Montessori Community Council
Meet the Candidate Questionnaire
Wayne P. Morris
I am sorry that I cannot be with you this evening and hope the responses to the questions below, give you valuable information to assist with your decision on November 2nd.
1- Why did you decide to run for Albany City School Board?
I am running for re-election to the Albany City School Board because I want
to be involved with children and their futures by increasing all students achievement,
decreasing the drop out rate, and to increase parent involvement. At the same time, I am aware that the taxpayer concerns must be addressed. My decision to run is to provide consistency on the board and to avoid turnover of board members.
2- What qualifies you to be on the Albany City School Board? Do you have any unique qualifications that set you apart from other candidates?
My experience and institutional history with the district qualifies me to be on the board. My experiences include serving on many committees: SDM, Magnet School Committee, Audit Committee, Building Facilities Committee, Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Transportation Committee as well as the Advisory Committee for Abrookin Vo- Tech Center. My unique qualification that sets me apart from other candidates is being a former Albany City School District employee. It allows me to engage with all level of staff since I was in their shoes for 17 years. I have worked with 8 Superintendents and numerous Administrators as well as teachers and support staff.
3-Parents in each Albany city school watch as their neighbors and children’s friends leave the schools for Charter Schools, Private Schools, and other districts. What concrete steps can be taken to prevent the loss of students and resources from the ACSD to these competitors?
Our first concrete step is for us to improve our product. We must make every effort to do as good or better a job at educating children. At the same time the public must be aware that we are not on a level playing field. Charters are cherry picking our brightest students, not taking enough of our ELL students, and have much lower percentages of special needs students. Our district can pride itself on taking every child and educating them. We have taken some steps to go into the community and knock on doors to invite families to send their children to the ACSD. We had more than one Family Night to inform and encourage New Covenant families to bring their children back to us. We are using many public venues to show that we have a great quality program from Pre K - 12th grade.
4-How would you work with City government and other community stakeholders to make Albany more attractive to homeowners and parents as a permanent option for their families?
Last year, with the assistance of Superintendent Colucciello, we built a positive bridge with Mayor Jennings. As a current board member, I have been very supportive of this relationship. It is very important for the City government and the school district to work collaboratively for the benefit of every child. Proof of this has just occurred with the news that Albany has received a $7.5 million Magnet Grant, which required the assistance and support of many community stakeholders and the outcome was successful. This grant was the vision of our Strategic Plan, which was another, project completed 3 years ago, also with the collaboration of many stakeholders.
5-While publicly, there is a perception of failures for the ACSD, there are many successful programs and schools that families look forward to sending their children to. While everyone values these programs, they are often targeted for cuts, making them less effective. During a time of budget reductions, how do you intend to support existing successful programs in schools, and continue to bring in new programs in schools that need them? When you do need to cut programs, what will be done to fill the voids that follow?
Our schools have a wide variety of successful and great programs. At the same time they all need to be looked at when we are in difficult financial times, which we are. As a board member I must listen to the educators, meaning the Superintendent, Cabinet and other experts as to what we can reduce, cut, or expand. Any parent and/or community member can always address the board with concerns when we are in this process; knowing that we cannot please everyone all the time. Our first responsibility is to make sure that our students have acceptable class sizes so learning can occur and that our staff has the resources they need to teach. These are the most difficult decisions I think we have to make as a board member.
6-The budget process in the ACSD has been a particularly painful one in recent years. Often, to streamline the process, items are lumped together in budget lines. While this makes sense for some items, for others, this has the effect of drastically changing a program without involving the school stakeholders. How will you balance the need for a streamlined process with transparency?
I believe that we have made great improvements in our budget process in past years. When I first served years ago on the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee it took many years to get the transparency that exists today. We need to continue to work on this topic. I have requested for the past few years that we re-convene a Community Budget Committee, however I have not been successful in my endeavors. A committee of this type can help review and make recommendations to the Board and increase transparency for the taxpayer. In the past budget cycle, I was the only board member who did not want to agree to the 3.87 % tax increase unless we agreed to use any additional state aid up to $1 million to drop it to a 2.87%. The outcome was that we got less state aid than anticipated, which made that, impossible. Other effects on the taxpayer exist because of less
STAR aid and changes in assessments.
7-What will you do to ensure children’s safety not only at school but getting to and from school?
As a board member I will continue to monitor the procedures that are in place for safety of all students from Pre K - 12th grade. This includes from the time that a child steps onto the bus, or walks to school having our crossing guards assist, to the daily schedule they follow in each building and the corridors and rides home at the end of the day. I can monitor what is going on in neighborhoods to inform school staff to ensure safety measures is followed.
8-Parent involvement is an important part of every child’s education. How will you encourage parents to be more involved?
For the past 4 years I have spent countless hours inside our schools, at
PTA meetings, walking the halls, talking with faculty and staff and talking with students to hear first hand what needs to be done. Engaging parents face to face at meetings, listening to their issues and doing as much problem solving as possible have been my method. Community events are another venue where I have been a visible connection to our school system and our parent/community stakeholders and I intend to keep attending these events.
9-What are your thoughts on the high school restructuring?
Our high school is the last piece of the facilities project. We have already started some cosmetic changes that will make our students and families proud to go there. With the Magnet Grant we will be able to change the way we deliver instruction, support our staff with quality professional development and bring more diversity to our classes with the most rigor. The
JIT report has identified the fact that we need to broaden the make up of our IBO/AP classes, and have more of our student body graduate. The resources that the grant will bring can assist us with this task. I will monitor the process of collaboration that the high school has already begun to move this process forward in a positive way.
10-Being on the School Board is a large, unpaid time commitment. There is often a high turn over for School Board members because of this are you aware of this and what have you done to ensure against it for you?
I am aware that we have had some turnover in School Board members. I am running again for another term to ensure consistency, institutional history, and experience on the board.