‘These are our schools, yours and mine’

‘These are our schools, yours and mine’

State of Our Schools: Lee students rising to the challenges faced today

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze May 29, 2015 issue

Superintendent Nancy Graham

Superintendent Nancy Graham

Although students today are faced with rigorous expectations to prepare them for a competitive workforce, School District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Graham told those in attendance at the State of Our Schools – Partners in Education breakfast Friday morning that students are rising to the challenge with great success.

With this year’s State of Our Schools theme of “Star Wars” The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower dressed as Yoda and Graham dressed as Princess Leia.

Superintendent Nancy Graham and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower.

Superintendent Nancy Graham and The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower.

“The summation of what I know . . . Star Wars goes like this – there are good guys and one really bad guy dressed in black. So, I had to ask myself how in the world do I relate all that to education,” she said. “Yoda has very few words to say. And when he says them, they are received as profound and lasting.”

Graham’s speech was broken down into seven lessons shared through Yoda.

Her first lesson, “you must unlearn what you have learned,” touched upon the difficult tasks with which educators are faced. Graham said most people have gone to school and many want to serve as local experts in running a school.

“Though it is comfortable for us to relate current life to our own experiences, it would be really helpful in the case of public education for individuals to unlearn or at least suspend personal experiences and see education for what it is today,” she said. “Heavily legislative, often politicized and insufficiently funded.”

Public education has changed in terms of requirements for high school graduation. Graham said years ago students completed their high school math requirements after finishing algebra one.

“You all know those same folks never had to pass a standardized test or end of course exam in math, history or science,” she said. “It’s likely in most cases those same people are reaping the benefits of a well-lived professional life. But today, none of those same people would be able to earn a high school diploma based on the current requirements facing our freshman class, the class of 2018.”

This year’s senior class had to earn at least a half credit of online courses to receive a high school diploma.

When adding rigorous, challenging and prescriptive academic expectations to life experiences of students that are already faced without a stable family unit, homelessness, poverty, English as a second language, neighborhood violence, mental illness and physical or emotional abuse the chance to become a kid may never come, she said.

Through all of those difficulties, Graham said there is a positive note. In 2014, Lee County achieved the highest reading learning gains in its history; performed above the state average in points earned for the state grading system; improved the district grade and this year’s high school graduates earned a combined $50 million in scholarships.

Her second lesson was titled “difficult to see, always in motion is the future, which focused on predicting what students might need to be prepared beyond their kindergarten through 12th grade education.

“As today’s educators, we are charged with preparing our students for the workforce. A workforce full of jobs yet to be defined,” Graham said. “This is the new way of work . . . preparing the future for the unknown. This is why we must focus on teaching our students how to think and problem solve. To look at math and science and literature from angles and many lenses.”

The future for the students is why the district focuses on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – as well as STEAM, because Lee County also includes the arts in its schools. Comprehensive high schools, which allow students to earn diplomas and industry certifications, are also offered to prepare students for the workforce.

Graham said the district also invests in such student leadership programs as JROTC, where Lee County ranks as the second largest in the country.

Another lesson, “truly wonderful the mind of a child” spoke to the district’s responsibility of acknowledging the minds they reach through relationships and programs to nurture students.

“You think Yoda stops teaching just because a student does not want to hear – a teacher Yoda Is” shared information about the teachers of Lee County.

Graham said next year the school district will employ just under 6,000 teachers, 2,000 of whom have a master’s degree or higher. She said it is no easy task to hire and retain the best talent because the School District of Lee County is the biggest employer from Tampa to Miami.

“We are back to a growth pattern of an additional 1,500 to 2,000 students a year,” Graham said. “We are projected to be in that mode for the next 10 years.”

The lesson also shared information about the newest career opportunities for teachers. A teacher leader spends part of their day teaching and the other half coaching other teachers, which Graham said has been successful.

Grants through the National Education Association have also helped in closing the learning gap in Lee County. What started as assistance for 10 schools, will have reached 30 schools in 2016 with the grant.

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good as you will not,” highlighted the capital budget funds decrease. Graham said the combination of lower property taxes, reduced impact fees and reduced funding from the state in the past five years resulted in $656 million loss to the district’s capital budget.

