Retro Rural Parenting in a Modern World

Dacy Fallyn Freeman (DFF) Interviews Walton-Verona School Board Candidates 2018

4th Grader Interviews Walton-Verona School Board Candidates
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BRETT STRONG

Brett Strong Walton-Verona Independent School District School Board Candidate 2018
Photo: Dacy Fallyn Freeman

Personal Goals

  • What prompted you to seek office? What is your personal initiative?

“I have been looking into a community related service position for some time and after attending meetings for multiple avenues, I decided school board is where I am most passionate. Personally, I have a deep rooted respect for our public education system and what it offers not only to our students but the communities that support them as well. Simply put, I feel like I can be an asset to our district by making sound decisions not only for the school district but also the taxpayers who support it. Transparency is important and it is my mantra to make sure our school board is being upfront and honest with anyone in the district (School administrators/employees, parents and residents).”

  • What has been your personal involvement with education in our community? Are you a member of the PTA? If so, which one (elementary, middle, high school, or all 3)?

“I do not currently sit on any of the aforementioned committees but I don’t necessarily see that as a negative. First and foremost, I am a parent of a current student in our district and we take education very seriously in our household. While I may not sit on these boards/committees, I have a direct understanding of the day to day functioning of a school system. Learning a lot from my time studying K-12 education at NKU, many long discussions with my mother, a retired public school educator, as well as understanding the important role we play in our future generations successes.”

  • What makes you stand out among the other candidates? What special attributes, talents, and abilities will you bring to our district?

“Leadership. As someone who has worked through the ranks with my current employer of 13 years, I have had access to many training/development materials and collaborations to further my career. Most of which surrounds Servant Leadership. Being able to lead by example and hold myself accountable is something I take great pride in. I have been able to build great teams of employees over the years, which include multiple employees who have been promoted to running their own location as General Manager. Accountability is also an attribute that comes to mind. Being held accountable by more than a dozen employees every day to make sure we are able to do business properly for over a decade, as well as, accountability towards our customers to do business the right way is very important. As someone who has to see things from multiple points of view on a daily basis (I work with the general public every day) and make decisions/develop standards, I feel another attribute I will bring to the table is the ability to enter any situation with an open mind, hear both sides and make a sound decision based on information presented. The last is the ability to be transparent. Under no circumstance would there be a problem discussing a decision or vote (except obviously in cases where it cannot be, legally speaking) and being as transparent with the residents, parents, school employees, etc. as possible so they know why I made a particular decision and/or vote.”

  • What are the most important issues in your race and how do you plan to address them?

“Honestly, the number one priority right now for the Board of Education is transparency. Multiple times there have been comments or have heard of someone commenting how they wish the meetings were available online, etc. so the residents who cannot make it to a meeting can see what was discussed and voted on just like they were there. Without having to decipher the ‘minutes’ of the meeting. If elected, that will definitely be something to look into. Our city administration has been able to do so, so I feel as though the school can offer the same (if not better!). Second, the standard issues are always at the forefront. Funding, facilities, hiring and retaining quality educators and administrators are all always important issues that need constant overview and asking “Where can we improve?”. It’s not always about​ ‘best practices’​ but what are the best ​’next practices’​.”

Government, Finance & Operations

  • What experience do you have with complicated budgets? When you are given a budget for the district, what will be your process to determine if it is a good budget for the Walton-Verona Independent School District?

“Being a GM in a multi-million dollar business, budgets are always at the forefront. They are discussed at length and I have been able to successfully maintain a balance to ensure profitability is at its peak in our stores. On a smaller level, I currently sit on my neighborhoods HOA board and even though the budget isn’t huge, making sure we are spending residents hard earned money in the right areas and focusing on making the community better is important. Budgets are fluid from year to year, so I definitely think you could answer this part in many different avenues. Obviously a couple of the more important items on a budget are ensuring our educators are properly compensated (we want to retain the best!), facilities are being maintained properly and that we are doing what we can to keep our children safe not only within the school but on the ride to and from. Transportation safety is something the current administration is a stickler about and I was able to hear a presentation from the head of transportation for the school district and was impressed with his work ethic and ideas to help become even more safe. These are just a few items but it is of the utmost importance for the district to be financially stable and viable for our students and community.”

  • WVISD appears to be a fast-growing community in Northern Kentucky. That means larger enrollment and an increased need for special services. With that growing population (i.e. speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, crisis counseling, behavior coaching, etc.) How can the district afford these specialized services and will other programs need to be cut? How will these needs affect your philosophy on tax increases to generate revenue?

