Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Six Questions for Chris Choncek

Chris Choncek is running for one of two seats in Region II, which represents Applewald, East Franklin, Kittanning Boro, Rayburn, Washington, West Franklin and Worthington. We've also heard from Dr. Lobby and Amy Lhote and look forward to hearing the anwers to these same six questions from all of the other candidates.

1- Since there seems to be quite a bit of negativity within the district, what do you feel is going right with ASD at this time?

Parents and taxpayers are becoming more engaged with school district business. They are holding the Armstrong School Board more accountable to its decisions and direction. It’s especially encouraging to see this in all areas of the school district, not just in one municipality or attendance area. It is my hope as we move forward that we can continue to keep the community engaged and seek their input as we try to improve the education in our district while still being responsible to the taxpayers.

2- What are your ideas to improve student performance?

I think it’s important to rely on the educational experts to arrive at new and effective ways to improve student learning. However, it is our responsibility as board members to keep up with the latest trends and initiatives that could potentially improve student learning. This knowledge should be shared and discussed with the rest of the board, as well as the administrators for possible follow-up action.

As an aside, I would like to see a reduction of the “teaching to the test” phenomenon we’ve experienced over the last few years as an attempt to improve PSSA scores. I think we’re doing a huge disservice to our students when we’re forced to provide a less varied curriculum with fewer courses in some subject areas simply due to the fact that they aren’t included on the PSSA exams. I realize that this issue goes beyond the control of our local school board, but it needs our attention nonetheless.

3- What is your biggest concern with ASD?

I’m very concerned that most of the decisions being made at this time are made without any regard to education and fiscal responsibility. It’s bad enough when there’s an overemphasis on one or the other, but to make decisions that negatively impact both the education and cost could put this district into a level of financial distress that will take many years to alleviate.

4- What is your perspective of the referendum question that has been placed on the ballot?

I think it’s an unnecessary distraction. The more we talk about it, the less we talk about the elections for the open school board seats. Our focus as voters should be on choosing the best candidates for those positions. The referendum is utterly confusing and convoluted. In addition, it’s non-binding so no matter what the outcome is, the board doesn’t have to act upon the results. Let’s simply put our efforts into getting those with common sense elected like Lobby, Rearic, Robb, Berdell and Lhote.

5- What do you feel is the primary job of a school board?

The primary role of a school board director is to focus on the vision, goals and policies of the district. The board “oversees” the education of the students. It is important to recognize that this governing body does not run the day-to-day operations.

A school board represents the entire community in advocating for quality education while still being effective stewards of the district’s resources.

6- What attributes, talents and abilities will you bring to our district?

As a 19-year administrator in higher education, I’ve had to rely heavily on data-driven decision making processes. I feel as though the skills I possess in statistics and measurement can be utilized to further enhance the effectiveness of the board.

In addition, I’ve held numerous positions on various committees and boards throughout my professional and personal careers. I recognize the importance of communication and collegiality in effective group decision-making and I hope to promote these attributes on the new school board.

Finally, the direct experience I gained over the last four years as an incumbent school board director will be extremely useful to the new board as I’m intimately familiar with school district processes and policies. I also have experienced the “highs” of making good decisions, as well as the lows associated with “bad” ones. All of these experiences (good and bad) have resulted in learning opportunities and will undoubtedly be used to help us make better decisions in the future.