“As a district and a community, we can no longer pretend the losses have no impact as we face a growing number of students,” she said. “These are our schools, yours and mine. Our schools need to be maintained while new schools will ultimately have to be built to house the children that we know are coming.”

Another lesson titled “Try no. Do or do not. There is no try,” shared the importance of partnerships and their involvement.

“All in means more than just writing a check . . . though we are grateful for your financial support. In this partnership all in is about being an advocate of our schools, correcting misperceptions when you hear them or sharing the positives when others may want to be negative,” Graham said. “All in means we make promises to one another and we keep them.”

Some of those promises include a balance budget without using reserved funds; measurable three year strategic plan; nationally credited school district ; increase learning gains among all groups of students; at least one school counselor at every school; 325 fewer required tests; forward movement with technology including the start of one-on-one devices for students; C to a B district and on the way to becoming an A district, as well as continuing to work with the community to keep its vision.

She closed her speech by asking the audience to “pass on always what you have learned.”

“The more who know more the better and stronger the partnership becomes among us,” Graham said. “Our doors are open to you as we move forward and I encourage you to visit our schools. I will personally take you.

County to consider raising impact fees

County to consider raising impact fees

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Feb. 27, 2015 issue

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners will begin its discussions about a possible impact fee increase this Tuesday during a public hearing.

“I can only hope that it goes well,” Commissioner Frank Mann said of the public hearing. “I’m nervous to say the least.”

The current fees are set at 20 percent of the estimated cost of constructing such things as roads, parks and schools necessitated by growth.

Building Industry Association Executive Vice President Brenda Thomas said they would love the impact fees to remain at 20 percent because they feel the market is still emerging.

“People who have been struggling for more than five years to find a job are now going to be threatened. That is hard to take,” she said.

The biggest issue the Building Industry Association is having right now is the uncertainty of where the impact fee rate will fall.

“Builders are in contracts with homeowners right now and they don’t know what to put in the contract,” Thomas said of impact fees.

The fees were reduced 80 percent two years ago when the commission agreed to a temporary reduction to spur the economy.

“The reason we changed it (was) while the building industry was on its back, but those days are gone,” Mann said. “Permits for construction are flying off the shelves. The industry is very healthy and alive and the impact fees need to be restored.”

The starting point for Tuesday’s hearing would bring the charges on new construction up to 45 percent of cost or more than double the current amount charged.

While commissioners will start their conversation at the 45 percent rate, county staff is recommending that the commission provide a 15 percent discount, or 85 percent of cost, which would bring the fee from $2,900 to $11,000 on a new home.

If the county commissioners approve 45 percent impact fees, Thomas said it will have a very negative impact on the building industry at this point.

“At 45 percent, you are looking at almost a $3,200 increase for a single family home, depending on which is the basis point for 45 percent,” she said.

Mann said he is in favor of restoring back to 100 percent because Lee County desperately needs revenue for new infrastructure because thousands of people are moving into the area and permits for new homes are up again.

Thomas, on the other hand, said although they are seeing an increase, they are not on “fire yet” regarding the number of permits pulled. She said a lot of the permits have been for multi-family apartments and commercial properties.

Mann said where ever he goes, he has 100 percent support on his position from the residents of Lee County.

“I knew it was the right thing to do from the beginning,” Mann said, adding that overwhelming support from the community it only reaffirms his belief.

Mann voted against the one-year reduction with the option for a second year in March 2013.

At 100 percent, including a cost adjustment, the fee would be $12,985 to build a new home. At 85 percent the fee would be $11,116 for a single family home. Currently, at 20 percent, the fee is $2,942.

“It worked very well for 20 years, so why would we change that?” Mann asked. “It needs to be a part of our revenue stream now. Impact fees have never kept anyone from moving here. The 20 years we have had them was the fastest expansion period in the history of the county.”

Mann said he does not see how it is fair to ask residents of Lee County to subsidize its growth requirements when there is a perfect example of a program that works – impact fees.

“It’s only fair that growth pays for growth, and the new people coming here pay for the roads and school classrooms they are demanding,” he said.

School Board member Steve Teuber said the school board voted unanimously to support 100 percent restoration.

