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Primary Election: Manatee County School Board, District 2

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 1, 2012
William S. Chaltis
William S. Chaltis
  • East County
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Editor’s note: As the Aug. 14 primary election nears, the East County Observer will be publishing short profiles and Q&A segments from each of the candidates who will represent the East County area.

Four candidates are competing for the Manatee County School Board District 2 seat, including William Chaltis, Robert Moates, Dave Miner and Paul Sharff.

Chaltis is a former business owner, who now teaches in Manatee County schools.

Moates has been teaching in Manatee Schools for 10 years and previously worked in the Florida Legislature and U.S. Congress.

Miner, a longtime educational activist, is a military veteran who works as an attorney in Bradenton.
Candidate Paul Sharff declined numerous requests to participate in this question-and-answer segment, saying he was “waiting until after the primary before launching a campaign.” — Pam Eubanks

Name: William S. Chaltis
Age: 56
Family: Married 33 years to wife, Connie. Two children; Angela and Philip.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.; I moved to Bradenton in 1974.
Education: Graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Attended Manatee Junior College 1974 to 1975.
Relevant experience: I have been teaching in Manatee County schools for the last 12 years. Before that, I owned two successful Singer sewing machine stores in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Who is your favorite author: Robb White
If you could meet anyone dead or live, who would it be: Ronald Reagan

What's the biggest challenge the School Board faces, and what are your solutions?
The most important issue facing the School District is the decline in student achievement. We, as a district, have dropped from the top third to the bottom third, 47th out of 67, due to poor decisions from the School Board.

If elected, I will work to restore the power back to the schools, allowing the principals to run their schools and allowing the teachers to do what they do best: teach our children.

Block scheduling must be eliminated. Students must see their teachers every day. Seeing a student only twice or three times a week does not give the student any consistency in learning and most can never master the material. Middle school students must be better prepared for high school before being promoted. Reading at grade level would be a great start. Passing both math and English should be a requirement.

Are teachers paid adequately? Why or why not?
I do not feel that the School Board pays teachers adequately. I also feel that the rest of the staff is paid very poorly. This would include the custodians, food staff, secretaries and most of all, teacher aids. The staff downtown and also workers at the sites are also underpaid. The only people paid really well at the School Board are in the management positions.

What is your position on the FCAT and accountability testing?
Accountability for whom? The school? The county? The state? How can you base the student’s entire school career on one test? Why do parents allow the lawmakers in Tallahassee to pass laws that destroy student achievement when they have no idea what goes on inside our schools today?

What skills and experiences do you feel you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
With both teaching and business experience I can see both aspects of School Board responsibilities. On the student and teaching side, I know what we need to change, while on the business side, I will find a way to get it done. I am the only candidate that has 12 years of teaching in high school and middle school. I come with an accounting degree and 20 years of successful business experience. I bring to the table the skills and experience that will enable me to get the job done in the best possible way.

What immediate steps or actions do you feel are critical to take to improve education in Manatee County?
An immediate step that could be taken to improve education would be to just let the teachers teach. We have to teach mastery in our classrooms. The core curriculum flies through the material and most material is not mastered. My other steps, such as ending block scheduling in the high school, in favor of the six-period day and raising the bar in middle school, would be next.

Any other thoughts/comments?
The School Board has lost sight of its main purpose — our children. If elected, I will place the students first. Their education is the most important issue that must be addressed. We are testing our students to death, taking valuable instructional time away from the classroom. The most important thing is to keep an open mind on the issues at hand and not prejudge until all the facts are heard.

Name: Robert Moates
Age: 40
Family: Single, with parents and siblings in Manatee County
Hometown: Bradenton
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University
Relevant experience: 10 years in a classroom and the previous 10 in working in the Florida Legislature and U.S. Congress.
Who is your favorite author: Tim Dorsey and Jeff Saraah
If you could meet anyone dead or live, who would it be: George Washington

What's the biggest challenge the School Board faces, and what are your solutions?
Changing the direction of the school system is our biggest challenge. Our students’ educations and test scores have not improved over the last 10 years, while we have been concentrating ever more power and decisions in the administrations hands.

