Doug Brown – BUILDING GREAT SCHOOLS REQUIRES A GREAT COMMUNITY EFFORT
In the announcement of my candidacy for Madison County Superintendent of Schools, I indicated that I believe the county is at a crucial juncture in its history. Profound and inexorable changes at the local, state, national, and global levels are forcing communities and counties to assess their strengths and weaknesses and to make decisions that will have long-lasting impacts on the residents therein. While all of the institutions that form the foundation of communities are impacted and must respond accordingly, I believe the education system is of utmost importance and most at risk. In fact, I believe our education system is at a crisis point. The Chinese (more on them later) language character for the word ‘crisis’ can be interpreted to include elements of both danger and opportunity. With great schools, opportunity abounds for the community and its citizens. With mediocrity comes danger of demise and decline.
Madison County’s schools have all of the elements necessary for becoming a GREAT school system. Our schools currently have a number of high-achieving students that score well on the FCAT and other objective measures of achievement. Understandably, the focus has been on the larger number of students performing at substandard levels. The challenge is to create conditions in our schools that facilitate high achievement by ALL students. Some will call this task impossible, but I am not one of them. A concerted schools and community effort can lead to much higher levels of student achievement.
A portion of my optimism is borne of the fact that Madison County schools have some of the finest teachers found anywhere. These teachers are not just good, they are outstanding. We must also acknowledge that the system employs some teachers performing below expectation. Madison County is not unique in that respect. Most schools have a mix of outstanding, adequate, and below par teachers. Great schools have systems in place to raise all teachers to the outstanding level. The challenge is to put such a system into place in the Madison County school system. I have studied school systems that have outstanding professional development programs to facilitate great teaching and I will work to implement just such a program.
Setting high expectations for teachers and students is fundamentally important. Having a laser focus on assisting teachers and students in the achievement of those expectations is paramount. Great schools also recognize that teachers and students do not exist in a community vacuum. Schools are institutions within a community consisting of parents of students and residents without children in the school system. Great school systems are able to marshal parental and community resources in support of high expectations and strategies to meet those expectations.
The building blocks of learning begin at home. Parents must be encouraged to assist in building a strong learning foundation before the child enters the formal schooling process. The school system and the community must work diligently and effectively to ensure that parents have access to resources necessary for foundational development. I will work hard to forge alliances with existing health, social services, and early childhood professionals. Such collaborations aimed at school readiness will almost assuredly lead to higher levels of student achievement at the preschool, early elementary and subsequent grade levels. No other time period in a student’s learning life is quite as important as the early childhood years. My involvement in a wide range of community activities enhances my ability to bring community resources to bear on the early childhood years.
Of course, the early childhood years are not the only critical years in the educational journey. In fact, education professionals now recognize that critical years of physical, social, and cognitive development cannot be pinned to particular ages. Children of the same chronological age are frequently at different developmental stages. These developmental differences present one of the major challenges to educators. There are, however, particular times in the journey that can be labeled as transition years. Children moving from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to postsecondary venues can find these times to be challenging. Great schools are conscious of these transitions and have strategies in place to prepare students for the changes and to assist in navigation from one milieu to another. As superintendent, I will place special emphasis on these transition years, making sure that resources are in place to ensure smooth sailing.
My administration will be marked by a ‘conception to career’ focus on learning. Healthy babies are much more likely to become high achieving children. High achieving children become teens with a passion for learning. Their goal is not simply graduation, but making a difference in the world. Teens with a desire to change the world are deeply engaged and much more likely to go on to postsecondary learning opportunities. It is imperative that Madison County schools prepare students for careers and/or college. Career and college readiness are not optional. The National Governor’s Association has developed a set of common core academic standards endorsed by all but a few states. These nationally recognized common core standards and attendant end-of-course assessments developed in conjunction with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will allow a much greater degree of ‘apples to apples’ assessment of learning. Not only will Madison County students be competing with Florida students via the FCAT, but common core end-of-course assessments will facilitate comparisons with students in other states. Some of the end-of-course assessments have already been administered. I welcome the common core approach and its accompanying challenges. I am confident that Madison County’s school system can join forces with a community that truly values educational achievement to compete with the best.
When it comes to competition, we cannot afford to compare only county to county or even state to state. Our students must compete internationally. Remember the reference to the Chinese in the first paragraph? In a global society, our children must compete with students in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and a host of other rapidly developing countries. Both China and India have more high-achieving honors students than the total number of U.S. students. Most low-skill and medium-skill level jobs that can be outsourced to other countries have already been exported. Inexpensive labor costs in these countries have contributed to an exodus of low and medium skill jobs. This scenario leaves only high skill jobs, some geographically-bound skilled jobs (i.e. power industry), and scads of low-paying, low skill service industry jobs (i.e., fast food industry). The aforementioned common core standards are built upon the supposition that the difference between high skill career readiness and college readiness is largely specious. Essentially, readiness for careers and readiness for college are synonymous concepts. The skills required for the best careers and for college include such things as critical thinking, creativity, innovation, ability to work in teams, oral and written communication, cultural awareness, and technological prowess.
