Madison County School District
School Board Election 2022
Our public education questionnaire was offered to school board candidates in the November 8 school board elections. Search below for responses from board districts that have opposing candidates. Unopposed candidates are not included.
1. What has been your involvement with the community and school district? Describe your leadership and volunteerism in the community. Did you or your children attend school in the district? Have you volunteered in or been employed by the school district? I have three children in the Madison County Schools. I have never been employed by the school district but my wife has been a member of the PTO for over 10 years and together we have volunteered for a number of school activities. Outside of the school I am on the faith based Jackson Leadership Forum’s advisory board and work with many educationally related ad hoc committees (e.g., Ascent to 55%, MS Financial Aid Redesign Committee)
2. Why do you want to serve on your school board? I do not have an agenda. I want to serve the community in this capacity because I understand the educational policy issues and my children who are in three separate schools within the district deserve their voices to be heard by those people who are making decisions on their behalf. No one else currently on the board has children in schools.
3. Students from low-income households often need additional resources to achieve academic success. What should your school district do to ensure that all students are successful? In some cases in Madison County, our lowest income elementary school (Luther Branson) scored higher on the accountability model than our highest income elementary school (Madison Station Elementary). Resources are a part of the answer but there is no power like the power of a culture of high expectations which cost $0. Children totally have the ability to live up to what adults expect from them.
4. What strategies would you support to create a safer school environment? What can your school district do to address cyberbullying, mental health, and physical safety? Mental health is the number one emerging issue in schools as we have emerged from the pandemic. It is critical, critical, critical that we do not impose expectations on our teachers to become front line mental health counselors on top of everything else we expect from them. Whether through technology or outsourcing therapeutic support, LEAs must use whatever resources including partnering with MDMH to give the students who need support the help that they need.
5. What do you see as the most pressing infrastructure needs facing your district? Free high speed broadband in every student’s home.
6. Mississippi school districts are funded by a mix of federal, state, and local funds. The state contributes to local school districts through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). MAEP is intended to fund teacher salaries, retirement and benefits, transportation costs, facility maintenance and utilities, special education and other programs, but it is underfunded statewide this year by $279-million. What role will you play in advocating for full funding of MAEP for your district? Full funding of MAEP should be coupled with a discussion on reforming the accountability model.
7. Vouchers for private school tuition and online schools divert public funds away from public schools. Do you agree that tax dollars should be used for only public schools and not for non-public schools? Why or why not? You are mixing two subjects in the question. I am all for an online public (not private) school option for those parents with children who can excel in that environment. I don’t think the state should spend MAEP funds on private schools but there are millions spent each year in federal funds. I have never heard any serious policy thinker show support for private school vouchers. That always seemed like a scare tactic on both sides.
8. In Mississippi, academic standards are set by the Mississippi Department of Education and local districts choose curricula from an MDE approved list. Do you trust educators in your district to teach using their professional judgement and training or should teaching be further regulated by school board policy or law? If you believe teaching should be further regulated, how so? As I stated above, the time is now to reform the accountability model which drives 99% of the LEA decision making process. We can develop a community based model that reflects the local district’s academic desires while adhering to the federal requirements. This will take law changes in some ways and State Board of Ed policy changes in others.
9. Mississippi is experiencing a severe teacher shortage. What strategies will you support to recruit and retain high quality educators? We have to stop imposing unending expectations on what teachers are expected to do in the classroom. We should continue to increase salaries but provide flexibility at the local level in terms of driving salaries based on market demands. If you need a physics teacher you should be able to use whatever MAEP funds you can to go find one and pay them what they are worth. There is a reason why we haven’t had one certified in years.
William R. Grisset