(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: Michelle Albert
What is your first priority – the taxpayers or the students?
The students. My first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the children attending our schools. My children are just starting in the district and I want them to go to the best schools. However, the taxpayers fund our schools and are the true “employers” of our district. We are the people who pay the bills. With the climate of our state government and House Bill 136, there is a chance that our district would see further cuts in State funding. I want to ensure that I am a good steward of the taxpayer’s money. We need to answer to the taxpayers when they question spending decisions. Our community is invested in the education of our children and we need to spend prudently to provide our students with the best education.
What is your opinion about merit pay for teachers and how would merit be determined?
I believe that merit based pay for teachers should be implemented. The best teachers should receive the highest raises, and the teachers not meeting their goals should not receive a raise. Initially, a group of educators and administrators will need to determine what high quality, average quality, and poor quality teachers will look like. They will also determine what the performance review should look like and goals that the teachers should meet. Included can be standardized testing, peer group discipline issues, class GPA, or whatever the committee determines what differentiates teachers. This review can be tweaked each year. I also believe that teachers should do pre and post testing to determine if their students learned over the course of the year. Each teacher knows what each student should know at the end of their course. They can write their OWN test that is administered at the start of the year and then at the end of the year. Depending on a previous set standard for posttest passing rate, it will determine if the course met its objectives.
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 have not attended many school board meetings in recent months. I am a working professional and it is very difficult for me to change my schedule to attend board meetings, as this will require my employees to change their schedule. Having said that, my employer and I have a plan in place should I be elected to the Board of Education. I believe that the school board meetings should be held at a later time so that working parents and taxpayers have more of a chance to attend the meetings. I have been attending the events at Hilliard Elementary School that are held in the evening. We just had a really fun time at the Fall Festival and thank you to Caracas for providing the delicious meal. We typically attend 1-2 football games per year, over the last 10-13 years. My family has an annual tradition of walking to the Homecoming Parade and then dinner. I also attend the events that my patients who are Westlake students are involved in.
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 believe that as taxpayers we have a right to know what our employees are doing. As long as they take PTO or some type of time off they can do whatever they want with their time off. We as taxpayers pay them to teach. However, this might be a good civics lesson for students to see how the campaign and election process actually works. It may be beneficial for the students to have go with a teacher. This can be included in a curriculum to learn about current events, campaigning, and the election process so that students have a greater understanding for the process.
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.)
Although this program could potentially take tax dollars away from our district, I believe this program will only improve our schools. Schools will be competing for students in order to receive the state funding. Because there is a tangible benefit (tax dollars) our district will need to work even harder on continuous improvement in order to attract more students. Also, it is every parent’s right to decide where their child will attend school. There may be a host of reasons that a child cannot attend a particular school. In fact, I know of one little girl who was bullied at school. Her parents decided to move to a new city and start over. That is not an option for every family. This voucher program will help each child to receive an education in a safe environment.
What is the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools?
I think that the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools are the students. Every single student that I have come in contact with has been engaging, energetic, and enthusiastic. In my therapy clinic we ask every student who comes in what they learned in school today. Most of the children answer with “nothing” or “we just reviewed.” The Westlake students are sponges for knowledge and willing to share and teach what they have learned. These qualities of the students are instilled at home and are also a reflection of the parents. They are good kids who deserve the best schools.