WSFCS Board of Education Candidate Responses, Allen Daniel, At-Large
Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 3, 2022
Allen Daniel, At-Large, Republican
1) Describe any experience you have in a public school environment, whether that be as a teacher, administrator, coach, staff member, current member of the school board, substitute teacher, PTA involvement, etc.
I am a parent of two students in the WS/FCS system, and both my wife and myself spent our school years in the system. I have been a volunteer and PTA member since my oldest started school in 2011. In 2015, I left the IT field to do an internship in preparation for becoming a lateral entry math teacher. I taught high school math in 2016-17, was a sub in the fall of 2017, and an after-school and Saturday tutor in the district from February 2018 until COVID closed the schools in March 2020. I have continued to volunteer and am currently a volunteer with my son’s marching band.
2) What do you feel are the biggest issues facing students, teachers and staff at schools currently and within your authority as a member of the BOE, how would you work to fix them?
The biggest issues facing students are the lack of safety in our schools and the chaos in the classroom for many. Many students are years behind, and with class sizes what they are, teachers are not able to get them caught up. By safety, I am not talking just about external threats to our schools, but the fights and bullying within them.
The biggest challenge facing our teachers is the lack of time, resources and support given them to do their one job, which is to teach. They are expected to catch up students who are years behind, while, at the same time, providing food for those who are hungry, support for those who are hurting, and accelerated instruction for those who are thriving academically. That is simply not possible. And instead of asking our teachers what they need, and providing them the support staff to help them meet those needs, we introduce more “silver bullet” programs with more training for teachers.
Another challenge facing all our staff, teachers and support staff alike, is the number of empty positions. Our bus mechanics are supporting twice as many buses as recommended; our drivers are covering extra routes, getting some kids to school late every day and getting kids home at dinnertime; our cafeterias started the year short over 100 positions; we have TAs (teacher assistants) teaching classes; teachers covering vacant positions in addition to their own classes; and counselors responsible for 400 students instead of the recommended 250.
It is the responsibility of the board to set policy that ensures every student in the district has a safe environment in which to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. That means setting an expectation of excellence and respect throughout the district. If there are empty positions, they need to be filled. If that requires additional funding, we need to ask our state and county for additional funds. But first, we need to find out why so many positions go unfilled. It is much more cost effective, and creates a far more positive learning environment for students and teachers, to address the safety issues and the lack of respect. If a student cannot conduct themselves in a manner that allows everyone in the classroom to feel safe, to teach, and to learn, there needs to be an alternative setting for them. I no longer believe in expulsion or suspension. Students cannot learn if they are not in school; but no student can learn in a chaotic environment. We need a firm policy that sends disruptive students to an alternative setting, with the support they need to get back on track.
I spoke to a middle school English teacher recently who said they calculated that they spend eight weeks every year assessing students; then we wonder why they are so far behind. I thought about that. That’s like being deeply in debt; so deep I know I cannot possibly get caught up in five years. Every Friday, I take the day off to call all my creditors and ask them how much I owe. How much further ahead would I be if I worked those Fridays and called them once at the end of the year?
Part of that is state policy, but part of it is the programs provided by the experts to make up for learning loss. Regardless of how we got so far behind, there is only one solution to getting caught up: teach, not test. Once students get to middle school, I have no problem with holding them accountable for passing a standardized test at the end of the year to prove their proficiency. What does it benefit them to pass them along if they are not proficient? They are only going to fall further behind.
3) What would you do as a member of the BOE to establish relationships with the schools and students outside of being present for all meetings?
As a candidate, I set up meet and greets at every public library in the county over the past two weeks, and invited the public to come and share their concerns and ask questions. I will continue that practice as a board member. I will be open to hear from parents, students, teachers and support staff; and will be a voice for them within the board. I will be in the schools as a volunteer and a reading tutor, and make myself available at public forums held by the district.
Our parents know what their students need, and our teachers know what they need to meet those needs. Rather than hiring “experts” to come in and sell us a new program and tell our teachers how to do their jobs, we need to ask our teachers what they need, and do our best to provide that. Most of the time, it is going to be more time, and more freedom, to teach what they know their students need.