Read that list of skills again. Astute readers will quickly surmise that most schools are not conducive to the development of such skills. In fact, it can be argued that many schools are designed to deter students from achieving these critical skills. Most schools are still operating on an industrial society model that cannot and will not produce students ready for the careers of today let alone those of tomorrow. Great schools have either transitioned or are in process of transitioning to 21st century schools based upon a knowledge society model. What do these schools do? Emphasis is placed upon teamwork, access to and use of learning technologies, encouragement of creative and innovative solutions to problems, communicating learning outcomes to a variety of audiences, and respect for the contributions of all. Many great schools have replaced course alignment based upon traditional academic disciplines with project-based learning models that recognize and incorporate the contributions of multiple disciplines to a particular problem or project. These schools produce students already making significant contributions to the community and larger society. I look forward to the transition to 21st century schools in Madison County.
Finally, I must address safe schools and discipline. In the short run, some rather drastic measures may be necessary in some of our schools to restore order. I am confident, however, that the necessity for punitive approaches to discipline can ultimately be replaced by more positive approaches. In particular, I firmly believe that ALL students can learn and ALL students want to learn. It is our challenge as educators to create learning environments that engage the hearts and minds of students in schools where respect and responsibility are championed and rewarded by students and school personnel alike. The larger community must reinforce the message of respect and responsibility. ‘Do as I do’ is much more influential than ‘Do as I say’.
Madison County, we have an opportunity to build upon our strengths to create a school system that shines as a beacon of community achievement. We have a chance to put the right tools in the tool boxes our children will carry into the future. We can ensure that every child can compete with his/her neighbor whether across the street or across the globe. We have the opportunity to build GREAT (not just good) schools. When we do, no one will have to ask about school grades, FCAT scores, and county rankings. We would need only to look at our students, our graduates, and our communities. Confidence, competence, and vibrancy are visible commodities.
I will tackle these issues and more in upcoming campaign ‘position ads’. It is my sincere hope that the ads will stimulate community discussions about education and lead to questions that can and should be asked of candidates for the Superintendent of Schools position. If you have questions about anything I have written or wish to discuss these views in more detail, please feel free to contact me a (850) 973-8238 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is with a sense of eager enthusiasm tempered by a profound respect for the challenges of the position that I announce my candidacy for Superintendent of Schools in Madison County. Outstanding schools are key elements in the quality of community life. Drawing upon thirty-two years of professional experience in education and twenty-six years of active community involvement in Madison County, I will tirelessly work with the students, teachers, support personnel, and citizens of Madison County to create 21st century schools of which we can all be proud.
Education is in my DNA. I come from a family of educators. My grandfather, father, and uncle were superintendents. My immediate and extended families include nearly a dozen teachers. My wonderful wife, Lynne, is a counselor at Madison County Central School and has served as a counselor at Madison County High School. Her mother, Jenny Andrews, is a legendary Madison County teacher.
My work roles in a thirty-two year education career have been many and varied. Twenty-six of those years have been at North Florida Community College where I have served as a classroom instructor, a student services and academic affairs administrator, and as a strategic plan facilitator. I have also served on Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation teams in several southeastern states, and had the privilege of chairing one of those teams. My community involvement includes service on church committees at the Madison First United Methodist Church, where I have also served as a Sunday School teacher, Lay Leader, and as a certified lay speaker. It has been my pleasure to serve on a wide range of boards, including the North Florida Workforce Development Board. I have maintained an enduring passion for rural communities and have worked diligently to facilitate economic development opportunities. Currently, I serve as the chair of the Madison County Development Council. That role has crystallized my views relative to the relationship between education, economic development, and quality of life in rural communities.
Nothing excites me more than the prospect of tackling the challenges facing our school system. During the campaign, I will provide citizens with a set of ideas that clearly demonstrate both my grasp of the issues and my ability to bring collaborative and innovative approaches to bear upon those issues. I am fully aware that no one person can lay claim to having all of the answers necessary to solve our problems. Any successful education leader must be able to marshal the existent resources in the schools and the community to facilitate high levels of student achievement. My long involvement in the education profession, my service on numerous community boards, and my active role in economic development efforts give me a broad perspective and the ability to leverage community resources for our children and the schools they attend.
Lynne and I have been married for 23 years and have three sons: Zack, Drew, and Aaron. Drew is a graduate of Madison County High School and currently lives and works in Madison. Aaron is a senior at MCHS and a dual enrollment student at North Florida Community College.
My campaign will be a campaign of listening. I want to hear the hearts of our students, our teachers, our support personnel, our administrators, and our parents. I will solicit the opinions and suggestions of county residents. I have been in the education field long enough to know that the answers to challenges of teaching and learning at the local level seldom come from faraway places. I have lived in Madison County long enough to know what the citizens of this county can do when united in purpose and resolve. We are, I believe, at a crucial juncture in the history of our county. This is not a time for apathy. This is a time for building upon the good things already happening in our schools. This is a time to roll up the sleeves and fix the things that are broken. It is a time to rise up as a county of citizens that will settle for nothing less than the very best for our children. That time is now, and I want to work with you to make it happen. I humbly ask for your vote and support. Please email me at email@example.com with suggestions, ideas, and concerns, or to learn of ways you can support the campaign to elect Doug Brown as the next Superintendent of Schools in Madison County.
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Doug Brown, for Madison County School Superintendent.