(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, with their unedited answers provided below.)
Candidate: Tony Falcone
What is your first priority – the taxpayers or the students?
I believe that a responsible board member should fairly represent both groups. It would be my job, as board member, to provide the best education possible within the parameters set by the taxpayers.
The upcoming contract negotiations provide a good illustration of the fiscal/academic balance that is often required. Our new contracts must be negotiated fairly and responsibly – they must be fair to the employees and responsible for the taxpayers.
What is your opinion about merit pay for teachers and how would merit be determined?
My performance rating and salary compensation have always been determined based on my performance. That said, I believe that I am fairly evaluated. I would not support merit-based pay for teachers unless I was convinced that the teacher evaluation system was fair and multi-faceted. The board of education is in no position to establish evaluation criteria, nor is the state legislature. The evaluation system would have to be established by a representative group of teachers and administrators. It would be the job of the board member to approve the system, or to return it for further development.
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?
Over the past two years, I’ve attended every school board meeting that my schedule will allow – and I always re-arrange my schedule (both personal and professional) to allow frequent attendance. If you don’t attend board meetings, you are not a serious candidate.
I am a member of both Dover and Parkside PTAs and I am a frequent volunteer in the classroom. I never miss a school function. I learned from the best – both of my parents were active volunteers in the Westlake schools and community. My Dad was an active member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, an important group that still exists today.
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?
Building principals are responsible for their staff. I trust them to manage their personnel.
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.)
Since I’m not a state legislator, I don’t believe that my opinion on HB 136 should matter. It would be my job, as board member, to deal with any potential school district ramifications.
What is the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools?
We have much to be proud of today. That said, our employees are our greatest attribute. People make the difference – and we are excellent because of our excellent staff.