“We had three things happen over the last five years, which was kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

Property values declined over those five years, the school district’s capital millage was cut from 2.0 mills to 1.5 mills and the County Commission reduced impact fees, including those for schools, by 80 percent.

Teuber said $640 million was lost in potential income. He said the district is carrying a $450 million capital debt with an annual debt service of $42 million.

“We need money from any source possible,” Teuber said.

He said if the school district gets $9 million from impact fees, they still need $300 million more.

“Nine million isn’t going to make the road,” Teuber said. “We need about $40 million a year.”

Even with an increase in impact fees, the school board’s needs still are not met.

“I certainly know that whatever the Board of County Commissioners do is not going to be the answer,” he said.

With that said, Teuber expressed that the school board wants the county commission to do what they feel is right based on their collaborative work.

“If they give us 55 percent, we are going to say thank you very much,” he said.

Thomas said the biggest issue is the commissioners have a big infrastructure need in Lee County and Southwest Florida. She said impact fees are just a small portion of solving that problem.

The impact fee covers only the new infrastructure that would have to be built to accommodate additional population.

By law, the money collected from impact fees cannot be used for maintenance or regular government operations. The money can only be used to add capacity. In other words, the funds can be used to add a lane to a road, but not to repave a road. They can be used to construct a new bridge but not repair an old bridge.

Thomas said the amount of money that it would take to fix road congestion could not be solved with impact fees. She said the traffic congestion on 41 or on the way to the beach could not be fixed with impact fees.

“Many issues we are facing cannot be solved with one solution,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to solve a problem by hurting someone else. A true community solves the problem together.”

Thomas said another issue with raising impact fees is the effect it will have on the valuation of all properties in Lee County.

She said the issue at hand is how do they manage growth in a productive way that leads to a better, more user friendly community without taking the No. 1 economic drivers and throwing them under the bus.

“Raising impact fees to the maximum will not fix the problem,” Thomas said.

The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers, 2120 Main St,. Fort Myers.

 

 

County eyes impact fee hike

County eyes impact fee hike

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Feb. 5, 2015 issue

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners will begin its discussions about a possible impact fee increase during a public hearing scheduled for March 3.

The current fee is set at 20 percent of the estimated cost of constructing such things as roads, parks and schools necessitated by growth. The starting point for next month’s hearing would bring the charge on new construction up to 45 percent of cost or more than double the current amount charged.

District 4 Commissioner Brian Hamman said the analogy he uses for impact fees is it is a “set up charge,” or an “activation fee” for joining a community when building a new home. The impact fee covers the new infrastructure they would possibly have to build to accommodate additional population.

By law, the money collected from impact fees cannot be used for maintenance or regular government operations. The money can only be used to add capacity.

In other words, the funds can be used to add a lane to a road, but not to repave a road. They can be used to construct a new bridge but not repair an old bridge.

“These are supposed to be fees that cover the impact of growth and not regular maintenance,” Hamman said.

The dollars collected from impact fees also have to be expended in the same district where the money was collected.

“If you are going to collect fees in Estero, you have to spend that impact fee in Estero,” he explained. “It is the most volatile of funds because they rely strictly on the economy and construction being good.”

Hamman said there does not need to be high impact fees to generate a lot of revenue.

“You will encourage more growth and more building with lower fees and more revenue to build infrastructure with,” he said.

The impact fees collection rate has the potential of going from 20 percent to 100 percent of cost on March 13 if the Lee County Board of County Commissioners does not take further action as that is when the reduction to 20 percent of cost is set to “sunset.”

At 100 percent, including a cost adjustment, it would add a fee of $12,985 to build a new home and $11,116 for a single family home at the 85 percent rate. Currently, at 20 percent, the fee is $2,942.

“If you were to let the reduction expire and let the fee jump up to $13,000, you are adding $10,000 worth of cost to the house,” Hamman said. “The builder is going to pass it onto the consumer. That cost is going to hurt a middle class home. I am trying to think of how we can keep housing affordable for families that want to build a house.”

While commissioners will start their conversation at the 45 percent rate, county staff is recommending that the commission provide a 15 percent discount, or 85 percent of cost. He said at 85 percent, the fee would go from $2,900 to $11,000 on a new home.

