News asked each candidate to respond to three questions. For more information on each candidate and their responses to other questions, view the online Journal-News Voters Guide at vote.Journal-News.com.
Q: Why are you running, and if elected, what major issues do you plan to make a priority?
Hughley: I am running for school board because my passion is and has always been dedicated to providing our youth with opportunities to the gain the educational and life skills necessary to realize their limitless capabilities.
(Top priority if elected is) to familiarize myself with the Superintendent’s plan for the school district as it relates to the districts mission and overall goals. Then assist him in implementing that plan.
Moore: Having served the last two years on the board, I will continue to work to improve student achievement and raise our district’s report card rankings.
As a member of the board, I will focus on leadership and accountability. We must have strong leadership to improve policy and close gaps on our report card and we must hold all district leaders accountable for results.
I will focus on fiscal responsibility and challenge our district to rethink how we spend our federal and state funds. As I member of the board, I will use our tax dollars wisely and leverage our fiscal resources to expand learning opportunities. I will work closely with our businesses, teachers and community partners to foster collaboration and work with stakeholders to align district goals.
Middletown has tremendous resources and with proper collaboration and alignment of our efforts we can raise student achievement and improve academic outcomes. And I will focus on innovation and continuous improvement in all aspects of our mission to meet the educational needs of all our students. Innovations such as the Ohio Department of Education’s, 21 Century Community Learning Centers Grant and the Middletown Community Foundation’s Ready Initiative will expand learning opportunities and help improve reading and math, youth development and parental engagement within the district.
Mulligan: I am running for a seat on the Middletown City School Board because I can help make changes that will result in higher student achievement. My career in university and high school teaching and school administration gives me good perspective for asking questions, analyzing problems, and offering ideas for solutions.
Student Achievement will be my priority. Student Achievement is the result of effective facilitation of learning by classroom professionals led by building administrators. It requires support, resources and professional development for teachers, appropriate curriculum, and individualized intervention. Board members are not directly involved in Student Achievement. I will hold school administration accountable for reporting to the Board on progress in improving Student Achievement, for maintaining a school environment that welcomes and nurtures each student, and for supporting teachers in educational practices that facilitate students’ understanding and retention of learning objectives.
Schools control curriculum, instruction, and resources. Curriculum must be evaluated according to its relevance to the needs, aspirations and talents of today’s students, and for its rigor in meeting high standards. Excellent instruction requires dedicated teachers who receive parental and community support as well as professional development that targets areas of academic concern. Resources must be used for modern curriculum materials and facilities, and also to alleviate barriers to learning that are under the control of the schools. …
Q: What challenges most concern you in your local schools, and what proposed solutions will you champion in trying to persuade your fellow board members to join you in solving those challenges.
Hughley: Preparing our students to be career ready. Conduct student/career assessments to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Assist them in developing an education plan that would focus on their strengths and interest, thus preparing them for life after high school.
Moore: Among the many challenges facing the district, is the need to improve work in early childhood education and literacy — students that start behind, stay behind never reaching proficiency. We must expand access to preschool, improve kindergarten readiness, and focus on K-5 reading and math. I will challenge the board to align our work with funding and programs offered through the Community Building Institute’s, 21 Century Community Learning Centers at Rosa Parks, Creekview, and Wildwood schools and the Middletown Community Foundation’s Ready Initiative to raise student achievement in reading and math; both programs have invested nearly $8 million dollars over 5 years to raise student achievement.
In addition, we must address summer learning loss and expand learning opportunities after school. If we are to raise student achievement, we cannot do it entirely within the hours of the school day. I propose creating a summer quarter focused on improving student achievement in reading and math; we can partner with the Community Building Institute and the Middletown Community Foundation to close gaps on the report card.
And we must strengthen our leadership within the district. We must improve our professional development to help teachers in the classroom, we must modernize our curriculum practices, and we must redesign curriculum at the high school to better engage our students and staff. I will propose new policies to the board to hold district administration accountable for results.
