Geraldine LewisAge: 47
Education: Bachelors of Electrical Engineering from Gonzaga University
Recent or pertinent employment history: Engineer with LATA in Denver, Engineer with EDA (Engineering Design Assoc.) in Portland, Engineer with Encoder in Sandpoint
Public offices held:
Nonprofit and service groups or relevant professional organizations to which you belong:
I have been a volunteer in Sagle Elementary, Sandpoint Middle School and Sandpoint High School for the past 17 years. I have been a board member with the SHS CARE parent group and facilitated the SHS effort in support of the levy for the past four years. I have also been involved as staff and board member with the Panhandle Alliance For Education since 2007. I have volunteered with the St. Joseph Soup Kitchen on/off for the past 15 years.
What particular experiences or skills qualify you to serve on the school board?
My education as an engineer has provided me with an analytical approach to problem solving. That will serve me well in the diplomacy required to be part of a cohesive, productive school board. My time spent volunteering in our school district has connected me to the specific issues that we face here in this district and uniquely at each school. I am thorough when researching budget, curriculum, staffing issues.
1. Why are you running for trustee? How much time can you devote to board service?
Now that our four children are college bound, I have much more time on my hands. I am a volunteer in many arenas in this community, but I do not hold a 9-5 job, so my time is flexible. My interest in seeing public education thrive makes running for school board trustee a very natural next step for me. I want to stay involved in the schools and continue to see our district succeed and thrive.
2. How many school board meetings have you attended in the past year? Have you been involved in any other school activities or groups?
I have attended almost every school board meeting this past year. (Only missed 2). I wanted to be present for all the visits to each individual school in the district and hear the report given by every principal on the state of their school. I also found it extremely useful to sit in on all the special meetings held to discuss budget planning and discussions about the 2015 levy being brought before the voters.
3. Do you believe the district is doing a good job or poor job in educating students? Why?
This past year has greatly increased my respect for our superintendent, Shawn Woodward, and the entire School Board of Trustees. They spend hours reviewing the issues brought before them. It appears to me that they are very thorough in their research and review of budgets, curriculum, and student safety and quality of education. They are deeply committed to improving the education that our LPOSD students are getting and continually moving the bar higher on what we can expect from our students. That sort of passion for education is inspiring!
4. Describe the top three to five issues you believe are facing our school district and your position on these issues.
As I see it, three "hot button" topics in this area right now are 1. taxation, 2. common core and 3. the state of our small, rural schools.
First, I believe that the current level of state funding for education leaves each district looking for some outside support to meet budget needs every year. At this time, the best avenue for local support is through a 2-year levy. I support the levy. I also fully believe that the Bonner County citizens have a right to demand excellence from their education tax dollars. This means complete transparency in how that money is being deployed in the district and what impact it is having on the district's measurable success. Through the board meetings and numerous community informational sessions, I have watched Shawn Woodward repeatedly invite voters to come talk to him about their budget concerns. Only a handful take him up on this offer, but I once heard Steve Youngdahl say that after someone comes into the district office for a personal meeting, "it always results in both sides learning something new." This means that the channels of communication are open and our district is willing to hear the voters. That is encouraging to me.
Second, Common Core: I know that many people are concerned about what this new implementation of CCS means in the classroom. I can only respond by sharing how it is affecting my own student at Sandpoint High School. Rather than the old method of learning by rote memorization, this new set of standards is guaranteeing that she has the tools to analyze and process information, do research, think logically about a set of data and draw intelligent conclusions. It is also strengthening her writing skills and math skills. In short, it is better preparing her for college and the career of her choice.
Third issue, our smaller, rural schools. This spring I saw a lot of concern from the community members in Hope and Clark Fork because, with low student numbers, they feel especially hard hit by the proposed budget cuts. It is a tough spot to be in; losing key staff positions because of the tightened budget. Each school has had to be looked at very closely. One of our strengths in this district is the number of small, rural schools, both elementary and secondary schools. It is one of the characteristics that we are proud of! But at the same time, it takes extra dollars to keep those schools functioning at such a high level. I believe that by passing this latest levy so strongly, our community demonstrated that they are actively engaged in doing all we can to keep all our schools open. I hope to be part of seeing exciting changes at Clark Fork High School and other small schools and hopefully see enrollment increase, and funding for them increase.
5. What changes, if any, would you seek in the district’s curriculum?
I would like to see increased professional development for our teachers so they have the necessary tools to teach the new standards in the classrooms. I am also interested in what is called vertical alignment; having seamless transitions across all grade levels so that what you learn in one grade flows into the next year’s curriculum without gaps or unnecessary overlap.
6. In 2009, governors from 48 states undertook to develop a set of shared educational standards called the Common Core Standards. In 2011 the Idaho Legislature adopted the Idaho Core Standards, which schools are now implementing. The new standards have been supported by the governor, many educators, business leaders and business groups; but they are opposed by grass roots groups from both ends of the political spectrum. What is your position on the Idaho Core Standards, and why?
I am impressed by the changes we are seeing here in the classrooms with the implementation of these new standards. The students are challenged to do more critical thinking, to use reasoning and depth in their analysis, to expand their writing skills, to do more inquiry-based research. These improved CCS simply improve on what we had in place before, making sure that our students are even more prepared for college or career after high school.
7. Did you vote in favor, or against, the recent $15.7 million supplement levy, which passed March 10?
I voted in favor of it. I believe the school board did a good job of trimming the budget where they could, and only coming to the voters with the necessary amount to ensure quality of education.
8. What changes, if any, should be made in the district’s budget?
Every other year the district goes through the budget, by line item, to see where they can be most efficient with the dollars we have. I have great confidence in the job they are doing to make sure we are not wasting a single dollar. They seem committed to ensuring that every dollar is used most effectively to impact students in the greatest possible way.
9. What do you see as the role of technology in education?
This is an area of education that is rapidly changing and it is a critical part of today's education techniques. We need to be as up-to-date as our budget will allow without becoming overly focused on having the "latest and greatest." There is a distinction to be made between having the newest thing out on the market, and having the best teaching techniques and results.
10 What, if anything, should our school district do about teaching values? Should our district teach about family life, sex education, AIDS?
The first and strongest teachers of our children are their parents. The home is the primary place that children learn family values, social justice, moral judgment and sex education. However, our students spend a great many hours in school from the time they start KG until they graduate from high school. There are many opportunities to enhance what they are learning at home in the classroom, in areas of sex ed, financial responsibility, basic values, social morality and justice etc. We need to trust our teachers with these delicate learning opportunities just as we do with other areas of education.