Candidates tackle school issues - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Candidates tackle school issues

Board hopefuls speak at Mica Flats Grange

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:00 am

The six candidates seeking election to the Coeur d'Alene School District Board of Trustees were cordial and courteous Thursday as they fielded audience questions during a public forum hosted by the Mica Flats Grange.

Seated on a stage in front of a crowd of about 130, the candidates were asked to comment on a variety of issues including the privatization of busing, the International Baccalaureate Organization programs recently axed by the current board, federal funding of public schools and the Common Core initiative.

Christa Hazel, who is challenging Brent Regan for the Zone 1 seat he holds by appointment, said the idea of outsourcing the district's busing to a private company concerns her. She said she needs more data to be convinced it would be a wise move because if it doesn't work out, the district will have sold its buses and won't have its own drivers. She said she thinks it's important to keep qualified, local drivers working in the local economy.

"I'm not certain this is a risk we need to take," Hazel said.

Regan said the district is looking at the issue because they have to investigate all areas of cost savings, and said the board is considering changing the health care plan, to reduce the premiums going to the insurance company, as a way to keep the transportation department intact.

"There are elements of bus drivers that are important, but you can't place them on a balance sheet," Regan added, saying that was a major consideration for him as they explore the busing privatization issue.

An audience member told the candidates that one out of four high school seniors or graduates is unable to pass the U.S. Marine Corps entrance exam, which requires 10th-grade competency in math and other regular school subjects. He asked the candidates how they will address this problem.

Ann Seddon, the Zone 4 incumbent by appointment, said she's very concerned because she gathered statistics from North Idaho College that show that 50 percent of Coeur d'Alene School District graduates who enter the college need to take remedial classes before they have the skills required to take college-level courses.

"I think this problem is systemic from when they are very little," Seddon said.

Dave Eubanks, Seddon's challenger, disagreed with Seddon's statistic, and said he too spoke with administrators at NIC. The average age of a student entering NIC is 27, Eubanks said.

"Most are not coming directly from high school," he said, but rather, from the GED program.

Seddon said her statistics were produced by NIC President Joe Dunlap, with help from NIC Trustee Todd Banducci, who was in the audience during the forum.

The school district's higher-performing graduates aren't usually going to NIC, Eubanks said.

"They're going to colleges all over the nation," he said.

Zone 5 candidate Tom Hearn said he wasn't going to argue about the statistics, but that if there is an educational problem, parents and teachers should be involved in finding a solution.

Bjorn Handeen, who's running against Hearn, agreed with his opponent, and said he questions the idea that education reform is necessary "because of bad teachers."

None of the candidates said they felt the district should reinstate the controversial IB or PYP (Primary Years Programme) programs.

"I'm a product of IB," Handeen said, stating he took four years of IB courses while attending school in St. Paul, Minn. He said he was forced to read "gay erotica" when he was 14, and that IB looks more like a marketing gimmick than an educational program.

"It really didn't do us any favors," Handeen said.

Hearn said he has a problem with the process the board used in deciding to eliminate the programs, and said the board members did it for ideological reasons.

An October public hearing, Hearn said, "was not a real hearing," that the trustees listened to a lot of citizens, but then read prepared statements and killed the program.

"I will not be part of establishing or eliminating any program in the Coeur d'Alene School District without parent and teacher involvement," Hearn said.

Seddon, who was on the board when the programs were eliminated, defended the process and said she did a lot of research, spoke to parents and administrators and visited Hayden Meadows, where PYP was in place, several times.

She said she made her decision after learning the International Baccalaureate Organization would not allow them to offer an alternative program in the same school building, for parents who did not want their children involved in PYP.

"To me, that was giving away sovereignty," Seddon said.

Eubanks said he believes it's time to move forward, and said that come July 1, the PYP program materials will be shredded. He said they need to put a program in place that will benefit all students.

Anti-IB activist Duncan Koler asked the candidates what their understanding is of "progressive education."

"Boy, progressive education doesn't sound good," said Christa Hazel.

She continued that references to it on the Drudge Report indicate it fosters "overbearing regulations" and promotes "social mores" in the classrooms. She said she hasn't seen any evidence of "progressive education" in the Coeur d'Alene School District.

