(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: Geoff Rapp
What is your first priority – the taxpayers or the students?
It is not possible to choose one priority over the other. It is the legal responsibility of the State of Ohio to assure the education of its children, and the state grants to the community the right to decide how best to execute that responsibility. It would be my desire to help to make sure that Westlake provides the type of education that best prepares our children for their future, whether it is further education or a career.
It has been shown that the effectiveness of an educational program is not directly proportional to the cost of that program. When the School Board considers any aspects of an educational program, whether it be teachers, curriculum, facilities, or equipment, it is the responsibility of that Board to weigh the proven efficacy of the program against its cost so that the best result can be obtained at the most reasonable cost to the community.
What is your opinion about merit pay for teachers and how would merit be determined?
One must distinguish between merit pay and performance-based assessments. Performance measures are a key element in SB5 (or Issue 2). Merit pay can be interpreted to be financial reward for some measure of accomplishment, such as longevity or education. While this has a place, it should not be the purpose of a program to merely reward some exercise in persistence.
On the other hand, performance assessments take into consideration how effective the teacher is at executing his or her responsibility, which is the education of the student. To that end, there are numerous dimensions of performance that should be measured that will not only help to determine if a teacher is effective, but also to provide feedback on how they can continually improve. It should be noted that it will be the responsibility of the Board of Education to ensure that a system for performance assessments is developed in cooperation with the teachers through negotiation. While there has been considerable contribution from the teaching community on what constitutes effective performance measurement tools and methods, there is little consensus at this point, and much work needs to still be done in this area.
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?
In the spirit of honest disclosure, I have not been very involved with school activities since my children have grown into adults. Life has a way of filling time gaps with reasonable pursuits, based on where you are in your life. I have, however attended school board meetings and watched the issues and actions of the school board since I became interested in participating on the board. I recognize that there is much to learn about the process, but have been educating myself about the law, school funding, and educational performance measurement systems. There is still much to do, but I have committed myself to becoming a well-informed, active participant in the Westlake schools.
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?
The need to have citizens monitor political activity in the schools would be an indication that the community does not trust the teachers. If it has come to that, then shame on those teachers who created that degree of distrust in the community.
The teachers belong to a bargaining group, whether you call it a Union or an Association. That bargaining unit has its own agenda, separate from that purely of the education of our children. If the bargaining unit is directing the teachers to behave in a way that is counter to the best interests of the children and the community, then the community, the administration, and the Board must firmly address that issue and put a stop to it.
The classroom is where facts are taught. Political opinion is just that…opinion. It has no place being taught as fact in the classroom, and if that is being done, then it needs to stop, and the perpetrators need to be appropriately disciplined. If opposing views are being equally presented so that the student (of an appropriate age) can formulate a personal position, than that is acceptable, but it is a fine line to walk.
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.)
It is important to note that this is a proposed bill, and that any interpretation of the content of the proposed bill would be a reaction to a non-final document, which is unwise.
That being said, I am in support of some form of school choice. While there have been situations where some limited number of charter schools have underperformed, these situations have occurred in a regulated environment where the normal controls imposed by a competitive environment have not been at play. In other words, people have “gamed” an imperfect system to their own advantage. In a truly competitive environment, where normal market pressures can act, consumers choose the products that best serve their needs at a price that they can afford. That is happening in education today, where those that can afford it pay their tax dollars and then pay tuition on top of that for private schools that better serve the needs of their children’s education. Even current members of the school board have made that choice for their children.
In an open market of school choice, the tax money that would be spent for the public schools would be allocated to all students equally, and then parents could send their child and their tax money to the schools that performed best. If you want schools to perform well at the best cost, then let them compete for your tax dollars, and just watch how much better some of them become. Oh, and by the way, those that do not perform will go out of business.
What is the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools?
I believe that the strongest asset of the Westlake City Schools is how well the community supports it. I believe that there is a well-developed action plan in place to assure the continued improvement of the schools, and that the community has supported and participated in the process to establish that plan. I think that to blindly assume that community support will continue, regardless of decisions that are made is risky. I have seen deterioration in the trust that the community has in the effective operation of the schools.