Gratitude, Passion For Education Propel Mark To Run
Democrat Carolyn Mark is running for School Committee.
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 the other candidates can be found at the bottom.
Why are you running?
I am running for School Committee because I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to East Greenwich for providing my children with a great education. But, great school districts don’t just happen. They happen because of dedicated teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and elected officials. I’ve done my part in a number of ways in our schools, including serving as a Character Counts Ambassador, volunteering for PTG events, co-leading a capital campaign to build the playground at Meadowbrook, and becoming a founding board member of the East Greenwich Education Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in education by providing grants to teachers to fund innovation in the classroom. I see running for School Committee as a way of taking my energy and commitment to our schools to another level, and I’m excited about the opportunity.
What are the three most important issues facing the East Greenwich School District?
Aligning ourselves with the most recent state and national standards. At the same time, we need to also be independently tracking and implementing best educational practices that will help us not only meet but exceed these standards.
Creating/refining institutional systems to support educational excellence: Among other things, that includes ensuring that we implement a teacher evaluation system that actually supports and produces the results we all want to see in our schools.
Technology implementation: we need to make sure that our district plan for technology implementation doesn’t assume that technology is an educational panacea. The successful implementation of new technology depends on investing in the professional development necessary to ensure that it is utilized successfully to improve educational outcomes.
Do you favor iPads (or the like) for every EGHS student? If so, how quickly would you like to see that take place?
I do think that technologies such as the iPad hold a lot of potential in terms of facilitating learning and reducing the need for heavy textbooks that can become outdated quickly. That said, there are some issues – cost, of course, being one of them. For every dollar we spend on technology, there may be one dollar less to invest in programs, professional development and recruiting great teachers. I would recommend a phased implementation so that there is opportunity to spread the cost over time, as well as time to ensure that the technology is implemented seamlessly in the classroom. Having said all that, I do have concerns about implementing technology that requires connectivity in the home. We cannot assume equal access to broadband even in a relatively affluent community like East Greenwich.
Are you in favor of high school students starting later?
Yes! As my ninth grader has said, even 15 minutes could make a HUGE difference. Recent research supports the notion that educational outcomes improve greatly for teenagers with a later start time. While bussing schedules are obviously a factor, that can’t be an excuse for not pursuing ways to make it work. Other districts have succeeded in doing this.
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?
I think we have to look at the world around us, and base our curricular decisions on the world our youth will be entering. That said, such a shift has major implications, not just for current language teachers but also for students that have chosen a language that may get phased out before they’ve had a chance to complete their course of study. As with technology, I think any changes need to be phased in over time. Of course, the devil is in the details, but if we think it’s the right thing to do, we can’t let those details drive our decisions.
Every year, school budgets get tighter, even as the actual budget grows because of personnel costs. List two places where savings might be found.
I’m not a seated member of the School Committee, so I do not have inside knowledge regarding opportunities for savings. However, I’m not one that believes in silver bullets. I think that careful long-range planning, sound fiscal management, savings through attrition, etc., can all lead to significant savings over time. Even where there are seemingly obvious ways to save money, we need to be careful that those decisions don’t have unintended consequences that could cost us in the long run (eg. deferred maintenance or proposing to slash personnel costs in a manner that might comprise our ability to attract the best and brightest, etc.)
What, if any, programs should be established or expanded?
We are incredibly fortunate in East Greenwich to have great offerings in our schools. At a minimum, I want to be sure that we maintain these current offerings and that students have equal access to these offerings. I’m sure there are opportunities to expand programming as well, and as a member of the School Committee I will be very interested to hear what the community would like to see.
What, if any, changes would you like to see in the next teachers contract?
I think the biggest issue in the next teacher’s contract will be aligning it so that the district is in a position to successfully implement the Basic Education Program. As a parent, I was pleased to see the district form a Commission on Retaining High Quality Teachers to identify and study best practices in attracting, directing, supporting, and retaining high-quality teachers. This commission, which included representatives from the East Greenwich Education Association, has put forth a series of recommendations that will be important in the next round of contract negotiations.
In 100 words or less, why should people vote for you?
I’m running for School Committee because I am passionate about education and willing to work hard to make sure that East Greenwich continues to move in the right direction. It takes an extraordinary amount of work to align ourselves to world-class standards, and to ensure that we have the institutional systems in place to help us achieve these standards. I am a person who is able to look at complex issues, weigh options, balance considerations, and find alternatives. My work style is collaborative, and I work effectively with those who don’t think like I do. I also count as a personal strength the fact that I don’t bring a single, burning issue with me to this office. We have way too many issues that need our full attention, and I’m the kind of person that wants to make sure that we are firing on all cylinders.