Brent Regan said that in progressive education, "There are no absolutes." He said he thinks, "progressivism is something we need to ferret out and get rid of."

"This term seems to be a real buzzword to me, Mr. Koler," said Tom Hearn.

Hearn said he wouldn't respond to the question unless Koler could show him that progressive education is a problem in Coeur d'Alene district classrooms.

When asked if they felt that public schools should decline to accept federal funds, none of the candidates thought that was a good idea.

Bjorn Handeen said he thought the question was directed at him because many people know he is an active Ron Paul supporter. He said that while he believes in "fiscal discipline," he doesn't think they should cut federal school lunch programs or reject federal money.

Brent Regan said he didn't think they should decline to accept federal funding, but warned that they must be wary of one-time funds that the district will be saddled with providing once the funding ends.

Hazel said federal funds support, in addition to lunch programs, remedial education for younger children and special education programs, and that the children who qualify for it, generally need it the most. She said she believes in giving children "a leg up" so they can go on and be successful.

"You just can't close the door on any of these kids," said Dave Eubanks, referring to students who are economically disadvantaged or come from "broken homes."

Responding to a question about the Common Core initiative, Bjorn Handeen said he understands why many Republicans find the alignment of educational standards across the states to be attractive, but "Shouldn't curriculum be developed locally, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?"

Handeen said he also had reservations about a student data-collecting element of the Common Core.

Tom Hearn and Christa Hazel each said it's not a federal program, that it was developed by governors and state superintendents and the curriculum is developed locally.

"I think some of these fears are misplaced," Hearn said.

The forum was moderated by Mica Flats Grange President Dianne Holbart.

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18 comments:

  • Mabell posted at 10:19 am on Sun, Apr 28, 2013.

    Mabell Posts: 166

    "Dave Eubanks and Ann Seddon, both retired teachers, agreed with each other on many issues but Ann distinguished herself by explaining how she has been effective in her short time on the board. She has already accomplished big steps toward improving the languishing basic math skills in the elementary grades."

    What exactly has Ann accomplished? You keep saying this, but I really don't know what you are talking about. I admire Ann for her volunteer work in the schools and putting in the time as a trustee. However, if she is behind these repeated, false assertions of bringing new math assessments and math remediation to our district, then I simply can't trust her or endorse her.

     
  • Hiram posted at 9:57 pm on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    Hiram Posts: 19

    CCC

    Perhaps you're right, I didn't factor in governmental involvement. I think even if there is no monetary savings, it would be worth it to keep absolute authority here at home.

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 7:03 pm on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    lola: I have to agree with Mary. Your comments are to belittle and be rude to others. What is it that really angers you so much?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 12:25 pm on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Hiram

    I respectfully disagree. I agree there WAS a time when in house was cheaper. I do not believe this to be true in these times when anything government only concern is to collect a paycheck while turning a blind eye when it comes to accountability, checks and balances.

     
  • Hiram posted at 10:29 am on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    Hiram Posts: 19

    My own personal experience is that you cannot do a job better or cheaper than an in-house crew. As soon as you lay-off all the affected employees and sell off the equipment, it's almost impossible to get them back. Good employees move on to other jobs and areas. The Subcontractors have the same expense and Fed. insurance to pay, plus they tack on the additional expense of their office people, their field reps. sales people and etc. You can add 20% or more to what ever you were paying before the changes. Keep your school bus drivers in-house. It's the best solution.

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 8:37 am on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 808

    Lola123, Please re-read my comment below because your intellect missed some things. I did not say you weren't at the forum, i asked you if you were there. I will re-post my words here so you can check. Oh, and please give me a specific example of any personal attack I've ever made.

    Here's what I wrote below:

    As usual, Lola123 goes on the attack. Were you there last night, Lola? I was and your comments are way off base. Brent Regan spoke highly of the care and safety offered by local school bus drivers, and his remark about the balance sheet was that you can't always put a number on the value of those important intangibles. And while Christa Hazel was knowledgeable about district issues, Brent Regan came through with his notable business and creative problem solving experience, which he related to the challenges our district is now facing.