Mulligan: I will begin by saying that I will not cite “poverty” as a challenge to be addressed by our schools. The school system has no control over poverty. Moreover, we must not contort the correlation between poverty and low test scores into an indication that children in poverty cannot learn. All children learn from the day they are born. Schools accept the responsibility of educating all children for success after graduation.
I see the following as challenges facing our schools at this time (presented here in random order): 1) Negative image of our schools perceived from the School Report Card — Address this through various modes of communication. For instance, short media videos of success stories of recent graduates, explanation of what the School Report Card does and does not cover, and vignettes of classroom activities. Also, round-table discussions or question/answer sessions held in various neighborhoods, celebrations of excellent work by teachers and students, and engaging the business community.
2) Teacher turnover — I would turn to our teachers to identify the reasons why so many teachers leave our district. I would use their insight and advice as well as exit interviews, school climate studies, and salary comparisons with area districts. The School Board and the community must find ways to show appreciation for teachers as honored public servants and heroes of education.
3) Low kindergarten readiness scores — Improve through affordable preschool programs and parent education about the importance of early childhood education.
4) Mobility of students within and outside of our district. Moving from building to building or in and out of a district disrupts the continuity of learning and invites adjustment or emotional issues. Almost 18% of students in Middletown Schools were enrolled for less than a full year in their building. This percentage is high; in most districts it is in single digits. As a district, we have no control over families moving to a different neighborhood, but there are possible interventions. These include transportation accommodations to allow a student to remain in a school after moving, social considerations in placing a student in a particular classroom in the new school, transition assistance for students and parents, comprehensive narrative reports provided for the new school.
Q: What changes — if any — in state school regulations and requirements would you like to see and why?
Hughley: I believe that state testing is a tool that should be used to measure a districts ability to achieve the level of standards set by the state Board of Education. I do not believe it should be used to determine if a student should graduate or not. I say this because I have found down through the years that a test score cannot measure or determine if a person has the drive or motivation to do what it takes to be successful in life.
Moore: While I value the data within the state’s report card, I believe Ohio’s report card system needs reform. Nearly every school district in Butler County, including affluent districts such as Mason and Lakota, saw significant decreases in their report card rankings. Part of the problem, is the performance indicator calculations — the process is flawed.
I would call for reforms to better measure student achievement. In addition, I would ask lawmakers to rethink graduation requirements for 2018. Looking at the High School class of 2018, I am concerned with the new standards. With Ohio increasing the standards to earn a high school diploma, students are required to earn points on a series of seven statewide end-of-course exams.
While there are several options to earn a diploma, I am concerned about many of our students who struggle with standardized tests. And as districts work to implement the new graduation requirements, I believe the data shows about 75 percent of students state-wide would not graduate. With this finding, the requirements need reformed to reflect local control and local student achievement data.
Mulligan: The School Report Card is a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring school effectiveness. It reflects scores from tests based on the Common Core. The School Report Card process was implemented prematurely without giving all school districts adequate time to prepare curriculum and provide adequate teacher professional development. It is good that overall grades were not issued for the 2016-2017 school year.
My suggestion is unlikely to gain traction, but I would like to see the administration of the current achievement tests suspended or made voluntary until all schools have had time to prepare and implement curriculum and instruction aligned to the Common Core. If the tests cover material that hasn’t been taught (due to lack of time for schools to prepare), then what do the tests show?
Meet the candidates event today in Middletown
Voters in Middletown will have an opportunity to hear from candidates running for public office.
In Middletown, The Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe & Trenton will host a candidates forum from 5:30 to 9 p.m. today, Oct. 24, that will feature candidates for Middletown City Council, Middletown Board of Education and Middletown Municipal Court.
The event will be held in the Council Chambers at the Middletown City Building, 1 Donham Plaza.
The forum begins at 5:30 p.m. for Board of Education candidates; 6:45 p.m. for Municipal Court judge candidates; and 8 p.m. for City Council candidates.
VOTERS GUIDE ONLINE
There are dozens of local races for mayor, city councils, school boards and township trustees. There’s also fire levies and countywide tax issues on the ballot.
Find out what’s on your ballot, hear from the candidates, and learn more about the issues in our interactive online Voters Guide at vote.journal-news.com