“WVISD is definitely a growing community and as with all growth, there will be some growing pains along the way. It is tough to tell the future and specifically talk about cutting programs, etc. to add special services. When considering that as the district grows, you are adding more tax revenue by simple population growth, there may not be a reason to cut programs to add programs. These are important issues and they can be worked on accordingly if/when they present themselves. Increasing taxes isn’t always the answer for funding and you have to be very careful going through that on a regular basis. It doesn’t always go over well. It would be pertinent to look into possible state or federal funding/grants for certain services or programs if funding is in dire need to keep them. It might even be worth having one particular person within the district who looks at grants every year and applies for as many as possible. On a smaller scale, you can also look to the business community and/or private donations to help fund certain programs/services, which is also something to think about in the future for securing funds.”

Performance, Outcomes & Equity

  • What is your philosophy of special education?

“Special Education is an area close to my heart. Most of which can attributed to my mother who is a Speech and Language Pathologist who retired from a career working in public schools. She also spent 10 years post retirement working in the private sector specifically with special needs children . At a very young age, I was introduced to many of her students and was able to learn a lot about children with special needs. While volunteering to be a teacher aide in the special education classroom in high school, I have hands on experience in developing lesson plans, etc. to assist in providing a similar classroom experience for these students as we do for all students. Having a strong special education program is a positive for any school district. I also want to take a moment and thank the city for making some additions to the Walton Park to make it more accessible and fun for children with special needs. That was a great thing they were able to do. On a personal note, my aunt spent most of her life in a home for the severely disabled as she had hydrocephalus. She was not able to walk or talk her entire life. Up until she passed, we would visit on a regular basis and it was so neat to interact with not only her but some of the other residents who lived there. I have a ton of respect for those who commit their lives to special needs children as it is not always an easy task and can be very daunting. Watching a member of my family pore tirelessly over paperwork and lesson plans simply to just make small progress (which even the smallest win can be a huge victory) gave me a huge amount of respect for special education in our schools.”

  • Do you believe that art and music are part of a quality education, and if so, what do you plan to do to make sure these programs remain in our schools?

“A well rounded education is important as students should be able to pull from many different experiences throughout their lives in order to succeed. Having these programs in place gives students another possible avenue away from core academics and athletics to succeed and “show off” their talents. Art and Music are the ones mentioned but I think it goes even further than that. Looking into different offerings for students is important in preparing them for not just college but life. We should be listening to our student body as to what course offerings they may be interested in. If I’m not mistaken, some local school districts have started IT/Network/Coding classes and have had success doing so. Advocating for these programs is a must so long as there is student body interest in them.”

Independence of Thoughts & Actions

  • What specific steps would you take as a school board member to improve transparency and make school district information more widely available?

“There are a few ways to help the Board be more transparent. First, possibly looking at the scheduled night for meetings (Thursday nights) would be a start. Potentially sending out a questionnaire to parents and collecting information on the ‘best night’ to hold these meetings might help public attendance. As I mentioned earlier, offering a live feed and/or recorded video that is easily accessible to residents would go a long way. Our city council has done this and it would be an easy and cost efficient first step in promoting transparency. I may also recommend that when an agenda is put out, it can contain sub-categories under main topics as to what part of something will be discussed. For example under ‘Transportation’ add –Pre-school bus route, additions to bus safety, etc. This would help our residents understand what it is the Board is specifically looking to discuss in that particular meeting.”

  • What specific actions will you take to increase the role of parents in decision making and promote parental involvement in schools? Please include how you will represent out of district students’ interests.

“First and foremost, we as parents should always be a large group of advocates for our children. I do believe that some may shy away in advocating for their child or students in general because it can be somewhat intimidating. I want parents to know and understand that not only the Board but school administrators also want to be advocates for our children and their success. Don’t be afraid to speak up or schedule a meeting with someone to address concerns but also make sure you are giving positive feedback when you feel like something has been done well, etc. Both sides are important. If you want people to be involved in anything, you have to make it a comfortable, accessible environment for them to express both concern and praise. That would be my goal, to show that you can get involved and you can make a difference just by simply asking “What can I do to help?”. You mentioned specifically “out of district” students interests. This is an interesting designation as I feel as though all students attending schools in the district (whether parents live within district limits or not) interests are important and part of the same focus. While I understand that those parents may not be able to vote in certain elections that affect the school, there are certainly avenues available for parents of out of district students to be just as involved within the school (SBDM, PTA). Parental involvement at any level within the district is a positive and would encourage everyone to do so. When a community supports a school district (and not JUST financially) it directly benefits the success of the district and community at large.”

  • In what ways are you reaching out to the business community to build their support for quality public school?

“There is a fine line you have to toe when asking the business community to support quality public school. While they will directly benefit having quality schools, you have to be careful how much leeway you are giving. My thoughts are in showing these businesses that we as a school district are doing our best at growing and molding productive and intelligent members of society that will help them further their companies/businesses (or become consumers with expendable income!) is all the incentive they need to support what we are doing in public education. Allowing a business to have a financial stake in a school system has proven to cause issues so you must show them the ​intrinsic​ value in helping to support public schools and not necessarily a direct “pay off” at the end of their involvement or support.”