Political Philosophy for Roger Falcone
Schools can be inspiring places for students; I owe my own interest in science and technology to some wonderful teachers in the public schools of New York City. With a supportive district, teachers can convey the excitement of learning. We should seek excellence in all aspects of our educational system, and we should provide increased educational opportunity for all students.
Formal evaluation of the state's class size reduction program is beginning to emerge in the literature, and we need to pay attention to this research. This K-3 program is very popular with parents, teachers, and students. As a teacher, I see clear benefits in being able to work closely with smaller numbers of students at all levels. For example, the time available to carefully grade written work increases as the number of students in a class drops. I'm pleased to see that our proposed new parcel tax, Measure E, will help to maintain smaller classes at the upper grades in coming years of higher expected enrollments. Class size will need to be considered among alternatives for resource prioritization to enhance learning.
The district should focus on enhancing learning, improving communication among all those interested in improving instruction, and appropriately allocating our resources. Accountability, standards, and benchmarks such as testing, are the newest state and national trends in education. I think we need to pay attention to these trends, but not lose sight of the fundamental fact that an inspiring teacher can develop a love of learning in a student that can last a lifetime. We also need to incorporate the best of our current teacher mentoring activities, which assist new teachers and provide guidance from more experienced teachers, within programs mandated by a shift in state financing to a new peer review program.
Overall, I think that the current school board has steered the district in good directions. Issues have arisen in the past, such as rapid turnover in staffing of computer facilities, and resource issues, that suggest that the board may not have been sufficiently responsive to the community. Our school construction projects seem to have been managed well, but we will be facing challenges, such as properly planning for the seismic issues at Stanley Middle School and continuing growth in the district.
In addition to sound financial management, I plan to continue a strong focus on academics. We need to address the needs of all students, at all levels of instruction. A large percentage (I'm told 30%) of our students qualify for GATE programs. I'm also told that at Stanley, most students have at least one advanced placement class. Excellent academic instruction is not just a financial issue, but a philosophical one, and I intend to make the best features of such programs available to all students. A variety of programs, including differentiation training for teachers and flexible grouping, can serve our children and their families well.
In a recent survey of parents, school size at our largest campuses was a key issue. However, district studies concluded that we don't have the resources to open up another site, so we need to deal with some large schools as best we can. For example, core grouping at Stanley has fostered interactions between smaller groups of teachers and students. Separation by grades at Burton Valley has created local campus environments, such as the new kindergarten area. Though I believe we are approaching an upper limit in the number of students we can handle at our current sites, we can exploit the large size of our schools to increase educational opportunity for students, with interesting special classes and flexible class adjustment policies.
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