Monday, April 14, 2014

Questioned Answered By Ella Smith for School Board

What experience do you bring to the job and what is your motivation to serve as a school board member?

With 34 years of experience as a special education, biology, and health and physical education teacher, I possess a vast amount of knowledge regarding the inner workings of our schools. I have a B.S. in Health and PE, a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Ed.S. in Educational Administration.
 As an advocate for change in the DeKalb County School System, I have been actively involved for over 16 years as a parent, teacher and stakeholder.  My year of experience as an educator and an advocate, coupled with my deep love for DeKalb, motivates me to make the DeKalb County School System the top school system in Georgia.

If elected, what would be your three (3) top policy priorities and how would you work to achieve results?

My top priority is to provide each child in DeKalb County with the opportunity for a 21st century education.  Better enforced discipline policies, quality teachers, and learning community opportunities are essential.

My second priority is to work with other school board members to assure full dual accreditation of our school system.

My third priority is to improve communication with all stakeholder groups in DeKalb County.  I would encourage the school superintendent, principals, and staff to communicate and demonstrate to all stakeholder groups that the success of the public school system is a shared responsibility and that input from parents, students, teachers, and business leaders is necessary for success.

In your opinion, what is the single biggest weakness in your school system and what will you do while in office to address it?

The single biggest weakness I see involves the financial responsibility of the DeKalb County School System.  There is too much money spent on administration and busing our children all over the county.  As a school board member, I will advocate the need to restructure the county office, stop spending millions of dollars busing our children, and make sure money is put back into our classrooms to provide every child in DeKalb County with an optimal learning environment.
If elected, which of the 17 pathways being developed by the Department of Education would you support putting in your district school and why?
The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) has developed 56+ Career Pathways in areas of Career and Technical Education in preparation for a seamless transition from high school to post secondary training at a college or technical school. As a school board member I will encourage strengthening our technical schools in the north and south sides of the county in order to offer each strand that is currently not offered in the high schools. I would encourage the school superintendent to work closely with the DeKalb Technical College to enable our high school students to take strands of classes through programs like joint enrolment and “Move on When Ready.” I would encourage the school superintendent to have strong Science, Math, Technology, and Work-Based Programs in every high school in DeKalb County.
Which educational reform idea do you believe has the most promise for your school system?

 Taxpayers have invested considerable resources in the DeKalb County Schools.  Ever-increasing funding of Education has not led to improved student performance.  Federal, state, and school board policymakers should implement educational reform designed to improve resource allocation to the classroom, instead of simply increasing funding for public education. Teacher involvement will improve this resource allocation and in turn boost students’ performance.

What is the appropriate relationship between the state and local communities regarding their contribution to school funding?
It is important that the relationship between the state and local communities continue to stay positive.  However, in DeKalb County there is dissatisfaction with the current series of formulas established by the 1986 Quality Basic Education Act.  Now is the opportunity for the state policymakers to re-evaluate the state’s approach to funding and reform its financial system so that it gives all school systems the funding they need, and to provide positive incentives for districts and schools to spend smarter and gain better achievement outcomes.


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