Friday, May 13, 2011

Six Questions for Larry Robb

Larry Robb is running for one of three seats in Region I, which represents Bethel, Burrell, Cadogan, Ford City, Ford Cliff, Manor, Manorville, North Buffalo and West Kittanning.  This is part five.  We've heard from Dr. Lobby from Region I, Amy Lhote and Chris Choncek from Region II and Stan Berdell from Region III.  We look forward to reading the responses to the same six questions from 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?

The Armstrong School District has developed a very strong system of utilizing student achievement data to inform the instruction of teachers so they can adjust to the needs of individual students. Within this system is a process called Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTII). Using RTII, the district has implemented researched-based interventions or “safety nets” for students who may be struggling. In addition, the district has been involved in an initiative focused on Formative Assessment. This initiative has been featured in a national educational publication called Educational Leadership which has described the impact Formative Assessment has on student learning.

2- What are your ideas to improve student performance?

The district needs to continue to examine the needs of individual students to determine specific research-based programs that will provide students with the resources to grow academically. Also, since teachers have the biggest impact on student achievement, professional development is vital to ensure best practices such as Formative Assessment are utilized in the every classroom. Further, our students are facing many emerging environmental, economic, and social issues. These issues lead to a need for school districts to continually examine and develop curriculum to prepare students to meet these challenges of the 21st century on local, national and global levels.

3- What is your biggest concern with ASD?

The current and future budget crisis is my biggest concern with the district which will dramatically impact the quality of education offered to our students. The projected future expenditures will far surpass our future revenues. The current $80,000,000 bond used for renovations will only make the situation worse by locking the district into a more expensive model for the next 30 years. The projected savings from the closing of Kittanning Junior High and Kittanning Township Elementary will not be available when it is needed to make the debt payments due to the major staff cuts that are proposed for next year. The use of fund balance to make debt service payments over the next four years is not financially sound and will deplete the fund balance below recommended levels. As I outlined before, the district will need over $25,000,000 of new money to fund just the areas of salary increases, health care increases, and retirement contribution increases. The current board’s use of the $3,600,000 delinquent tax windfall and the use of $400,000 of fund balance to balance the 2011-2012 budget only pushes the problem to next year. What will be left to cut next year?

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

The current board majority has tried very hard to claim there are only two choices for the future of the district: an $80,000,000 renovation project or an over inflated $155,000,000 new comprehensive high school project. Since the majority of voters will vote no to the $155,000,000 project, the board majority will claim this means voters are in favor of the $80,000,000 renovation project. This is flawed logic! The referendum is being used as a political ploy and insults the intelligence of the voter. I am not in favor of a comprehensive high school. Lenape already provides the career and technical education for the district and duplicating these programs makes no sense at all.

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

The primary responsibility of a school board is to envision the educational future of its children and then formulate the goals, define the outcomes, and set the direction for its schools. Vision is not about what we are, but what we want to be. For school boards, it is defining what type of school system is needed for the future. The board is responsible to create the conditions under which excellent teaching and student performance will take place. Included in these conditions is the board’s ability to establish relationships and build consensus. We know that when individuals work together effectively, the product of their efforts will almost always be greater than the efforts of any single individual. Along with setting the educational direction of the district, the board needs to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer’s money by developing both short term and long term financial goals that balance the educational needs of the students with the financial impact to the community.

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

I bring to the board an extensive background in education. I have been a teacher, coach, principal, curriculum coordinator, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. I have worked within 4 different school districts which has given me a variety of perspectives on dealing with educational issues. Since I have worked for the Armstrong School District, I know the unique and challenging problems the district has faced and will continue to face in the future.