The News Tribune recently asked the candidates for Jefferson City Public Schools Board of Education to answer a series of questions, some submitted by readers and some from the News Tribune staff.
Responses are in the order candidates will appear on Tuesday’s ballot.
Steve Brown, Lorelei Schwartz, Jessica Green and Stephanie Johnson are the four candidates running for two available seats on the JCPS Board of Education in the municipal election.
From reader Jeff Holzem: What specific actions will you promote to reduce our schools’ carbon footprint: recycling, composting, eliminating Styrofoam lunch containers, solar panels, wind energy, other?
Brown: “Concerning a school’s or anybody’s carbon footprint, who is not for clean air and water? Common sense recycling is just that, common sense; aluminum and cardboard are the best examples. I hate Styrofoam, enough said. Solar panels for the schools along with wind turbines are easy enough to do and should be looked at, cost versus return/savings. Keeping in mind, the sun does not always shine nor does the wind always blow.”
Schwartz: “I would enlist our high school’s green team to help design programs which are effective yet not cost-prohibitive. The green team currently operates a recycling program, and they have been exploring composting. There isn’t much Styrofoam used in the schools, but I think we could explore options for replacing Styrofoam with a more eco-friendly product or look into recycling the Styrofoam. Wind and solar energy is becoming more cost-effective. I would encourage the district to evaluate the cost-benefit analysis and use eco-friendly forms of energy when the finance of such make sense.”
Green: “Recycling is a big part of our home, and I believe that recycling should be a big part of life for everyone. I would want our district to look into ways we can be innovative when it comes to what we waste and if there are things we can use that may seem like trash to us, but can actually be reused. For example, I have known some people that instead of throwing away broken crayons they melt them down and make new ones. It’s ideas like these that could not only save money, but teach children to be resourceful.”
Johnson: “In order to advocate for programs that reduce the district’s carbon footprint, I would need a better understanding of what programs already exist. I recently watched a news story about a school using different colorful ‘shape’ containers, one with a square hole for recycling, one with a triangle for composting and one with a circle for trash. The children were learning about composting while building recycling habits. The school reduced its waste by 80 percent! I would like to see one of our elementary schools receive a grant to pilot this best practice.”
Given the start and end time changes the school board recently approved for next year, is it a good idea to offer a “zero hour” for secondary students before school to take certain classes or do extracurricular activities, to compensate for after-school needs and responsibilities that conflict with a later school end time? Should transportation be offered for students who choose to use a zero hour?
Brown: “Offering a zero hour option is a topic that I am just not familiar with. I do know the new time schedule was not popular by many. I believe the new time change was determined by data that was and is available that supports the change. Day care, before- and after-school functions will have to adjust to it and will. Also keep in mind having a teacher for an early class and providing transportation all add up to extra costs (that) could be spent other ways. Overall, I am not a big fan of the option.”
Schwartz: “Yes, I believe zero hour should be offered to those children who choose to be involved in extracurricular activities and/or working. I also think we should expand our work-study program for those children who need/want to work after school. I believe providing transportation for zero hour would be cost-prohibitive. We currently do not provide transportation to students who choose to participate in extra activities, although it is something we could evaluate in the future if funds are available.”
Green: “I definitely don’t see a problem with offering a zero hour. I wouldn’t have it be something that’s mandatory, but it definitely should be an option. As far as transportation for it, if it’s a class that’s offered, then yes, the district should provide transportation depending on the number of students that would be enrolled in that hour.”
Johnson: “Zero hour isn’t a new concept. My son participated in it for weightlifting. I recall the band practicing as well. I would be in favor of continuing zero hour. I think it’s a great opportunity to do some extracurricular activities before school if a student so chooses. I don’t think the district is in a position to provide zero hour transportation, however, as my understanding is that all buses will be utilized for elementary pick-up. I vividly remember driving my son to school at 5:45 a.m. for weightlifting, so I’m not sure zero hour transportation ever existed.”
Should the district’s middle and high schools switch from a block class schedule to a seven-bell class schedule that would mean more but shorter classes each day?
Brown: “Classroom scheduling is a subject that I would want the teachers to be in on. For example, the Marines have grunts/infantry boots on the ground do the work. The entire Marine Corps exists to support those Marines on the ground. The JCPS system should exist to do that same thing for the teachers who are the ‘boots on the ground.'”
Schwartz: “My research indicated most of the U.S. top performing schools use a minimum seven-bell schedule. Students can take more classes. A student struggling with reading can add a reading class to their schedule — an option not available with block scheduling. More instruction time is available with seven periods. The class is an entire semester as opposed to a quarter. Lastly, it allows for less time between prerequisite classes. If you take Spanish I the first period of your freshman year and Spanish II the fourth period of your sophomore year, that is several more months more than taking it first semester freshman year to second semester sophomore year.”
Green: “I like the idea of block scheduling because it better prepares students for what college scheduling is like. However, I can also see the benefit in having the seven shorter classes every day. The best way to figure out what is going to be best would be to ask the students/staff what they think would work best, as they are the ones who are there every day and going through the schedules from day to day.”
Johnson: “I am in favor of the seven-bell class schedule. Block scheduling requires teachers to rush through content in order to complete classes in a shorter time frame. For many students, they get behind quickly. Additionally, when a student is out sick or misses class for extracurricular activities, they miss quite a bit of instruction. Finally, I believe a large component of academic success is the teachers’ ability to connect with the students. A seven-bell schedule will increase the calendar months a student is in a class. This will allow teachers more time to foster relationships in the classroom.”