(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: Robert Bodi
What is your first priority – the taxpayers or the students?
This is a false dichotomy. Both are important, and neither is more important than the other, because they work in tandem, and neglecting either one will ultimately harm the district. The citizens of the district decide who is on the Board, and they decide whether to approve tax levies. Most such citizens are also taxpayers. Thus, the educational standards of the district are harmed if the taxpayer isn’t happy with the result, because the taxpayer will refuse to fully fund the district, and education will suffer. There is no argument that it is a primary duty of the Board to ensure educational excellence for the community. But it is also important that the Board ensure that the taxpayer believes that his or her money is being wisely spent. Thus, education, and thus the community, is harmed if either is neglected. Likewise, communities suffer both if their educational levels fall, and if their tax rates are too high. Hence, the board member must ensure that educational excellence is accomplished in a way that is acceptable to the taxpayer, so that the taxpayer continues to support the educational mission with reasonable funds. This is a fine balance that must be maintained, and this is the hard problem that board members must solve.
What is your opinion about merit pay for teachers and how would merit be determined?
Merit pay is a great idea. I refuse to accept the notion that it is not possible to determine the quality of the educational product that individual teachers supply. The parents, students, principles, and other teachers all know who are the good teachers are and who are the not-so-good ones are. Clearly, such determinations require both objective and subjective evaluations, and must be closely monitored for abuse. But in the private industry, we evaluate employees all the time, and we reward better performing employees and replace poorly performing employees. It is about time that we did that in our school systems as well, as that will only enhance educational excellence, and no child should be punished with a bad teacher.
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 attended a number of Board meetings (most this summer), and I have attended some local sporting events, such as HS football. I also attend various events that my children participate 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?
Clearly, political activity has no place in the schools during the school day, and children should not become pawns of the political process. And teachers should not be permitted to cut their day short just to campaign. But outside of the school day, teachers have the right as to any other citizens to participate in political events, and to make their views known. If there is an issue important to the schools, then the district should decide if a day off to support the issue is in the districts interest. This should not be determined by individual teachers. However, teachers must also consider how they are perceived by the public, and any teacher that cannot maintain proper decorum and civility in public arenas should know that such behaviour reflects on the district and on themselves, and in extreme cases might lead to disciplinary action.
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 believe that competition among schools is generally a good thing. I doubt that schools in high performing districts that have good academic programs, such as Westlake, would be greatly affected by such scholarships, however. Thus I think that it is a non-issue for Westlake. But I think that scholarships can be an effective way to force poor performing districts to improve their programs.
What is the best attribute of the Westlake City Schools?
The pride that students, teachers, and parents all take in the district. It is not common enough that one finds a school district where all of the pieces work so well together. Thus, one challenge for any Board is to keep that spirit alive.