School District 51 District C race: John Williams
■ Age: 64
■ Hometown: I was born in Sterling. I moved with my family 17 times before getting out of high school. I graduated from Grand Junction High School.
■ Years in the Grand Valley: I have been in the valley since 1978, but with a three-year stint in Seattle 1988-1991.
■ Past board/committee or education experience: School affiliations are former member Long Range Planning Committee, participated in two bond measure elections and chaired the last mill levy override ballot initiative. Facilitator in inaugural Explore 51 leadership classes. Read with a great kid in the Chamber’s 500 Plan.
Q: Do you believe teachers should be paid based upon their evaluations? If so, which qualities should be most important in the decision to boost pay?
A: Teachers’ evaluations should be used as a part of establishing their rate of pay. But the evaluation system needs to be fair. Teachers have different jobs/roles and teach different student populations across the district. There should be a standard salary scale with additional money available for exceptional work. Components of salary should include a base rate plus pay for additional degrees, with the added component of evaluations. Student assessments should be a factor in the teacher evaluation, but TCAP (Transitional Student Assessment Program) scores should not predominate. Assessment tools created by District 51 and relevant to our community are more important, especially assessment tools that measure student growth.
Q: Do teachers need more instructional autonomy or should they teach the same lessons as other teachers in the district?
A: Both. Proficiency tests now dominate teaching. While assessments and tests are needed so that parents and the public can measure performance, teachers need the freedom to teach to diverse kids and to motivate with their own styles. I support a common curriculum that keeps all elementary kids throughout the district on about the same page each day, with the teacher using his or her own teaching style. Mobility in District 51 is so prevalent that a common curriculum each day keeps the kids that move from getting lost. In later grades this “sameness” each day is less critical and I support greater autonomy in high school grades so long as the basic curriculum is consistent.
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 Assessment Program tests?
A: In many cases student proficiency as measured by TCAP is above state average and has improved in recent years. But overall results are not where we want to be. It is also true that the kids that do the best have involved parents, a factor that is out of board control. To improve performance, I advocate three things. First, focus on getting all third-graders reading proficiently by the end of third grade. We must go district-wide with the reading coaches currently implemented at our Title 1 schools. Second, I would make a concentrated effort to find the cause and solution to the problem of our kids not being college/job ready. Third, I would bring in innovative curriculums, like a proven physics curriculum in middle schools, to engage kids and enhance critical thinking skills.
Q: Will you vote for Amendment 66? Why or why not?
A: My personal position on Amendment 66 is not directly relevant to being a School Board member. The job of the Board is to budget and allocate available funds wisely, putting money into kids and classrooms. If 66 passes, that is what I will do with the additional funds. However, I will not vote for Amendment 66. Amending the Constitution as a solution leads to unintended consequences. Look at the Gallagher Amendment which penalizes business owners so much. That said, I would love to have the additional money for our schools. The school system is part of the infrastructure of our community that we need to invest in for the long term. A great school system is the number one factor in attracting and expanding businesses and creating jobs. To enhance this infrastructure, we need to find and agree on smart solutions for additional funding.
Q: Name an area where District 51 spends too much money. Are there any areas of the budget where the District should spend more?
A: There are no areas where District 51 spends too much. Budget cuts during the recession have gone to the bone. District 51 is the sixth-lowest funded in the state and Colorado is 43rd of all states in money spent on K-12 education. There is no waste. If additional money is available, I would first spend funds on reading and math coaches in all elementary schools. The effectiveness of this method is proven. The goal is ALL third-graders proficient in reading at the end of third grade. I would spend money figuring out and curing the problem of lack of college/job readiness. I would invest in cutting edge curriculums that have proven track records of raising test scores and student achievement.
Q: Are you in favor of longer school days and/or a longer school year in District 51? Why or why not?
A: I am in favor of more instructional time. If we can figure how to pay the $600,000 per day cost to operate our schools, I would increase school days. More “seat time” raises student achievement. The new school calendar is aimed at more instructional time for the kids who are falling behind. Embedded in each quarter is a two-week period that the district will use to help kids immediately rather than waiting to the end of the year when the student is even further behind. Kids in early grades particularly need schedules that reduce “catching up” time, increase continuity, and allow for immediate assistance for kids who might be falling behind.