    Bjorn Handeen surprised me the most. He came across well in his comments, and offered insight into his own negative experience from four years of IB. He advocated for an increased emphasis on solid, proven, traditional education, and his remarks set him apart from his status quo opponent, Tom Hern.

    Dave Eubanks and Ann Seddon, both retired teachers, agreed with each other on many issues but Ann distinguished herself by explaining how she has been effective in her short time on the board. She has already accomplished big steps toward improving the languishing basic math skills in the elementary grades. Ann taught for 30 years in Arizona before moving here, running a local tutoring service and volunteering in the schools. Dave Eubanks was very affable and friendly, but he has been part of the CdA system for a large portion of his 40 years in teaching, and I question whether he would stand up to push for change or just go along to get along.

     
  • lola123 posted at 7:30 am on Sat, Apr 27, 2013.

    lola123 Posts: 343

    To Mary Souza,
    It is obvious that you and I will never see things the same way. We have two completely different points of view as do many people in this town. How dare you say that I always go on the attack when it is you that attacks everyone in this town who does not agree with your "conservative" view of the world. Your blog is nothing more than a sarcastic attack because of your personal vedette against the city and anyone who disagrees with your backward way of thinking.
    Yes Mary, there are many others in this town that are tired of your personal attack forum.
    And what makes you think I was not there?
    Fortunately my intellect interprets what I hear, see, and observe, differently than yours does so we will always disagree. Everything is not a conspiracy.

     
  • livinidaho posted at 8:29 pm on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    livinidaho Posts: 3

    Mr Handeen is a likeable guy. My question to him would be - why should you be on the school board when you don't believe in public schools for your own children when they become school age? That you plan on homeschooling them.

     
  • SmallMinds posted at 3:52 pm on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    SmallMinds Posts: 31

    Dave Eubanks has a problem. Yeah, he's a nice guy and he's articulate and he says all the right things. But he's been part of a failed system for more than 40 years and he can't recognize that it has failed.

    Modern "Progressive" Education is now an old idea and it is an old idea that has been proven to be a failure time and again. We've robbed at least 2 generations of a quality education by focusing on the "feel good" stuff and not the basic building blocks of a solid education. Ann Seddon has done much to bring light to that in her 10 months on the Board and more than that, she actually has solutions.

    Dave has perpetrated the failure for more than 40 years and advocates for more of the same.

    Go enjoy your retirement Dave. Love on your 10 kids. Raise your vegetables. Relax...

    But PLEASE, do not seek to force any more of your failed ideas on my kids. They deserve better than what our education system is providing them.

     
  • Brent Regan posted at 1:35 pm on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Brent Regan Posts: 676

    What I said regarding bus privatization was that not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. There are tangible benefits to keeping the busses as part of the District that cannot be quantified as a dollar amount on a balance sheet (the safety of the children being one of them) but must still be considered in the decision.

     
  • Martha posted at 1:06 pm on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Martha Posts: 28

    The biggest contrast of the evening was undoubtedly between Bjorn Handeen and Tom Hearn. Handeen indeed agreed with Hearn that bad teachers are not the problem, but he expounded on that by saying:

    “I would agree with that. As a matter of fact I would go further and question some of the education reform arguments that a lot of this is caused by bad teachers. I don’t agree with that. In fact I was reading just yesterday that a teacher was kind of joking about how it’s not that these students are not being taught the fundamentals, it’s that the way their being taught isn’t sticking with them. If we went back 20 years and said ‘okay we’re going to get rid of the new math and this child centered learning….if we got rid of that stuff and went back to what we know works, we’d be a lot better off.’”

    I have heard none of the candidates blame teachers for the problems in our schools. While there are a few bad teachers, just as there are bad employees in any profession, they don't make up the majority. The system is fundamentally flawed, and that is the issue that must be addressed. While Mr. Hearn believes we need to leave the problems to the experts, we've been listening to the experts too long. We have to stop repackaging failed ideas and look for proven methods to give our children the foundation to succeed in life.

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 10:47 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 808

    Voxpop, how would you solve the district's budget gap? And what would you propose for the students who can't master basic math?

