The Compass asked Kent McHeard, a current member of the Board of Education who is seeking re-election on May 20th, about his past accomplishments and his vision for improving the Greater Amsterdam School District.
1. What do you consider your most significant accomplishments during your past term?
There are a few things that comes to mind currently. First, I served on the negotiation committee of the employment units in our district and I believe I played a significant role in communicating the concerns of the employment units back to the Board. We also were presented with raises for the Superintendent and other non union workers. I voted against a wage increase for the Superintendent and some of the Directors, which I consider a significant accomplishment because it happened during fiscally challenging times. I consider being a physical presence in the schools listening and responding to concerns from building administrators, teachers and support staff a significant accomplishment. Finally this last accomplishment involved conducting funerals or memorial services for staff and students alike in the district. There were instances when a death happened and there was not a clergy available where I was contacted or volunteered to do a service. While all of the funerals or memorial services are difficult, none were more so difficult than the one I did for an 11 day old child (this child’s sibling attends one of our elementary schools).
2. If re-elected, what are your goals for your next term?
a. Continue to look at ways in which we can reduce some non-essential spending and reducing taxes in the coming years. One of the ways I participated in this was by having occasional meetings with the Business Manager, looking at areas where we can reduce spending.
b. Become better informed on the Common Core Curriculum (I spent each opportunity offered to learn about the Common Core State Standards) and look for ways of assisting our teachers, students and parents to better understand it. I am a parent of two boys in elementary school and I am aware of what our children are learning and are bringing home. The concern I have is it seems to me that neither our teachers (who were not trained on this way of instruction) nor our students are seeming to grasp the Common Core. It does not seem that our State Education department have an understanding of the Common Core either.
c. Continue to base my decision making as a result of listening to the denizens who elected me, being informed with the issues at hand, and make my decision based what is best for the greater good and not based on a fear of the reprisal of some.
3. What motivates you to serve on the Board of Education?
My commitment to education (as an educator in the Church) and my commitment to improving the quality of education for both my children and the children in our school district.
4. Specifically, what future steps are needed in order to improve the school district’s test scores and graduation rate?
a. A revision of Race to the Top initiatives.
b. A reduction of state tests. Teachers are told to not to “teach to the test” but with so many tests they are asked to give and so little instructional time that it seems like they are spending the majority of their time preparing their students for the next test.
c. An serious look at truancy. We have an attendance officer who has other responsibilities which makes it difficult for this person to devote undivided attention on truancy. I was vocal about that in the past years and will continue to be. Students will not graduate when they are not in school.
d. A revision of APPR for teachers and the Danielson Model in so far as they inhibit teacher performance and effectiveness. Teachers are judged by student’s performance on test and when students do poorly on test there is no consideration to factors that contribute to poor test scores like poor nutrition, adverse home or living situations and environmental impediments. An example of an environmental impediment is one of our schools heating system was malfunctioning and the windows were broken where in the classroom were extremely hot. The problem was eventually solved, but students were going not concentrating and both students and teachers were becoming ill because of the torrid temperatures.
McHeard also submitted a personal profile:
Address: 224 Market St., Amsterdam
Spouse: Colleen M. McHeard
Children: two children: Garrett, 10, a fourth grader, and Parker, 8, a second grader, both at McNulty Academy
Length of residence in GASD: 15 years
Education: T.C. Williams High School 1983; Word of Life Bible Institute (Bible, with High Honors) 1984; Word of Life School of Youth Ministries (Youth Studies, with Honors) 1985; Liberty University, bachelor of arts, 1989; New Brunswick Theological Seminary, M.Div (Cum Laude), 2009; studied winter course at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, 2009
Employment: First Reformed Church of Rotterdam. I am the installed clergy of this congregation, the second oldest in Schenectady County. (The congregation began in 1784, which is two years before our first President took office.) My title is Minister of Word and Sacrament.
District-related activities: current vice president of the Board of Education; member of technology, visitation, negotiations and receptions committees in the district
Community activities: serve on five boards, 18 committees; chaplain for three Volunteer Fire Departments
Statement: I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Education for three years. When I ran three years ago, I said that I was running because I am committed to education, educators and children. I believe that my tri-fold reasons for running remains the same and has consistently formed how I have voted and served this district. I count it a privilege and an honor to serve the taxpayers, stakeholders, and district employees and will hope for another three years to devote attention to the children in our district, education and educators.
I firmly believe that as an elected official that I am amendable to those who have put me in office and when taxpayers write or call voicing their opinions that I should listen and consider their views as I form mine own. If elected again, I will continue serving with integrity and experience.