District 2 Candidate Sam Hall
Please Note: All information, photos, video and survey answers are provided from the candidate.
Candidate, District 2
Bio: My 20 year involvement in Jacksonville public service has focused on improving education for our community. I grew up in a family of educators. These things combined with recent retirement gives me the opportunity to devote more time to educating our children. I have a BS Degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. I worked for 25 years as an Analyst with Anheuser Busch, a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. My educational background and career history makes me a strong advocate for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in education. As a sculptor and jazz enthusiast, I also appreciate the value of arts in the education of the whole child. My community service with Leadership Jacksonville, the Mayoral Commission, Project Blue Print for Prosperity, a 1 year internship with Inroads, Inc., service as a 20+ year board member of a United Way Agency, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, and participation in The Jacksonville Public Education Fund as a volunteer delegate for the One X One survey have prepared me to serve the people of District 2 as a School Board member. www.samhallcares.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. If you had to give the Duval County Public Schools a grade, how would you rate its current performance at educating
High-performing students? A B C D F
Average students? A B C D F
At-risk students? A B- C D F
Duval County Public Schools has a strategic plan approved by the school board in April 2013 that guides the day-to-day management and activities of the superintendent. A copy of the strategic plan can be accessed at http://www.duvalschools.org/Page/11436. When referencing the strategic plan, please cite the strategy number and title.
2. In what respects do you think Duval County Public Schools is doing well in its strategic plan? In what areas of the plan do you think Duval County Public Schools needs to improve significantly?
Section 1.2 Recruiting efforts to employ & retain high quality, diverse teachers, instructional leaders and staff are moving in the right direction. Incentives to employ & retain teachers are improving.
Section 3.1 A good job is being done with the distribution of district wide programs and resources in an equitable manner.
Area for improvement:
Section 3.3 There needs to be deployment of information technology to support the academic needs of students, teachers, and staff. Many schools are over 50 years old and infrastructure needs updating to enable technology throughout the school building.
3. Please describe how you would differentiate between the governance responsibility of the school board and the management role of the superintendent.
The governance responsibility of the school board is to ensure fiduciary efficiency, oversight of the superintendent, and program quality for the school district.
The management role of the superintendent is to manage and carry out the day to day operations of the school district.
4. At times school board members may encounter a situation where the interests of their specific district might conflict with what is best for the entire school system. What is your philosophy on this issue, and what would you do if confronted with such a situation?
I would make every effort to express my view and work to build a consensus on what is best for my district as well as for the district as a whole. When a consensus is not possible, I would ultimately make my decision bearing in mind what is best for all the students in the system.
5. The Duval County School Board appointed Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in November 2012. Please review the school board’s evaluation instrument at http://ow.ly/yignz. What areas would you highlight where the superintendent is excelling? Where is improvement needed?
Superintendent Vitti excels in making recommendations and accepting responsibility for those recommendations. (Evaluation pg. A-6) Superintendent Vitti also maintains a high profile in the schools and community. (Evaluation pg. B-4) Superintendent Vitti develops/maintains a proactive agenda for school improvement. (Evaluation pg. D-3) Superintendent Vitti asserts his leadership skills in troubled areas of the school district. (Evaluation pg. D-4) Superintendent Vitti communicates effectively when speaking. (Evaluation pg. F-2)
There is a need to establish both a short term and a long range capital improvement plan. (Evaluation pg. F-2)
Financial Resources and Budgeting
The Duval County School Board is responsible for adopting an annual budget. The most recent final budget can be viewed at http://duvalschools.org/Page/9540 and a recent presentation of the proposed 2014-15 budget can be viewed at http://www.slideshare.net/JaxPEF/042514-dcps-budget-preso.
6. What specific areas of the district budget would you prioritize, particularly if additional resources became available? If revenues continue to be flat or decline, what specific areas would you recommend reducing first?
If additional resources become available, Iwould shift resources to the schools and dramatically upgrade instructional support to promote the whole child by ensuring music, art, and physical education in elementary and middle schools. I would also place funds toward improving technology in all school locations.
If revenues continue to be flat or decline, I would recommend efficiency through zero based budgeting,and through strategic planning to anticipate any shortfalls.
7. To ensure the district has adequate fiscal resources and avoids budget shortfalls in the future, what, if any, revenue sources should the school district pursue and on what timetable (e.g. increased local property or sales taxes, statewide tax increases, etc.)?
I am not in support of an increase in taxes. Iwould investigate the possibility of a bond issue to raise funds, and investigate possible ways to increase state and federal funds. This is an issue that requires ongoing management and forecasting to meet the district’s short and long term needs.
Community, Parent and External Relationships
8. What would you do to improve communication and strengthen your relationships between the schools and parents and community members, especially when a new program or policy is being introduced?
I would do what I have already done. I would begin by visiting all 18 schools in my district to communicate with the PTA and SAC committees directly. This type of communication would strengthen relationships especially when a new program or policy is being introduced. I would also be open to holding various public meetings throughout the district to address the questions and concerns of parents and community members regarding new programs or policies. It would also be prudent for the school board to take every opportunity to release to the press information pertaining to any program and/or policy changes taking place.
9. Conditions for children outside the classroom such as crime, homelessness, lack of parent involvement or other factors can affect a student’s academic achievement. There are a number of external organizations that interact with and work to support Duval County Public Schools to help reduce the impact of these issues. What do you see as the ideal role/relationship between the school district and these efforts so that children are prepared to succeed?