    (By the way, the statistic for high school students from CdA going to NIC who need math remediation before they can start regular classes, is 50%. And 39% need special classes in English and Reading. These are students fresh out of high school, not those who've been out for a year or more.)

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 9:47 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    Cutting insurance benefits is the new normal voxpop. Everyone is taking a hit., I appreciate that Trustee Regan is doing his best to balance the budget.

    Do you have any facts regarding your statements against Trustee Seddon? Or are you just angry at the world?

     
  • voxpop posted at 8:49 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Regan said he wants to reduce the premiums going to the insurance company, as a way to keep the transportation department intact.

    Typical Goedde style hate speak by blaming everything on teachers. True, gutting district health care would reduce payments to the insurance company but it would also drive many good teachers elsewhere, while ALL the average or worse teachers couldn't get hired anywhere else. This change would also deny benefits to any employee under 30 hours. Imagine how easy it would be to limit aides, maintenance, and drivers to less than that. It's a scam and staff should be worried.

    Oh, and Souza doesn't know squat about Seddon's imagined accomplishments. She pushes drill and kill to the extreme which never teaches a kid how to solve real world problems. Seddon is a product from the distant past which produced kids who couldn't make change when working as a cashier. She also misstates statistics to justify her point while conveniently ignoring the reality of NIC.

    Idaho and Cda are going down in flames from an education perspective because the Idaho legislature, through their constant anti-public education rhetoric, has convinced those who get their info from Y2K and Mayan calendar websites, that the end is near. All the while angling with business special interests in redirecting funds from tax breaks into their own coffers.

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 8:36 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    I was also impressed by Bjorn Handeen.

    And I was disappointed in Tom Hearn when he said " he has a problem with the process the board used in deciding to eliminate the programs, and said the board members did it for ideological reasons'.

    I remember several years of discussions about the removal of the costly IB programs that showed little success. I am so glad we have a school board that is brave enough to closely examine the budget and do what they can to bring it into balance.

    Tom Hearn also said he did not see any progressive education problems in our local schools. My research indicated that the IB programs are considered progressive towards a one world government. I perfer our students focus on the great traditional values America has to offer in their younger years.

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 7:53 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 808

    As usual, Lola123 goes on the attack. Were you there last night, Lola? I was and your comments are way off base. Brent Regan spoke highly of the care and safety offered by local school bus drivers, and his remark about the balance sheet was that you can't always put a number on the value of those important intangibles. And while Christa Hazel was knowledgeable about district issues, Brent Regan came through with his notable business and creative problem solving experience, which he related to the challenges our district is now facing.

    Bjorn Handeen surprised me the most. He came across well in his comments, and offered insight into his own negative experience from four years of IB. He advocated for an increased emphasis on solid, proven, traditional education, and his remarks set him apart from his status quo opponent, Tom Hern.

    Dave Eubanks and Ann Seddon, both retired teachers, agreed with each other on many issues but Ann distinguished herself by explaining how she has been effective in her short time on the board. She has already accomplished big steps toward improving the languishing basic math skills in the elementary grades. Ann taught for 30 years in Arizona before moving here, running a local tutoring service and volunteering in the schools. Dave Eubanks was very affable and friendly, but he has been part of the CdA system for a large portion of his 40 years in teaching, and I question whether he would stand up to push for change or just go along to get along.

     
  • mister d posted at 7:31 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    The candidate forum further convinced me that Eubanks is the candidate I will vote for to more the CDA district forward. He will benefit all stakeholders and represent us with the children in mind.

     
  • lola123 posted at 6:36 am on Fri, Apr 26, 2013.

    lola123 Posts: 343

    "There are elements of bus drivers that are important, but you can't place them on a balance sheet," Regan added, saying that was a major consideration for him as they explore the busing privatization issue.

    Really Mr Regan? You can put those elements on a balance sheet, good on the left bad on the right add them up and see what wins. That was really a dumb statement. Oh yes, along with many other dumb statements you have made. We all remember "black and scary"
    By the way we received one of your campaign flyers the other day. At the top it says "Conservative Solutions.....NOT Slogans Uhh isn't that a slogan?????? Pure Genious.

     
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