Gifford: I Bring Experience, Leadership Skills To School Committee
Democrat Deidre Gifford is running for a second term.
Editor's Note: There are five candidates running for three seats on the EG School Committee. Four candidates responsed to these questions via email. Links to the responses of those other candidates can be found at the bottom.
Why are you running?
I am running for a second term because I believe there are few things more important than ensuring every child has an excellent education. I have acquired valuable experience in working with the Town, our finance committee and other committee members to maintain the educational programs in EG through some of the worst economic difficulties in decades. Public education is at an important juncture. Changes in public policy at the federal and state level need to be thoughtfully implemented at the local level, with attention to the particular needs of each community. Local school committees have a critically important role to play in that process, and I believe I have and can continue to make an important contribution.
What are the three most important issues facing the East Greenwich School District?
Successfully and thoughtfully implementing the new teacher evaluation system in collaboration with our teachers and ensuring that teachers have what they need for professional development and support in teaching
Developing operating budgets that are responsible and feasible while at the same time ensuring adequate funds are put aside to address capital needs for the future such as maintaining our buildings and athletic facilities.
Addressing issues of student well-being, especially at the high school.
Do you favor iPads (or the like) for every EGHS student? If so, how quickly would you like to see that take place?
It is obvious that our students need to be proficient in the use of technology. But technology should be put to use in the service of the curriculum, not the other way around. I have consistently argued that we should not invest in technology unless we have a solid idea of how or if it will improve learning. So until such time as we have evidence that each child will be more successful in reading, math and science if they have their own individual device, I would not be in favor of that level of investment.
Are you in favor of high school students starting later?
Very strongly in favor. The evidence is clear that this makes sense. But this will need to be a statewide decision. With all of the athletic and other events after school at the high school level that cross districts, EG could not unilaterally push back our high school day without considerable collaboration across districts.
Should the EGSD expand language offerings (i.e. to include Chinese and/or Arabic), even if that means current language offerings would have to be reduced?
As someone who learned French at a public high school, which enabled me to study abroad and expanded my perspectives enormously, I am a very big proponent of language study. I don’t want to see us limit our language offerings, and it is clearly time we looked at broadening our offerings beyond those traditionally taught. As a small district, we have to be realistic about the range of courses we can develop and offer ourselves. In future, we will be able to expand course offerings by looking at high-quality distance learning in collaboration with other districts and colleges and universities.
Every year, school budgets get tighter, even as the actual budget grows because of personnel costs. List two places where savings might be found.
We can control the growth in spending by continuing to work cooperatively with our staffs to negotiate sensible and responsible contracts. Contracts need to recognize both the important contributions of faculty and staff, and the real resource limitations our town faces.
We have begun but have not fully implemented a program to implement energy saving devices and procedures all across the district. Fully executing this program will save the district money without adversely affecting student programs.
What, if any, programs should be established or expanded?
Several years ago, the schools eliminated a curriculum enrichment program at the elementary level. The intention was to replace it with a program that had a broader reach. This has not been accomplished, and it is one of my goals to see that done.
What, if any, changes would you like to see in the next teachers contract?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with our teachers union representatives over the last four years, and I will be a member of the contract negotiating team this year if re-elected. My goal is to collaboratively and cooperatively negotiate a contract that is responsive to our budgetary needs but moves us forward in the areas of teacher evaluation and education reform.
In 100 words or less, why should people vote for you?
I’m dedicated to the EG schools and to our kids. I have demonstrated the capacity to lead the School Committee through difficult and complicated issues. I have established strong and cooperative relationships with the school administration, other committee members, and the Town Council. I look forward to helping move our schools into the future.
Deidre Gifford, chair of the School Committee, first won election to the panel in 2008.