A weekend interview with ...
... Peter Boulware, the newest member of the Florida State Board of Education. Boulware, a former FSU football star who went on to play in the NFL, will complete the term vacated by Donna Callaway. He spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about his views on state education issues and public service.
Why did you want to be on the State Board of Education?
I feel so fortunate. I had the opportunity to get a scholarship from FSU and live my dreams and go to the NFL. I really enjoyed that. I thought I wanted to come back to the state and really get involved and help out in any way I possibly can. Obviously I ran for office the last couple of years and fell a little short. But I knew I wanted to stay involved. I wanted to help out as much as I possibly can. So I got this appointment. I'm proud and honored to do it, and I'm honored to be able to try to serve the state.
When you look at what is going with the state these days, especially with regard to finances, it would seem you have a hard set of decisions that you'd be facing immediately. What are your thoughts about how education can deal with the budget cuts that are coming?
Well, I tell you what. It's tough for everybody. I'm a local businessman. I know everyone is facing the same thing - budget cuts, budget shortfalls. So it's going to be difficult to make it through this thing. We're going to have to look at the programs that are most effective, the programs that are working the best, and the programs where we're getting the most bang for our buck, and try to focus on those. After that, see where we have to go from there. But it's just going to be tough right now for everybody in the state. Budget shortfalls are very difficult to come through.
Do you look at the class-size amendment at all and have any thoughts about it? Because it seems like that's where a lot of money is going, and it's of dubious nature whether it's going to be one of those programs that works well.
Yeah. I mean, I have kind looked at that a little bit. For me, the biggest thing is I just want to make sure we're getting the most bang for our buck. I've heard some studies show that by making classes smaller, I've heard people say we're really not getting that big of a return on the investment. It sounds good. And obviously making a class smaller is probably better. But is that the best and wisest use of our dollars? I'll have to investigate more and we'll see over the years are we getting the best bang for our buck with that. So again, that is something I am going to have to look at and continue to look at the numbers to see if, now that we've done this, now that we're in the process of going through this transition, is it really going to be the best for our students? Are we really helping students by making classes smaller?
Would you advocate to the Legislature that this year they should again postpone implementation for another year because of the budget issue?
Well, again, we need to look at where we are with the dollars, where we are with finances. And again that is something I am going to have to dig into deeply and look if that's something we have to do. Maybe. But I'd want to see the raw data, I want to see the numbers and see exactly where we are before I make a decision on that.
Have you spoken with the governor at all about what his priorities are and whether they jibe with yours? Or did he say anything to you about what he expects of you?
Not really. We do need to sit down and kind of discuss his priorities and what he's interested in, and what I think the direction is we need to be headed. But we really haven't had the opportunity to sit down and discuss in detail exactly what those directions are.
Do you have set priorities as you come in to the board?
To be honest with you, my priority is to serve the kids of Florida. You know, it's one thing to come in with set priorities and have an agenda that you want to push. But for me, I've always learned that I'm most successful when I sit down and talk with people, talk to educators, talk with people who are in the system and say, 'How can I serve you? What's best for you? What can I do as a board member to help educate the people of this district?' And that's going to be my attitude. I don't want to have an attitude of, 'This is my agenda. This is what I am trying to push.' My only agenda is to serve the students of this district and make their process of getting an education as good as it possibly can be.
Do you have any thoughts about ... accountability and the FCAT?
Yeah. I do. Obviously I come from a sports background and a little business background. And I've learned in life that no one really likes accountability. No one likes to be held accountable for things and actions that happened. Accountability is tough. But I think it's essential in education to make sure that we can track and see what our students are doing. So I believe in accountability. I think it's good. Can the FCAT be reformed? Can it be better? It probably can. But I'm a firm believer that we need to have a tool there that measures our teachers, our schools and our students so we can see where they are, what they're doing. I just believe that when we track that and we keep students accountable, keep people accountable, it's just better for them in the long haul.
Are there any other issues you think the public should know as you enter a two-year term on the board?
Again, the biggest thing is, I'm here to serve. I look forward to the opportunity. I know we have some big challenges facing us, obviously, with the financial shortfall in our state. But I am looking forward to getting my hands in this thing and wrapped around it. My attitude is, whatever is best for the kids and the students of the state of Florida, that's the direction that I want to go in.