Schools need more consistency, Pasco School Board candidate Terranova says
With its transient community, Pasco County schools need to have more consistency in the way things are done, District 3 School Board candidate Anthony Terranova says.
Terranova, a fifth-grade teacher at Cotee River Elementary, told the Gradebook that nearly 70 percent of his students last year had not attended Cotee River the year before. That meant learning new rules regarding discipline and consequences, conferences and more, he said.
"When things change and a student has to adjust, it takes time away from student learning," Terranova said.
At the same time, he added, the district needs to be careful not to spend money irresponsibly on initiatives toward this goal. He mentioned a recent multimillion-dollar investment into Learning Focused Strategies, a district-wide teacher training effort that teachers have widely maligned.
"LFS was a huge waste of money," Terranova said. "I learned all that stuff in school already. ... We didn't need to go to a company to give us that stuff."
Read on for more of Terranova's views on the issues, from a St. Petersburg Times questionnaire.
What is your position on amending Constitutionally required class sizes? How do you propose to finance the long-term costs of the class-size amendment if voters choose not to alter it in November?
I support the amendment to ease class size requirements, however only after reading SJR2. Amendment 8, as it will appear on the ballot, is not worded very well. I am happy SJR2 does keep the original intent of the class size amendment intact while providing the necessary flexibility our schools need.
Do you support or oppose levying an additional quarter-mill property tax this year?
I support the quarter mill increase. Our property values are at 2002 levels. The RLE (required local effort) set by the legislature is less now than 2002. The millage rate for fiscal year 2003 was 6.382 for general operations. For FY 2010 the millage was 5.84.
Do you support or oppose the expansion of charter schools? What do you think is the appropriate role of charter schools in public education and what should be the benchmark for performance?
If there are students who are achieving academic levels of success they were unable to attain at their public school, then there is a benefit. The questions that I would have are; "Why are these students suddenly successful?", and "Can it be duplicated in the public school?" I do not like the fact that District funds are going into private hands, i.e., the company or individual running the charter school. I do understand that state law mandates this. Charter schools fall under the District's umbrella so they are held to the same standards as public schools.
Would the school district and its students and families benefit from a magnet school approach to gifted education or one that has part-time programs at every school?
I think a magnet school for gifted students would be spectacular. The questions I have are "How do we measure who is gifted?" and "Would it be solely based on a test?" Also all students are gifted in at least 1 area. Let's develop multiple magnet schools. Artistic, musical, etc.
Increased parental participation at schools is cited as a common need nearly universally. How would you propose to get parents more involved in their children's education?
We need to create parent education programs to give them the confidence and knowledge necessary to assist in their child's education. Educational philosophies, teaching strategies, and learning benchmarks are continuously changing, so parents need to be informed about current events in education and how it affects their students and themselves.
In light of Senate Bill 6 and the promise from legislators to seek a new version of it next year, should the district be moving toward changes in teacher pay/performance and developing end-of-year tests in each subject?
Hillborough county has merit pay now. It does not work based on the statistics of the recipients. 75% work in affluent schools. Less than 5% in high FRL schools. I do agree with the concept of merit pay, however because of the financial situation the district is in, now is not the right time to develop a merit pay plan.
I graduated from high school in New York. They have a regents system in place where high school students must pass certain end of course exams in order to receive a regents diploma. End of course exams would be a greater measure of academic achievement than our current exam, the FCAT.
What is your opinion of Superintendent Heather Fiorentino's job performance?
Superintendent Fiorentino is an extremely intelligent person with a strong work ethic. She has had to make tough decisions because of the financial situation we face. I agreed with her opposition to Amendment 1, (increased exemption). I also agree with her support for the quarter-mill levy. An area I disagreeed with was LFS, (Learning-Focused Strategies). Millions of dollars was spent on a program that could have been developed by district personnel.
What specific ideas do you have on balancing the school district budget? Would you consider furloughing employees, cutting benefits, reducing salaries or other personnel cost reductions?
1) 10% salary reduction for all employees with salaries over $85,000.
2) Most district employees receive 6 paid holidays per year. I would take 3 from administrators, 2 from instructional staff, and 1 from SRP's.
3) Raising the thermostats at schools. Most schools I have been to are FREEZING. The district electric bill is over $1 million a MONTH.
4) In the district where I attended high school a vote was conducted every summer to determine if the tax payer was willing to pay a higher rate to pay for items like extracurricular activities. My senior year the taxpayers did not agree to the higher tax rate and I had to pay to play basketball. I would introduce this plan.
5) Work with state legislators to create a health insurance pool. The premium for health insurance has increased from $2,500 per employee in 2003 to $6,000 in 2010.
Describe why voters should consider you for this office and what you hope to accomplish:
After the 2010 election cycle we will have 3 of the 5 board members serving in their first term. I understand there will be a tremendous learing curve for whomever is elected. However I feel I am the most prepared to serve from day 1 out of all the District 3 candidates. This is because I have been interested in and researched how the process of educating our students works. I am aware of how the budget works, how education is financed in Florida, the process in which Districts are allocated funds (FEFP), various state and federal mandates, the obstacles facing education, etc.
My goal is to make Pasco County a nationally renowed school district. This will take much effort and I vow to work day and night to create policies that will put our students and educators in the best position to accomplish my goal.