“I think you would slow down the market with that kind of increase,” Hamman said. “My position is that a 55 percent reduction actually means a $7,000 saving to a middle class family. That could mean a difference for families of whether or not they continue to build a home.”

Brian Rist, immediate past president of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association said it is obvious that Lee County needs money, but he does not think impact fees are the correct way of going about generating the funds.

“There are other ways of generating revenue that seem to me to be more logical,” he said. “Like if you are going to build roads, why not add a few cents to the gas tax?”

Rist said the problem with impact fees is the charge is only assessed to new construction. Currently, 80 percent of the homes being built are $200,000 or less.

In regard to impact fees to build schools, Rist said the majority of people buying new homes in Lee County are moving from up north after their kids are grown and out of the house.

“Impact fees don’t affect people going to school,” Rist said. “But when real estate changes hands, that is everybody.”

Rist believes the commission is going to set the impact fees anywhere from 45 percent to 85 percent of cost.

“At this time new construction is just starting to return to a good level. It is definitely improving,” he said. “But it is just starting to recover and things like this could set us back again.”

One solution Rist believes would help would be through a real estate transfer fee. He said if a smaller amount of money is paid when real estate changes hands it would make more sense.

“When real estate goes down, when the economy goes down, people don’t buy new houses, but real estate constantly changes hands,” he said.

In March 2013, Hamman said the county commission decided to temporarily reduce the impact fee rate by 80 percent to help jumpstart the local economy.

“That is really largely because our economy in Lee County is driven by growth and new construction,” he said. “Since 2007, we really saw no new growth. Permitting was dead. People were out of work. Long-time businesses were closing down.”

Hamman said the commissioners really could not find a way to climb out of the recession.

Single family permits pulled went from more than 9,000 per year at the peak of the construction boom to 373 permits in 2011.

Lee County is starting to see the rise in permits pulled with 933 last year.

Although the growth is starting to appear, Hamman said they are only about a third of where they were before 2000. He said they were at a sustainable growth rate they could handle at about 2,600 permits a year.

“Oldest theater group in Lee County”

Catching a Show at Cultural Park Theatre

Published in Community Lifestyles Cape Coral October/November 2014 issue

The oldest theater group in Lee County is celebrating 52 years of providing entertainment to Southwest Florida residents and visitors.

coverExecutive Director Michael Moran said the Cultural Park Theatre began with a group of 10 thespians in the early 1960s who enjoyed putting on plays and performances, performing for folks at the Yacht Club.

The shows became very popular once the entertaining began, which led the group to changing their troupe name to the Cape Coral Community Players.

“They performed anywhere and everywhere they could find space,” Moran said.

The Cape Coral Community Players saved up their earnings, and together, built the Cultural Park Theater. The little house, at 528 Cultural Park Blvd., has remained the same over the decades it’s been in use, with the exception of upgrades to the decor and sound system.

The original group was scheduled to have their first stage production in November 1963.

“They had to cancel the first show they ever did because it happened on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated,” Moran said. “They canceled their first performance in honor of the president.”

He said the troupe decided it was far more tasteful to be closed that day.

“From there they have just grown tremendously over the years,” Moran said. “January through May you have to call early to get a seat in this place. The summertime gives us a little more play room.”

When the Cultural Park Theatre first began holding performances, there were one or two a year. Now the theater hosts approximately 26 of them a year.

The theater has numerous seasons throughout the calendar: Broadway shows September through May; concert series September through May, summer concert series and summer camps.

The concert series, now in its fourth year, is the newest of the programs offered for residents.

“It has grown substantially,” Moran said. “When we started four years ago, we had to chase after artists and now the phone rings by people who want to be a part of the season.”

The music varies, so it is appealing for all patrons. This year the series includes mostly tributes of different styles of music.

Cultural Theatre2This year’s season kicked off with a Patsy Cline tribute by Linda Fazioli. The season will also have David Morin as Elvis Presley Friday, Oct. 31, Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, performing four shows, both matinees at 3 p.m. and evening shows at 8:30 p.m.

“He is a knock-your-socks-off performer,” Moran said. “He covers the Elvis venue, from young Elvis to the end.”

