Kevin Johnston: Board of Education Candidate Responds to KPAE Survey

By | May 9, 2015

The following survey was sent to each Kings park BOE candidate.  Once each survey has been posted, the KPAE steering committee will endorse 2 candidates.

Kevin-Johnston-2015w

Kevin Johnston

Briefly state any experience you bring to your School District Board of Education.

I bring 35 years of experience, as an educator, coach, mentor and advisor to the Board of Education. My tenure has given me valuable insight to the inner workings of both the educational and financial processes.

Do you support parents’ right to refuse NYS grade 3-8 exams? Please explain.

In theory, I support “raising a high bar” in which expectations are raised. That being said, I support a parent’s right to refuse taking the exams. Just as a parent has a say in a child’s medical need or educational needs, a parent knows when one’s child is working under duress and pressure. If the scores are being used to measure achievement, I agree with the intent. Presently, students are being used in a terrible game of “high stakes testing.”  This is not fair to students, educators, and taxpayers.

What is your position on the 2% tax cap?

The KPCSD must, like all districts, operate under this cap. In NYS, it is a low ceiling, however. As a Board member, I will have to make difficult decisions, which I fully accept by virtue of my election.

What is your position on the Gap Elimination Adjustment?

Kings Park Central School District has faced financial difficulties over which the District did not create. The District deserves these precious dollars, and should never have lost money. Long Island, on the whole, has been shortchanged by legislators. In the end, I would like to see all the funding restored.

What is the best way to evaluate teachers? Principals?

A better way to evaluate teachers should include a number of methods: classroom observation, collegiality amongst peers; additional professional training; interaction with students; students’ achievement.
Teachers should not have 40-50% of an evaluation based on the results of one or two student test. Paying an outside agency to provide an evaluation is not acceptable. I do not presume to know a “best way” to evaluate teachers.
I would have to look at methods that other district/states use to evaluate principals before I formulate an educated system. Parents, teacher, and community members should have some input. Certain test measures, such as Regents scores, and the number of students taking advanced level classes, can represent a portion of the evaluation.

Describe your view on the Common Core Learning Standards.

Common Core was designed to raise expectations for students. The intent was well-meaning. The implementation, from an educator’s viewpoint, has not gone well. More teacher training needs to be offered; teachers should be entrusted to use differentiated learning techniques.

Describe your view on the amount of testing in our schools and how those test results are used.

I will tell you how tests should not be used. Tests should be designed to be used as an evaluative tool for students, not as a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher. Parents’ decisions to “opt out” should be a parents’ prerogative, not a strong-arm way to determine a District’s state aid funding. As a teacher of high school juniors and seniors, I do not have sufficient data to reflect the types/numbers of tests give in grades 3-8. The the number of tests given to these students by the NYS Department of Education is unreasonable. The aim of each exam should be explicitly determined and conveyed.

As a board of education member, how will you engage the community to make certain that its needs are heard and acted upon?

Through advocacy groups, such as the KPA, and various community and civic groups, such as the Kings Park Education Foundation, I intend to ask the right questions, rather than accept “patent” answers.
Second, I will ask for input from the community and Kings Park staff, in order to address problems/issues.

Commitment to the promise of public education for all children requires Board of Education members to work outside of and across community boundaries. How will you advocate for our school and students outside of our school district (ie: regional, state and federal government) so that all students’ needs are met?

I will make my stances known to local and state legislators and advocacy groups that value the “whole student,” not test scores.
Legislators understand that every vote counts.

Describe your views on the New York State Regents Reform Agenda.

I am disappointed with the Reform Agenda as it does not help with our most needy students, in particular, Special Education students. The reforms are placing undo hardships on the individuals, as well as their parents, as the students attempt to achieve educational goals.

Define the role of a parent in a child’s education.

A parent is the child’s first teacher. Parents should want the best for their children. Unfortunately, people do not live in a vacuum whereby all children have the same levels of resources within the home. Certain school districts lack the financial resources of neighboring districts; not all households have the same oversight and abilities of neighboring households. A District should be entrusted to operate on the same level playing field as neighboring districts. Clearly, these elements do not ring true on Long Island.

How do you define the success of a school district?

The Kings Park Central School District has done a good job of educating its students, especially with limited financial resources.
The District operates with $20-25 million dollars less than surrounding districts. Also, the 2% cap is forcing the KPCSD to make very difficult decisions in terms of class sizes and programs. The District has been successful with graduation rates and sending students to college. Room exists for further improvements, however.

How can our school district improve?

The Kings Park Central School District can improve in a number of ways. 1) Observe best practices in surrounding districts. See if some ideas can be implemented in Kings Park. 2) Listen to suggestions to other educational experts, rather than relying on legislators to mandate educational practices. 3) Improve the Districts’ technological system. The world has become “flatter” due to technology. Our students deserve to train on up-to-date technologies. We, in Kings Park, want the best possible education for our students, but they have not been supplied with these resources. 4) In order for Kings Park to be deemed an “elite” or “Blue Ribbon” school, the District needs a better system of public relations. If we are going to rated with other top-performing schools before sending our students to college, word of the students’ achievement should be announced in the press and other media. Kings Park students’ achievements rarely reach other part of Long Island.
5) Reach out to graduates through a collective data bank. They can be a great resource in funding items that cannot be included in the budget. No such date bank exists. 6) A grant-writing specialist needs to be involved in finding additional financing. This necessitates finding people who understand the art/science of writing grants.

Any additional information you want the voters in your community to know.

My wife, Lynne, and I decided to reside in Kings Park, as the community is a great town to raise and educate our children. The adage that “It takes a village to raise a child” is true for our sons, Kevin and Brian. Their success in academics and their decisions to join the military was strengthened by the Districts educational system and the people of Kings Park. Kings Park offered them a solid foundation for them to achieve their educational goals and their career goals. I would like to see future graduates be offered the same foundation. Our students are our best hope for the future!
The Time for Change is Now!

2 thoughts on “Kevin Johnston: Board of Education Candidate Responds to KPAE Survey

  1. sally pruslow

    Mr. Johnston has the background, the interest and the dedication to be an excellent BOE member. He appears to be a good listener and a very involved community member. Being a BOE member for 9 years, I can speak from experience.

    Reply
  2. Howard Bergesen

    After working with Mr Johnson, I can’t imagine anyone being more qualified as a member of the school board. Mr Johnson’s dedication to his students is admirable and his quest for knowledge is expansive. Kings Park can not find a more qualified and a harder worker than Kevin Johnson.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *