John Sluder: District E
Years in Grand Valley: 25
Past board/committee or education experience: I’ve worked in the private sector and served on many community boards, and for the past 15 years I’ve taught students at the community college real-world skills that are allowing them to get good jobs, even before they graduate. This worked for me in the private sector, it’s working for the students I teach now and it will work for all the kids who need a better chance to succeed.
Q: Do you believe teachers should be paid based on their evaluations? If so, which qualities should be most important in the decision to boost someone’s pay?
A: Quality teachers understand that each student has a unique learning style, which requires time to form crucial relationships with students. These are the reasons teachers teach. After years of the same old ineffective ideas, the administrative burden on our teachers has increased and they have less quality time to spend with their students. I think teachers should be paid based on their evaluations, but we need to make sure we are evaluating them on real performance and relative student progress, not some arbitrary set of test scores that is unrelated to what our students need. The key to education lies in the effectiveness of our great teachers.
Q: Do teachers need more instructional autonomy or should they teach the same lessons as other teachers in the district?
A: I am dedicated to creating a balanced education for the students of School District 51. The school district should have academic standards that are rigorous but are also directly connected to the unique needs of our students, and that will prepare them for the real world of the 21st century. The key to a balanced education lies in the effectiveness of our great teachers. I want to give them the time to do what they do best: teach. This requires them to tailor instruction to meet the needs of each individual student.
Q: Do you believe local students are performing well? As a board member, how would you hope to contribute to improving their performance in the classroom and on Transitional Colorado Q: Assessment Program tests?
A: As evidenced by the Daily Sentinel article, our school district is accredited, but needs improvement. This has not been addressed by the current board and it is one of the first things we need to look at. The fact that 38 percent of the graduates require remedial education to be successful in college level coursework reflects this problem. I want teachers to have the freedom to enforce disciplinary measures within their classrooms that address behavior issues which impact learning. Administrators, parents and teachers have a shared accountability to ensure that schools are safe, with the optimal conditions for young minds to grow.
Q: Will you vote for Amendment 66? Why or why not?
A: I am personally opposed to raising taxes on individuals and families, especially when so many in our state are struggling. As a taxpayer, I am opposed to Amendment 66 and I do not support Senate Bill 213, which is driving the tax hike. The division of funds and the vague wording in the bill allow too much flexibility for the legislature to reallocate as they see fit. Nevertheless, as a candidate for the board of education, my job is not to lobby for fiscal policy, it is to ensure the viability of our district no matter the outcome of the initiative.
Q: Name an area where District 51 spends too much money. Also, are there any areas of the budget where the district should spend more?
A: The school district budget committee found savings throughout the system but I think that consolidation of some administrative programs could result in even more efficiency. One area that I think we are weak in is school safety. If funds are available, I would put more effort toward physically securing our schools and adding School Resource Officers to the buildings where the greatest safety concerns exist. As I visit schools, I am concerned that we are vulnerable.
Q: Are you in favor of longer school days and/or a longer school year in D51? Why or why not?
A: I am concerned that we are not utilizing the current contact time effectively. I have students asking me “why we even go to school on Wednesdays, because we can’t get anything done in a half day.” Why is this extra time needed? Because of the administrative burdens placed on our teachers. This will require reducing those burdens in order to provide teachers the time they need to form relationships with students and teach. I will look at the current academic and extra-curricular activities and make sure the calendar reflects good teaching strategies, and honors the time allotment our teachers need to prepare and instruct.