Sharon Fox: Tigard-Tualatin School Board candidates outline positions
Sharon Fox is a health care administrator and has been a career mentor volunteer for six years at Tigard High School, which both her children have attended. She also is a member of the High School Site Council, and has been an active parent volunteer for her daughters' extra-curricular activities.
Question:This year, the Legislature is unlikely to finalize the state budget in time to meet the school district's obligation to have a budget in place by the end of June. How would you, as a school board member, direct staff to craft a budget without knowing the amount allocated by the Legislature?
The District has a process to plan around the Legislature's school fund budget allocation for the next biennium. 1) The administration develops district budgets based upon assumptions. The district keeps close communication with the legislative committees, lobbyists, and legislators who are involved in forming the budget to develop the most likely assumption and the worst-case assumption for the budget allocation for the state school fund. 2) The district develops budget scenarios for each of these assumptions. Therefore, the school district is prepared for either scenario. I would ensure the district continues this budgeting practice.
Question:We are a community of "haves" and "have nots" — of six-figure salaries and food insecurities. What steps should the school board take to more fully address the needs of underserved students and their families?
I am an advocate of early support and early learning for students. Studies show that the earlier the barriers to learning are identified among students, the sooner they can receive the support, and the more likely they will be able to learn and achieve in their adult life. I support early relationships between families and teachers and staff, good communication, more support through school transitions, bi-lingual support for the English language learners (25% of our students), decision support, family support, which are all important provisions for children with learning barriers within our district. The district is implementing a new pre-school outreach to the Templeton School community to begin relationships before the children begin elementary school. If successful, I will support the expansion of this program to other schools and communities within the district.
Our teachers and school staff provide invaluable knowledge about the needs of our students and it's important that the district continue to listen to the teachers and respond to their feedback and ideas.
A supportive community is one of the key success factors of our schools. I am very grateful for the support for our schools from the many volunteers and organizations in the form of time, clothing, meals, donations, programs, scholarships, student recognition, etc. I will continue to foster community and business partnerships to support students and provide enrichment opportunities.
Question:What can and should the school board do to address the issue of class sizes and crowded classrooms?
Although there have been improvements in reducing class size, some classes are still too big in some schools. When dollars become available for hiring new positions, these dollars should be directed at hiring positions to reduce class sizes.
There are several other challenges with class size; the first is projecting the growth of the population in the area. Unlike some other nearby school districts, this district is growing. This enables long term planning in staffing and facilities. The more challenging short-term factors are managing the class sizes at each level of education and encouraging parents to register their kids early so the administration can plan ahead.
Some grade levels have "bulges" of students. In this situation, stable staffing, classroom availability, and multi-grade versus smaller single-grade classes. Once the "bulge" is identified the school administrator can plan ahead with the teachers and families to accommodate the bulge as the students progress through the school. Early outreach to encourage registration is a major factor to enable this planning. As a board member, my role is to support the planning and allocation of funds to meet the bulges and growth needs.
Question:The district will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. What steps would you take, in the first year in office, to address district growth patterns?
The districts' demographer projects fairly low increases in the population in this area. My first year in office I would ask the district to compare their population projections with the cities' planning departments, within the school district, to make sure we are working with similar assumptions. The planning departments have tangible indicators for the rate of growth of our population and where the growth is projected to occur. This will help the district in determining where to plan for school expansion and/or new schools.
Question:The district has several priorities. Which do you fully support, and which would you de-emphasize, if you were on the board?
The district has outlined its priorities for strategic investments in the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan. I think all of these are important investments in our school district and I have no reason to de-emphasize any of them. If the district faces budget cuts in the future, I would place a higher priority on early outreach and learning to engage our most underserved parents and students; a plan for mental and emotional health support and resources for students and families; and the college and career readiness framework. I would place a lower priority on initiatives which place additional time requirements on teachers and staff that don't have direct benefit to students such as inventories and reports.