Other performances include a Charlie Vee tribute to Barry Manilow in February; Simply Streisand Carla Del Villaggio as Barbara Streisand in March; Neil Zirconia as Neil Diamond in April and Cultural Park Theater’s Reveilli Revue in May.

Tickets for the concert series are $20. The theater seats 184 people.

The Broadway shows will include “You’re Never Too Old” in October; “And Then There Were None” in November; “Fantasticks” and “Christmas Spectacular” in December; “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in January; “Dixie Swim Club” in February; “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” in March; “Fools” in April and “Odd Couple” in May.

Moran said the Cultural Park Theater has the most reasonable tickets in the area for their Broadway season. Tickets are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors; $13 for students with ID and $10 for children under 12 years old.

In 1991, the theater began holding children and adult education classes and summer classes. There are three educational programs offered for every age group.

The most popular class is the Broadway Babies program for children ages 5 to 7, which has already begun for the fall session.

“The program is an introduction for young students to come in and start learning the basics of acting, singing and dancing,” Moran said. “They get together to meet for eight weeks, one day a week and put a program together for friends and family at the end of the class.”

The theater also offers Musical Theater Performance Level I and Level II. Music Theater I is geared for children 7 to 10 years old and the Musical Theater II is for 11- to 16-year-olds.

Moran said the more advanced classes work on all aspects of musical theater, such as acting, singing and dancing. The older kids work on character development during the course.

The last of the educational programs is an Adult Acting class. The class does not begin at a certain level, but rather teaches as if students were learning the craft for the first time. The instructors, Moran said, work individually with each of the students in the class.

The summer camp is another favorite among elementary- to high-school-aged children, attracting 45 to 50 students every session. The camps, which run all summer long, are held for two weeks at a time, focusing on developing stage presence, acting, singing and dancing, as well.

At the end of the two week session, the students put on a showcase for their families and friends.

The two-week camp is $240 and is held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about the Cultural Park Theater, any of its upcoming performances, classes or to purchase tickets, contact the box office at 239-772-5862 or go online by visiting CulturalParkTheater.com.

‘Opt-out’ aftermath

‘Opt-out’ aftermath: School District looks to move forward

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Aug. 28, 2014

With the Lee County School Board’s decision Wednesday to “opt out” of statewide assessment testing, personnel of the school district were left scrambling to formulate a plan Thursday morning.

“The plan in stone is to stop the high stake testing,” Boardmember Don Armstrong, who voted in favor of the measure, said Thursday morning. “This is about education and about giving our students the best education. When these tests don’t accurately measure how the kids are doing, that is an issue.”

He said the school board’s vote to “opt out of high stake testing,” gave the superintendent direction of how to formulate a plan to stop the testing in the best way possible.

“Dr. Graham is meeting with staff now and is working on a plan,” he said Thursday morning. “We set that in motion. She (Graham) has to formulate the plan to execute it. It’s her job.”

Board Member Mary Fischer, who also voted in favor, said she felt the decision to “opt out” was a statement.

“I have asked the superintendent to bring us a recommendation with some clarity of exactly what opting out of standard mandated testing means and what those tests are,” she said. “We will be approving a new strategic plan that will give us a road map. We will still be teaching the standard. The superintendent will bring forward a plan for assessment.”

Steve Teuber, who is running against Armstrong, said his heart is very heavy due to the decision three of the five board members made Wednesday night.

In addition to Armstrong and Fischer, and Tom Scott voted for the motion.

“While all of this is happening we are spending money we didn’t have,” he said. “Now we are taking all these resources going into reaction mode. What is happening to education and instruction right now? What do you think the advantageous affect is happening in Lee County? Those are the types of things these three didn’t think about.”

Tueber also said by the board taking action Wednesday night, no alternative plan was provided.

“What option is the state going to have,” he asked. “What happens if the state doesn’t give an answer for six months? The potential consequences for this move are humungous. I would not have done it this way.”

Tueber said there is nothing to support from the action taken at the board meeting.

“We don’t have a plan to get behind to support,” he said. “We don’t know what to do next until the state responds.”

Tueber said although the teachers will continue to teach the children of Lee County, he questioned how long before that has an impact on them.