First, we need change in our kindergarten through third grades, to make sure students are ready to learn and ready to succeed. We have to recognize the individuality of every student and that they each have different needs and talents, so we must free our teachers from a restrictive core curriculum that tries to give a “one size fits all” education to each child.

We must hold our teachers accountable for what happens in their classroom, but they must have the freedom to decide how their classes proceed, not base everything on a pacing guide developed by a New York consultant.

We must change the way we budget money, putting dollars first into the classroom, and last into the boardrooms and consultant contracts. We must begin to track the return on investment we receive for every program and contract we make. Currently, we do very little analysis on our past expenditures. It will take all of this to give us a new direction.

Are teachers paid adequately? Why or why not?
I have worked in the halls of the U. S. Congress and the Florida Legislature and I can say that being a teacher has been the most enjoyable and rewarding job I have ever held. I believe the cuts of the last year were not necessary and the board/administration could have, and should have, made other choices rather than first cut salaries. I would like the district to live up to the past contract and pay the teachers their due. Teaching has given me the ability to purchase my own home, car and live without debt. I believe the contract I signed paid me a fair rate. So, yes I believe that teachers are paid adequately. I also believe that there are many positions that are unnecessary and over-paid; from consultants to individuals, who never work with children, and that we need to look hard at those expenditures.

What is your position on the FCAT and accountability testing?
I believe we must have accountability testing and that the current importance of the FCAT is far out of line with its value as a measurement device. But this is not just about the FCAT, as there are only a few weeks during the year where there is not some sort of standardized assessment being administered. The State and District have overwhelmed our schools and students with massive amounts of assessments without a clear reason. More testing doesn’t mean better, in this case. We must have accountability but in must fit in with a child’s education, not hamper it.

And we must do better on how we evaluate our teachers and schools. The current system out of Tallahassee based 40% of my evaluation this year on the performance of 400 children who I have never had in class, while the 150 students that I did teach had no impact on my evaluations. That is a system that is missing the mark. The FCAT or its replacement could, and should, be used as a tool to make sure the schools are doing their job not to punish students and random teachers.

What skills and experiences do you feel you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
I have spent the last 10 years working with our students in Lakewood Ranch; I know how our system works and how the system can hold our children back. I have experienced how the system misspends our precious tax dollars on consultants, favorite schools or pet political projects while leaving our students without the tools they need to achieve. My years working in Lakewood Ranch give me a view that is countywide and not just about Northwest Bradenton. And we need a school board member who understands and is going to represent the entire county.

Before becoming a teacher, I spent almost a decade working in the Florida Legislature and U.S. Congress. I understand the legislative process and how our state leaders see education. I believe that I can help change the policies coming out of Tallahassee for the better, for our students. Having a School Board member that can go to the House and Senate and work with the system and our state leaders would be a huge advantage. Last year, the School Board sent a request platform to Tallahassee and No. 1 was a tax increase. As a result, no requests were taken seriously. We need a new direction.

What immediate steps or actions do you feel are critical to take to improve education in Manatee County?
We must take direct steps to systematically change our kindergarten through third grades. First, we have to change our required assessments structure that removes an early grades teacher from the classroom for between 20-30 days a year. Our students are missing 60-90 teaching days by the time they take the FCAT. That is a half-year of learning that doesn’t happen. We need to make sure our students are ready to learn before they move to the next grade level. Thus we must end the forced promotion of students in our earliest grades.

We need to free our classrooms from the “one size fits all” structure of Manatee Core Curriculum. We must hold our teachers accountable for their classrooms, but we must give them the freedom to decide the best way to meet our goals.

We have to restructure our budget process putting our students first.

The first area of the budget to be worked on this year was the Business Services Department. Our classrooms must come first and when our schools are fully funded and our children have what they need to learn, then and only then can we take a look at our non-education based consultants and departments.

Any other thoughts/comments?
Our students deserve the best education. In the coming years technology is going to revolutionize the education process. We need to be ready for it and to embrace it. Our current policies outlaw technology in the classrooms.

We must train our teachers and students on how to use technology to improve education not simply ban it. We must look forward and be bold on our embrace of new ways of delivering an education to a student. Last year, MIT had more than 85,000 students in one online class, and Stanford had 120,000. This fall MIT and Harvard will be launching an online university. We will tell our students that the Internet is not to be trusted and block those sites. The time has come for a new direction for Manatee County schools.

Currently of our school leadership team, including the School Board, none of them have worked inside a classroom in the last 25 years. I will bring a much-needed perspective to a board and administration that is lacking it. We will change our system and make students our prime focus. We will put learning and the classroom back as our central focus and we will succeed. But I need your help. Please Vote Moates on August 14th.

Name: Dave “Watchdog” Miner
Age: 66
Family: Wife, Marsha; two children: Sarah and Joey
Hometown: Born in St. Petersburg
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Law School
Relevant experience: Has experience in teaching and tutoring; worked in state attorney’s office in Michigan and Florida; has had a private practice in Manatee since 1978.
Who is your favorite author: Norman Mailer
If you could meet anyone dead or live, who would it be: Jesus

What's the biggest challenge the School Board faces, and what are your solutions?
Providing the highest quality education for the children of Manatee County is our School Board’s biggest challenge. Achieving this involves using all the district’s resources in the most efficient way. The best use of the district’s resources will result from the board members and the public having easily available information about how district funds are spent and intended to be spent.

Achieving this also includes voicing objection to state and federal declared policies seeking to take away local control of education and to turn teaching classrooms into testing laboratories. It includes also insisting that employees be treated fairly and receive fair wages and that teachers be treated and paid as professionals.

We cannot continue losing quality teachers from the classroom because they no longer can afford to be teachers or they do not want to continue being teachers. We will not progress with employee morale remaining at an all time low.

Are teachers paid adequately? Why or why not?
No. We are losing good teachers and exceptional students who might otherwise become teachers because they are choosing other endeavors while we fail to regard and pay teachers as professionals. Finland is often cited as a country whose educational system is worthy of emulation, and in Finland they treat, train and pay teachers as professionals. We should do the same.

What is your position on the FCAT and accountability testing?
FCAT is poison to education. The quality of education in our community and the state of Florida will improve if we stop wasting money on our addiction to testing and, instead, channel our resources into improving education in the classroom. Finland learned long ago that diagnostic testing is helpful but that high stakes testing directed to sorting, ranking, and punishing students, teachers, schools and districts is pure folly. It is time that we, as a community and state, along with other communities and states and hundreds of other school districts embrace the FAIRTEST initiated resolution that maintains that accountability should not boil down to one high stakes test and our focus should not be on bubbling in test answers, but on developing good and educated citizens capable of proceeding to higher education or a worthwhile career.

What skills and experiences do you feel you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
I am the only candidate who: Is a long time (over 12 years) challenger of the School Board on FCAT, transparency, wasteful spending, fairness to employees and other issues; for decades has successfully worked on community boards making organizations better; is a leader in establishing Manatee County’s first child abuse prevention program and in creating METV; possesses many years of service as a Big Brother in the Big Brothers program; is a proud veteran (Marine Vietnam Veteran); has been a successful business owner for more than 34 years; authored assessment reform legislation and served as a witness for Senate Education Committee; is a proud father of two children who inspired him to become deeply involved in School Advisory Councils and education policies; has been honored as Children’s Advocate of the Year, Father of the Year, Drum Major for Justice and Florida Sunshine Brigade Hero; has many years of service as Director of the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform, Director of the Florida Association of School Advisory Councils, President of Manatee Children’s Services; is President -Elect of the Anna Maria Island Kiwanis Club; and possesses experience as an attorney working in education law.

What immediate steps or actions do you feel are critical to take to improve education in Manatee County?
1) Change policies so to allow teachers to teach; 2) Stop high stakes testing; 3) Make funding the classroom a priority.

Any other thoughts/comments?
There is substance supporting our campaign slogan: “Watchdog Not Lapdog.” Voters should carefully weigh their votes on Aug. 14. I am the only candidate for this position endorsed by Tea Party Manatee, the Manatee Education Association, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, all of whom foremost recognize the benefit to our community in electing the most capable and dedicated candidate to serve on the Manatee School Board.


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