Top Educational Priorities For Harrisonburg

Brent Finnegan -- November 1st, 2010

This is the final question in a Q&A series with Harrisonburg City School Board candidates running in the west district.

If elected, what will be your top priorities?

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Scott Baxter: Technology: I have 3 technology related goals: 1) to ensure that our children are using contemporary technology in ways that keeps them engaged in learning ; 2) To invest in professional development so our teachers can effectively use current and emerging technology for instruction; and 3) to increase communication with parents to keep them more engaged in their child’s education.

College Collaboration: We have world-class colleges and universities here in Harrisonburg. I will use my experience in working with higher education to build a new relationships and strengthen the existing collaborative efforts between our city schools and local colleges.

21st Century Skills: While I hope to increase the number of students that continue their education beyond high school, we must be certain that HHS graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to be functional members of our community. I plan to use my experience in the business market to work with others in the school system to help our children graduate with teamwork skills, a strong sense of work ethics and punctuality required to be an effective employee, and an understanding of personal finance and fiscal responsibility. In short, I want our students to be self supportive once they have graduated from high school.

Performance Based Compensation: I plan to work with the community and local businesses to explore options for a performance-based compensation reward package for both students and teachers. In my professional experience, I have observed that those who are positively rewarded will put in the extra effort needed to excel.

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Polly Fravel: Having a desire to provide the best education for all students, the following priorities were developed from my knowledge as a former educator, conversations with parents, members of the community, and a review of the goals of the current board:

• Foreign language instruction in elementary and middle school

The high school has had foreign language instruction for many years, but it is difficult for students to become literate with four years of instruction. Research indicates that learning an additional language, whether it be English or another language, is easier for younger children.

• Purposeful and effective use of technology in curricular content

I support the integration of technology into the educational process to improve student learning across the curriculum. Harrisonburg has a good technology plan and has purchased smart boards, document cameras, and computers to serve as resources for instruction. It is important that these and other purchases continue to be used in the most effective way.

The school system provides in-service training for teachers to keep them updated on emerging technology.

• A discipline plan that is system-wide and consistent

As students move from elementary school to middle school to high school, expectations for appropriate behavior should be clear to students and parents. Consistency in implementing expectations involves a combined effort of parents, teachers, administrators, the superintendent and the school board.

• Attraction and Retention of highly effective teachers, administrators and staff

Looking at comparable school systems in the area and offering competitive salaries and benefits will aid in attracting new employees and retaining the excellent employees currently in the system.

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Scott Baxter and Polly Fravel are running against each other for one open seat in the Harrisonburg City School Board West District.

Sallie Strickler and Stephen Barranco, Jr. are running for two open seats in the East District. Regardless of where you vote in the city, you will see all four candidates on the ballot.

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