The Polk Experience — 2017 Priorities


Immediate policy priorities:

As a private citizen, I’ve already worked closely with teachers, parents, and concerned citizens to make immediate improvements to the quality of life in Polk schools. In my first year, I’ll pursue a number of specific policy changes that will build on the momentum of the last few months. And I want your input. This list can grow.

Reduce our teacher shortage. We do this by paying our teachers as much as we can. But we must also make the classroom experience and quality of life the top priority for the District Office leadership. Today, it is not. The Polk District and School Board display no real interest in how teachers, students, and parents experience education. That culture must change.

* Replace School Board Attorney Wes Bridges. He has contempt for teachers at a time that we have a shortage of them. He tried repeatedly to avoid paying teachers master’s degree pay they had earned. And he lost every time, as he should have. Now we have to provide $3.5 million in well-deserved back pay. This includes many master’s degree teachers outside of Polk County, who left our district because of their treatment by Bridges and the School Board. This is the type of incompetent legal advice and leadership Bridges provides. There are many other examples. He behaves like the shadow superintendent. We must replace him to establish a culture of true public service at the School District.

Reduce the Polk testing burden. Get rid of Polk-mandated End-of-Year exams. Develop a much streamlined testing/assessment plan that gives teachers time to teach. Produce data that helps children, rather than harming. Make sure testing technology works.

* Change the name and purpose of the Assessment, Accountability and Evaluation Office. It will become the Office of Data, Testing, and Teacher support. Accountability belongs at the classroom and school level, with teachers and principals. Data professionals assist the people who do the vital work of education. They should not judge or evaluate them.

* Track and publish student retention (excluding children who change addresses) and teacher vacancies at every school. Study and reward the schools that best create an experience that keeps their kids and avoids teacher shortages.

* Work with local institutions and the private sector to create and fund an Education Technology Experience officer. Education technology is big business, with potential for fraud and error. Polk County has recently made massive mistakes. We need a dedicated expert who can help us make smart choices.

* Ensure recess time and policy consistent with American Pediatric Association recommendations.

* Engage ESE parents and students. Base policy and programs on the assumption of competence. And then provide support, training, research based interventions, and quality assurance. The Polk Experience includes the most vulnerable and at risk students.