*Questionnaires are completed by the candidates and unedited by KPAE.
Please tell us about yourself. (ie. work experience, life experience, residency, hobbies, associations, etc.)
Hello! My name is Pam DeFord. I have been a resident in Kings Park for 21 years. I graduated from Kings Park School District in 1985. I moved away for a short time, but returned when my daughter started kindergarten. I have been in the field of education over 20 years, I received a BA in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Special Education from Dowling College. I have taught in grades K, 1,2, and 4. At present, I teach 3rd grade. I enjoy being involved in my community. I was a Girl Scout Leader for 5 years. I was a religion teacher at St. Joseph’s Church. I belong to Catholic Daughter’s of the Americas. I am a member of the PFO and Music Boosters at Kings Park High School.
Briefly state any experience you bring to your School District Board of Education.
I have attended Board meeting for the past 10 years. I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board for the past 2 years and Board president for the past year. I have established a working relationship with our Superintendent, administrators, teachers, support staff and other Board members. I am aware of the current issues facing public education and have been actively involved in advocating at keeping and increasing local control and advocating to give educators more control of curriculum and programs that best met our students needs.
As a board of education member, how will you engage the community to make certain that its needs are heard and acted upon?
I have listened to many parent and community members concerns. I believe it is best to work together so our students receive the best education. Since being elected to the Board, I have established a Policy Committee and a Legislative Committee. Both committees involve community members. I will continue to work at increasing community attendance at BOE meeting by continually reminding people when meeting are scheduled. I will continue to listen and talk with community members at resolving their concerns.
For current BOE members, please provide examples of how you have engaged the community.
As stated, in establishing a Policy and Legislative Committee both committees involve community members. At BOE meetings, we invite community members to speak at public comment time. We make sure that answers to questions are returned in a timely manner. Surveys have been posted to our district website asking community members their opinions and concerns. I want to ensure that we have an environment where all opinions are valued.
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 and continue to work with neighboring school board members on educational issues that concern many people. By having a greater voice, our concerns will be heard. I will and continue to attend conferences to stay current on educational issues. While working with our Legislative Committee we have written resolutions concerning various issues. I will continue the work needed in advocating so all our students have their needs met. I have met and will continue to meet with legislators regarding challenges facing our students.
For current BOE members, please provide some examples of how you advocated during your term for our schools.
I have advocated that it is a parent’s choice when it comes to their child taking state assessments in grades 3-8. I have advocated for greater local control in making decisions within our district. I have advocated for state funding with concerns of the many unfunded state mandates the state has demanded of each school district. I have advocated that the educational decisions regarding curriculum and testing be left to those who are educators who know the true value of learning and the art of teaching. I will continue to advocate in all these areas to do what is best for our students and public education.
Currently, New York State has issued a 4 year moratorium on using NYS assessments for teacher evaluations, how would you like to see teachers evaluated in our district?
The evaluation of a teacher is important to ensure standards are maintained. Teachers have always been evaluated and should still continued to be evaluated by their administrators. An evaluation of a teacher is not done in one class period or lesson. That is only part of their evaluation. An administrator takes into account the daily work of a teacher. This is the way evaluations should be done for teachers.
How do you define the success of a school district?
The success of a school district is one where the students have an environment that fosters creativity, hard work and high achievements. It includes a staff that has the ability to develop curriculum based on the needs of their students, not a “one size fits all” approach as dictated by New York State politicians who have no educational experience. A successful school district is run by an administrative staff that puts the education of its students first and maintains a successful working relationship with their teachers based on mutual respect. A successful school district is one that is committed to advocate for what is right for public education.
What educational value does our school district receive from NYS field tests? If none, would you support KPCSD not administering these tests.
I believe our district does not receive any educational value from NYS field tests. In my opinion, it takes away from educational learning in the classroom. It is a way for big business to save money by having our students answer questions that have no educational value. No student should have to miss quality classroom instruction to “test” questions designed by non-educational people. If tests had input from educational professionals, test questions would not have to be “tested” to be sure questions were appropriate. This is another reason why education decisions should be left to educators and NOT big business.
What is your position on the 2% tax cap?
While I understand the need to limit taxes, I do not believe Governor Cuomo should be telling us how much we can spend on our school district. This is another example of how New York State is taking away control from local school boards. With the amount of underfunded and unfunded state mandates, there is not much left to work with within a 2% tax cap. The Kings Park School District has always kept the taxpayers of Kings Park in mind when creating school budgets and historically have some of the lowest tax levy increases on Long Island. The proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school is the lowest tax levy in the past ten years.
What is the best way to evaluate teachers and principals?
The best way to evaluate teachers and principals is to allow our administrators to observe and mentor them. We have a team of administrators with the educational background and experience who know what is best for students. We do not need outside observers to come in to do what our administrators already do well. This is yet another area in which the state is trying to take away local control.
Describe your view on the Common Core Learning Standards.
The common core standards were intended to ensure students all learn the same curriculum and with more rigor that was currently being done in the classroom. However, theory and application are not always the same. The common core standards were implemented too quickly and with too much “script”. They limit a teacher’s ability to teach to the individual needs of students. Teachers are professionals and should be given the ability to decide how to deliver instruction. The common core standards were designed to teach students how to pass a test. If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning,
Describe your view on the amount of testing in our schools and how those test results are used.
The amount of testing in our schools done is enough to give a clear picture on a student’s academic abilities. Tests given from material covered in class would show a true indication if learning is adequately taking place. Testing done on a quarterly basis can be analyzed so curriculum can be adjusted to meet the individual needs of students. There is no “one fit” that all students learn the same way at the same rate. When test results are viewed, it can be a wonderful learning tool to help navigate instruction.
Define the role of a parent in a child’s education.
A parent is their child’s first teacher. A parent is a child’s first role model. A parent can help to foster a love of learning at a very early age. A parent’s role in their child’s education needs to be active throughout their child’s school career. I believe when parents and teachers work together, the child will have greater success.
Have you ever been a parent/guardian of a child enrolled in the KPCSD? If so, what was your experience?
My daughter currently attends Kings Park High School. She has been a student in the district since she started kindergarten. I have been very pleased with the education she has received. I have always been able to communicate with teachers, principals, and/or other administrators.
How can our school district improve?
Since our district started with new leadership almost 2 years ago, we have addressed a number of concerns. However, there is always room for improvement. Technology is an area that continues to need improvement in order for our students to compete in the 21st century. Although, some gains have been made in this area, more needs to be done for our students. In addition, I believe class size does matter in order to provide our students with an optimal learning experience.I will continue to address this area, when needed.
Approximately 60% of parents of students in grades 3-8 have refused state testing. What will you do to restore their trust in the system?
I am very proud of the education our district provides to our students. Overall, our educational system works. In recent years, it has become political because some politicians believe they know what is best in the area of education. This is far from the truth. We need to keep advocating that education should be left in the hands of educators, not politicians. With continued effort, we have to work as a team to tell politicians they do not belong in the classroom.
Is there additional information you want the voters in your community to know?
It has been a pleasure working on the board for the past 2 years. I would like to continue to contribute to the positive momentum our district is going in. I will continue to advocate for our students and community by listening to the concerns of community members. If re-elected, I would be the voice for our students and community. I will continue to advocate for what is right for public education. By working together, our students will be able to succeed. Remember….I believe it takes a village to raise a child and Kings Park is just the place to make sure it happens.