(Editor’s note: At West Life’s Sept. 29 Candidates Forum for the seven Westlake Board of Education hopefuls running for three seats, audience members were asked to submit written questions. Time limitations prevented most of the those questions from being asked, so West Life submitted six of the questions to the candidates and offered to publish each candidate’s unedited answers on West Life’s website.)
Candidate: Laurie Gettings
What is your first priority – the taxpayers or the students?
As I have always said, the students education is our top priority. We must do a better job of preparing them for our global economy. That is why I am for International Baccalaureate for all grade levels and an intense Service Learning/Job Shadow program for high school students.
What is your opinion about merit pay for teachers and how would merit be determined?
Should Issue 2 pass, the Board will have to determine what the basis of merit pay would be. Obviously, test scores would have to be a part of the equation. In addition, International Baccalaureate helps to provide groundwork and metrics for independent thinking, problem-solving skills and the integration of subject matter to real-world skills and events. That would definitely have to be a part of the system utilized for merit pay. Of equal importance, is the relationship teachers have to the students. Are they engaged in their students and their studies? Do they know and understand them? How does each student best learn and how do you help them do their best? Are the students equally engaged in the class? These relationships are very important to help students do their best work. It might seem hard to measure, but I have seen many teachers who do just that. They are truly amazing educators.
Have you attended many school board meetings in recent months? Have you attended many school activities, such as band concerts, school plays, etc., in recent months?
I currently attend all of the Board meetings. I am an avid volunteer. I am in the schools about 1ce/week. We attend activities at Bassett mainly because that is our school. We do attend sporting events at the high school as well.
One questioner said when she worked at a polling location in Parma two years ago, she noticed teachers leaving school to hold signs for the ballot issue. Would you agree to a plan where citizens could monitor political activity in the schools in the weeks leading up to a school levy vote?
I think it would be a really great idea to engage students in local political activity. I remember when I was in school we always had student votes on local issues. It helps kids understand people’s positions, helps them form their own opinions (separate from their parents), engages them in the potential changes and shows them that every vote counts. It encourages them to get involved and to get their parents involved. I think it’s a great idea. Also, it gives parents, educators and students a better opportunity to know about the candidates. Education is so important in making a good decision.
What is your position on House Bill 136, which would create a limited number of scholarships for students to attend nonpublic schools, for which eligibility would be based on family income. (Scholarships would be funded by deducting amounts from the state education aid provided to the student’s public school district.)
I personally find it disappointing that instead of putting money and effort into creating better public systems that the government has thrown up its hands and said, “We give up. We’re going to send your public tax dollars to private schools. Then we’re not going to monitor them, so we are no longer involved or invested in education.” If they could find someone to study successful public schools and implement those practices at the other public schools that are struggling, I think it would be a much better solution. I think giving money to private schools undermines our public education system. And it’s not all about money. It’s about management. Having said that, the government needs to put a strong program in place to help struggling schools teach students. It’s not always about money or home life. Kids’ expectations need to be higher, and they need to have a safe place to learn. Teachers have to put in the extra time and effort. Maybe at inner city schools, they should employ more teachers and have smaller classes to give more attention to struggling students. It can be done, we’re just not looking at the problem in the right way.
What is the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools?
It is impossible to pick one. However, my feeling is that leadership is the key to creating an atmosphere where educators can participate in decision-making and ideas, community is involved and encouraged to engage and students want to come to school. So, I would have to say it all starts with the superintendent. He enables our school district to pick the best teachers, to make sound financial investments in the schools, he attends every school event there is. Due to his leadership, we have one of the best special education systems around. We spend more on arts and music than any other school district near us. This provides students with a well-rounded, creative education that will broaden their options going forward in life. The early education program helps kids get off IEP’s by providing a blueprint for how they best learn so their academic scores go up. After all that, he allows the educators to do their work. I think, with all the arguing about budgets and buildings, we forget what a strong system we have. I would hate to see a board who tears it down.