Stan Katz: Curriculum, finance experience can bring district to next level
Summit School District board candidate
- Occupation: retired
- Hometown: grew up in Englewood, New Jersey. Lived 31 years in West Windsor, New Jersey.
- Years in Summit County: 11
- Family: Wife, Stephanie, and two grown children: Jeff and Dan
- Civic involvement: West-Windsor-Plainsboro, New Jersey board of education, 1997-2008; Johns Hopkins University Endowed Scholarship creator (Department of Financial Economics); Summit County Housing Authority advisory committee member; Mountain Scholars committee member; Grand Lodge Peak 7 Homeowners Association advisory board member; Colorado certified high school lacrosse referee.
I am running for the Summit School District board because I believe in high-quality public education. We owe our children the best education that we can give them, and I have always been an advocate for the strongest curriculum possible. I believe that my prior extensive experience as a former school board member, both in curriculum and budget development, can help move the Summit School District to a much higher level than it is currently.
I spent many years involved in public education, serving as a school board member in a large (9,500 students) high-achieving district in New Jersey. As the Finance Committee chairman for many of those years, I was instrumental in creating budgets of about $130 million. Those budgets allowed us to achieve rankings every year somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10 of 567 districts, yet at the same time, our per-pupil spending was slightly below the state average, so I know that I can help make this district educationally stronger, even with our historically inadequate support from the state.
Priority No. 1: Raising the district’s educational results and expectations
By most state measures, Summit is a slightly above-average school district, but it could be a lot better, and I would like to help move it in that direction. To be truly successful, a school district needs to have a good balance between social outcomes and educational outcomes. Our district has had good results emphasizing the social side, graduating more than 96% of its students, but unfortunately, it has allowed the educational side to slide, as evidenced by our mediocre state assessments. The state has set a very low bar for its educational goals, and we have allowed the district to work its way down to that level. There is no reason why Summit County, one of the wealthiest in the state and one of the most supportive of public education, cannot also have one of the highest achieving public school districts.
Reading competency is vital to both school success and later in life. As our state scores indicate, one educational area that needs serious strengthening in our district is the literacy curriculum. For better or worse, most tests of academic skills, even in mathematics, involve “word questions,” and students who are not fluent readers are at a distinct disadvantage. I do not believe that one size fits all in this vital area — we need to incorporate all of the elements of phonics, sight reading, context and vocabulary building.
Priority No. 2: Creating a better situation for our teachers
Two of the most critical components of a high-quality school district are the ability to attract the best teachers and to retain those teachers. Not surprisingly, adequate teacher pay and access to professional development are major factors for accomplishing those goals. We need to continue, and enhance wherever possible, these efforts. I support increasing current teacher salaries and raising the current entry-level salary to a level that can attract and retain teachers.
But still more can be done, especially with regard to ensuring adequate housing opportunities for these important members of our community, including a possible mortgage-assistance program for them. We don’t want to lose these people after a few years as a result of their inability to afford to live in our high-housing-cost, tourist-economy county. I am a strong proponent for continuing the county’s efforts to create more affordable housing, permanent and rental, especially for our public employees. Anything that the school board can do to promote this issue will be beneficial to the ability to retain its teaching staff and, by extension, to the county as a whole.
Priority No. 3: Promoting more board activism
After 12 years of school board experience in a large district with a reputation for board activism and high-quality results, I firmly believe those two items go hand in hand. In contrast, I have been surprised at the general passivity of the Summit school board, which seems content to leave many of its vital decision-making roles to its administrators. For example, I was extremely surprised to find out that the board doesn’t have its own Finance Committee, a situation I would like to see corrected. While the next board, even with me on it, might choose not to take that step, I would at least like the opportunity to promote that sort of change, because I believe it would result in an improved district.
If you believe, as I do, that we can be better, I would appreciate your vote.
Find more election coverage at SummitDaily.com/election.
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