School District 51 District D race: Tom Parrish
■ Age: 61
■ Hometown: Colorado Springs
■ Years in Grand Valley: 34
■ Past Board/committee experience: Doo Zoo Children’s Museum Board; Kids Voting board; Odyssey of the Mind board; Destination Imagination board; Mesa County Partners board; chair of District 51 Accountability Committee, Calendar Committee, Online Education Study Committee, Calendar Study Committee, and Closing the Achievement Gap Committee; and member of District 51 committees focused on budget, technology, curriculum, staff development, performance pay, negotiations, teacher evaluation, use of instructional time, and gifted and talented students.
Q: Do you believe that teachers should be paid based on their performance? If so, which qualities should be most important to boost someone’s pay?
A: Currently in our school district we have no one measure or multiple measures that can be used fairly and consistently to evaluate instructional staff performance across all categories of employment. Additionally, districts that have instituted pay for performance have found it difficult to identify and maintain a secure funding source to sustain a pay for performance system often leading to the watering down or elimination of the pay for performance program over time. These implementation and sustainability issues need to be addressed through direct involvement of our community, school district and employee groups prior to my considering pay for performance.
Q: Do teachers need more instruction autonomy or should they teach the same lesson as other teachers in the district?
A: Our school district yearly experiences around a 40 percent student mobility rate over the course of a school year. This student mobility creates gaps in student achievement resulting in poor academic growth. It is essential that teachers provide each student a guaranteed curriculum to successfully master grade/course level content without gaps in their learning due to moving. We must empower our teachers with the autonomy they need on how to best teach the prescribed curriculum to meet class or individual student needs. The talent and expertise of our teachers when supported and valued will make a difference in our children’s achievement.
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 Traditional Colorado Assessment Program tests?
A: There is no question that certain groups of students in our district are performing well. Other groups of our students continue to not perform as well as expected. This can be seen in the achievement gaps that exist between certain populations of students in our district. As a board member I believe the key to higher achievement for all students is to have a high quality teacher in every classroom, to create a school system where each employee sees it as their personal responsibility to help each child succeed and to raise the level of accountability for student success across the district.
Q: Will you vote for Amendment 66? Why or why not?
A: Our state has to change the manner in which it allocates funding to school districts. However, I cannot support the current ballot initiative. Because it amends our state Constitution, our district may receive less funding back from the state than is collected from our local taxpayers, set-aside funds at the state level may count against the funding we receive from the state, and most importantly we need to consider the economic well-being of Mesa County families and businesses with the extra tax burden Amendment 66 would create.
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: In light of the recent $30 million in district budget cuts I don’t believe there is anywhere our district is spending too much. I am committed to seeing that the district continues to look for efficiencies across all budget and program areas. Research is clear that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student learning. There is no more important area in which our district could spend more of its funds than in teacher training, support and implementation of the new teacher evaluation law.
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 a longer school year for our students. There is growing evidence that an increase in time spent at school impacts student achievement and I want to provide our children with every possible opportunity to succeed and grow.