The ideal role/relationship between the school district and various external organizations would be one of collaboration, communication, and information exchange. It is vital that each school be aware of the opportunities for support from any external organization in their area and be able to provide this information to the parents of their students. The Bridge of Northeast Florida has done an exemplary job of providing after school academic programs and a safe haven for students. It is important for each school to be aware of the resources in their area and know how to connect their students with the after school help they need.
Major Policy Issues
10. In the 2014-15 school year, schools across the state will implement new English language arts and mathematics standards called the Florida Standards. These standards are closely aligned with Common Core State Standards adopted by states throughout the country. What is your view of the new Florida Standards? How well do you feel that the new standards have been implemented in Duval County Public Schools and communicated to teachers and parents?
My view on the new Florida Standard’s is that the tests are more rigorous and are designed to make students think on a higher level by the use of supporting evidence for their answers. There has not been adequate time to implement the new standards. The teachers need more time to be able to implement the new standards in their classroom lesson plans. Assessments need to be phased in as the AIRE group is still fashioning the Common Core Standards for Florida.
11. To measure the student performance against the Florida Standards, the state will replace the FCAT 2.0 with a new standardized assessment in spring 2015. In addition, the state Legislature has approved a revised school grading formula to go into effect that spring. What are the biggest challenges of the new system? How should the district respond to the changes?
The biggest challenges of the new system will be to disseminate information and instruct teachers regarding the changes required in their individual classrooms. It will also be challenging to inform parents regarding the changes they will experience in their children’s classrooms and grades. And finally, it will be difficult to inform the community regarding the new changes that have taken place.
The district should respond by providing training and coaching for instructors, principals, and all district personnel to be able to easily and accurately address the concerns they will encounter from parents and the community. The district should also provide regular information to the local news media to address these concerns. It would also be helpful to schedule periodic public forums in each district providing the opportunity for concerned teachers, parents, and community members to have the chance for their questions to be answered directly by a delegate from the school district. These public forums would be easily accessible utilizing local SAC and/or PTA groups.
12. What is your view of the discipline-related initiatives that the district has undertaken in the last year? What is the role of the school board in ensuring a positive school climate and culture throughout the district?
Safety is a number one concern in the school district. Discipline related initiatives recently voted on by the school board addressing bullying are an excellent start. It will be important to monitor and enforce these initiatives to determine their effectiveness. The role of the school board will be to monitor the impact these new initiatives have on the instances of school disciplinary issues and make policy modifications as necessary should the policies as written need adjustment.
13. Duval County has a complex school choice environment: There are numerous magnet schools and new public school models such as single-gender classrooms and K-6 elementary schools, as well as 9,000 students attending charter schools in Duval County. What is your view of the current school choice environment and how does it impact student achievement? How should the district respond to the impact of charter expansion?
Duval County is fortunate to have many choices for parents to determine which setting best addresses their child’s individual educational needs. Fundamentally I believe that choice is a good thing. I believe parents are best equipped to determine the fundamental educational needs of their student(s). I believe the choices available in this school district provide parents with the opportunity to best match their child’s needs to a specific program. The school district should consider introducing a marketing department to recapture the students and families that have left the district for private and charter schools in the area.
14. Over the past couple of years, Duval County Public Schools have expanded opportunities for families to enroll their children in Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs at select elementary schools. What role do you feel the Public School system should play in promoting and expanding quality pre-kindergarten programs within public school?
The Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs in select elementary schools should be expanded as the budget allows.
15. Duval County Public Schools has grouped Raines, Ribault and Jackson high schools and 33 feeder pattern elementary and middle schools under a new Duval Transformation Office. These schools will benefit from the Quality Education for All Fund, a philanthropic investment of $50 million of private funding. The goal of this effort is to improve the pipeline of great teachers and leaders in Duval County Public Schools, especially at the 36 Transformation schools. Do you support these efforts? In your view, what else should the district do to support the high-needs schools within the Transformation region?
Yes, I support the Transformation efforts. The district should focus on retention of these great teachers and leaders within the system.
16. Career and technical education is an important component of the school district’s programming. In your opinion, what should be Duval County Public Schools’ biggest focus when it comes to career and technical education?
I believe Duval County Public Schools focus on careers through the magnet program is well supported and engaged in educating students with a particular college or career path. It is also important to have a vibrant selection of skills centers for students to graduate high school and be prepared to immediately enter apprenticeship programs in trades that also help build the Jacksonville community.
17. What is your view of the role of technology in preparing Duval County students for the future? Should Duval County Public Schools increase the use of technology in classrooms, and if so, how should it be funded? How big of a priority should it be?
Technology is essential in preparing all students for their future. Whether it is in a career or a trade, all students will be faced with the need to interface increasingly with technology. From our global economy to a thermostat in your home that operates remotely from your sma rt phone, having technological knowledge will prepare our students for their future in the community. I support technology in the classrooms. I believe technology in the classrooms could be funded in part by PECO funds, with the balance coming from within local and state funding. Ibelieve funding for technology is a high priority because it falls within the category of providing much needed resources to schools.
18. If you have children, what type of school do/did they attend?
(mark all that apply)
____ Public (inside Duval County)
__X__ Public (outside Duval County)
____ Home Education