“You don’t know what you are going to test,” he said. “You are going to end up losing a portion of our kids’ education to figure it out. I don’t think it has to be that way. I think it is a tipping point. It is going to make a decision.”

Incoming board member Pam LaRivere said she would have liked to have seen the board vote on each of the pieces separately because there was a blanket statement made for opting out of all mandated test taking. She said if the tests are looked at individually, it would have provided an opportunity to look at the reasons believed they were not necessary pieces.

“We have to have a plan. We need to provide something to the state,” she said. “Now the district is going to have to work very quickly to come up with a plan.”

According to information released by the Lee County School District, there are numerous potential effects of the district opting out of statewide assessments.

Some of the effects on students include: graduation requirements cannot be completed due to Florida Statutes requiring students passing 10th grade FCAT, or ELA Assessment, and algebra 1 end of course exam; course completion credit may not be obtained for end of course exams, which is 30 percent of their grade; third grade retention could not be appropriately administered because it is based on statewide standardized assessment and Lee County could not comply with Opportunity Scholarships.

The decision also affects employees, schools, the school district and funding.

Instructional personnel and school administrator evaluations would be affected because their performances are based on student growth, which is assessed by statewide assessments. Performance pay would also be affected, as well as funding because schools would not receive recognition dollars for letter grade improvements.

As far as schools, incomplete school grades would be issued because 95 percent of students have to participate in statewide assessments, according to information provided by the school district. Charter schools would also feel the effects of opting out of testing. The school district is required to provide test administration services and cost payments for the required student assessments.

Lee County could not be an “academically high performing district” and state funds, discretionary grant funds and discretionary lottery funds would be withheld.

Tueber said the school board could have addressed the problem of excessive testing in a different manner due to there being three different issues: standardized testing, Common Core and excessive testing.

Teuber said 60 percent of “excessive testing” is done from the county level, which he believes is what everyone is complaining about.

As far as Common Core, he said there are four carts to a train: the first is standards, the second is how you teach the standards, the third is how you evaluate what is taught and the final is how the teachers are evaluated on the first three.

Teuber said the standards are the same standards that Florida has had for the past five years. He said there is a only a 7 percent material difference between FCAT and Common Core.

Last year, Teuber said, a bill was passed in the state of Florida that provided control over all curriculums at a district level. He said the school board should have formed committees that looked into every piece of curriculum to see what is acceptable. Once that step is taken, it narrows down the curriculum and produces your very own Lee County curriculum, he said.

“Now you have a test,” Teuber said. “Now you go to the state and say we are not doing it because we are not teaching your Common Core crap. That’s when you take the battle to them. That is a good eight months to a year down the road.”

Armstrong said although the board has had discussion after discussion about high stake testing, they were not getting anywhere.

“It is time to take action,” he said. “This doesn’t mean education stops in the county. All we are doing is stopping the state mandated testing. These kids still have to go to school. They still have a curriculum . . . still have to learn how to read, write, add, multiple, subtract, and divide. The only difference is you are not going to be tested to death.”

Fischer said the board had a look at the tests and a pairing down of the number of tests given, which collects a lot of data that is not necessarily used to measure the growth of students and their continued skill building.

The amount of money spent district wide for the state testing also raises some concerns for Armstrong. He said, conservatively, $11.2 million is spent annually on testing.

Armstrong said high stake testing has unnecessary stress and pressure and takes away from active teaching.

“Educating them does not mean giving them a test for two months straight,” he said.

Armstrong said it was time to take a stance against high stake testing and take their education system back from Tallahassee.

“Remember the Boston Tea Party?” he asked. “They threw all the tea into the river. We got the Caloosahatchee River down here. I think that is a good place for the Common Core and high stake testing. I would rather ship it back to Tallahassee and say thanks, but no thanks.”

Armstrong said there still needs to be some type of testing for assessment. He believes that can be accomplished through a beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of year exam. By having all three exams, Armstrong said it gages the students at the beginning of the year, how much they have obtained in the middle of the year and the progress they have made at the end of the year.

Fischer agrees that the school district needs assessment. She said she thinks the district needs to use tests that are norm, validated and reliable and provide them with good information.

“We will move forward and our kids will be involved in learning activities and hopefully our teachers will feel freer to challenge the curriculum,” she said.