Below is BOE candidate Calvin Brown’s response to our questionnaire. Responses from other candidates will be posted as they are received.
1) What background or prior life experience qualifies you for a position on the Board of Education? What inspired you to run for a position on the BOE at this particular time?
My background as a recent student in the Bristol School system, along with my innate appreciation for teachers and love for education in general, are the things that have inspired me to run for a position on the Board of Education. I believe that my first hand experiences interacting with teachers and students, and my inside knowledge of our schools’ atmospheres are my greatest qualifications.
2) If elected, what would be your immediate priorities?
I would like to begin looking at the health curriculum and make sure that students are learning comprehensive health lessons, including the impact and specific community consequences of bullying (one suggestion I received was making the school’s bullying policy part of the discussion in the classroom), along with adequate dieting and sex safety lessons. Also, I would like to see how we can expand Advanced Placement opportunities for students in a cost efficient way, and prepare high school students for what has become a significantly competitive college admissions process. This would also include, however, proper resources and information for people who decide college may not be right for them and would rather explore alternative routes. I will also make it a top priority to be visible in the schools and at school functions so that students, teachers, and parents can feel free to speak with me about the state of education in our city.
3) What is the role of parents and teachers in educational decision making? How will you seek out the input of each and maintain communication?
Maintaining communication between parents, teachers, and myself will be a top priority as I mentioned in the answer above. But I will also never forget the important role students should have at the table when decisions are being made. Education is a collaborative process and holds great implications for the success of an entire community. Therefore parents, teachers, administrators, and students should all be heard in the decision making process. I will always be open to engaging in meaningful dialogue about the progress of our schools no matter who wants to discuss.
4) What are the dividing lines between parents, teachers, and administrators when it comes to accountability for student progress?
I would say that parents hold the responsibility of making sure the educational process is continued beyond the closing bells of the school day. They must engage their children in meaningful discussion about their day, about what they’re learning, and about broader topics going on in the community, the world, and even pop culture. Parents must also do what they can to help students with homework, and if they cannot because they do not know the material, must help their child find resources of help elsewhere.
Teachers must show their students some kindness and understanding, but also assert their roles as “the boss of the classroom.” It is a valuable life lesson for students to learn that different teachers and have different expectations and teaching styles that one must adapt to in order to ever find success in the world. Teachers need freedom to teach a lesson in their own way, but also must be held accountable that their students are learning the lesson in the first place.
Administrators need to do what they can to enhance the school environment and make it a comfortable place for students to learn, and teachers to teach. They must take swift disciplinary action to protect students who are being bullied, and help students who are doing the bullying. Administrators must engage teachers to make sure they are receiving the support and have access to the resources that they need. If they cannot fulfill these obligations, then student’s ability to succeed will never be maximized.
5) What is your opinion of the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) act and its legacy?
I believe the intention of NCLB was probably a decent one. However, now we see that it was designed as a band-aid for a problem that requires a much more comprehensive fix. Achievement gaps in this state and in many others are severe. Students in one school district are receiving a higher quality and better funded education than students in another, and test score disparities along with college admissions disparities over the last several years support these statistics. Using a standardized test and forcing teachers to teach to it is an inadequate and burdensome way to measure academic achievement in schools and it is an even more dangerous way to dictate how school districts receive funding. I cannot articulate a plan that will work better, but I imagine it to be one that takes into account the impact of a community’s socioeconomic circumstances on schools and the students in them; one that provides better support systems for teachers who are trying their best and for students who are trying their best too; one that invests in the qualitative aspects of an education, and not just the quantitative ones measured by standardized tests.
6) What else would you like our members to know about your candidacy?
Please do not discount me because of my age. I am not seeking appointment as the President’s Secretary of Education, I am simply asking for the opportunity to represent you on the Board of Education as someone who really gets it. I was there in the schools the same way teachers are, the same way students are, for I was a student up until only last year. I built relationships with my teachers not because I couldn’t socialize in the lunchroom, but because I care about the crucial conversation about the importance of education, and the status of our public system. I do not have all the answers to every question, but I have the desire to find the solutions that fit and work with others to get things done.
I have tried to answer these questions with honesty, and candor.