We cannot find an online copy of this survey on the Carroll County Republican Central Committee website, so we are copying it here. The survey results were sent to email subscribers. To subscribe, go to http://www.ccgop.net/contact-us-register-for-email.html
In order to help our voters learn more about the school board candidates, the Carroll County Republican Central Committee sent out a survey to all of the candidates running in the primary. We received responses from two of them, Julie Kingsley and Donna Sivigny. Their complete and unedited answers are below.
Are you a past or present employee of the Carroll County Public School system?
Julie Kingsley: No
Donna Sivigny: No
Are any of your immediate family members employees of CCPS? (Spouse, parents, children, siblings, in-laws)
Julie Kingsley: No
Donna Sivigny: No
Are your children or grandchildren students in CCPS?
Julie Kingsley: Yes. In the fall I will have a daughter in the 4th grade and a son in kindergarten.
Donna Sivigny: Yes, I have two children currently attending Sandymount Elementary in the 4th and 2nd grades.
What percentage of the county budget should be dedicated to school funding?
Julie Kingsley: I don’t believe that setting a specific, potentially arbitrary, spending target is an appropriate way to decide what to spend on local education. Instead, I think it is more appropriate to set funding levels commensurate with the quantifiable needs of the school system. Historical data can be used as a barometer to indicate if we are at risk of over-funding or under-funding our local schools. As a percentage of our county budget, local education funding is currently at its lowest level since before 1990.
Donna Sivigny: I don’t think school funding should be a set percentage of the county budget. It should be the appropriate amount of funding determined and justified by the Board of Education, and should slide up or down depending on the number of students in the school system. In order for this to work properly, however, the Board of Education must optimize existing resources and we as a county must advocate for changes to the Thornton state funding formula.
What financial or budgeting background/experience do you possess?
Julie Kingsley: I am a high school math teacher, with a B.S. in Mathematics. Throughout my career I have taught many high-level math courses. I believe that financial literacy is an important part of education, and I routinely incorporate financial education into my teaching. By teaching students concepts such as compounding and exponential growth, they are better equipped to understand real-life issues such as local budgeting and financial planning.
I am a financially conservative parent and homeowner, who makes responsible choices about what to invest in, what to save for, and what to forgo. I make financial decisions that allow me to live nearly debt free while also affording my family the ability to save for future needs, including my children’s higher education.
Donna Sivigny: I am an actuary, and I do financial analysis and comprehensive planning for a living. I have the FSA designation (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries), which is the highest distinction that one can earn in my field, and I have been performed data and financial analysis for 25 years. I am recognized as a leader with a proven track record of strategic and financial problem-solving experience.
Do you believe that it was necessary to close ANY schools in the CCPS system? If yes, please say which you believe should be closed. If no, please explain.
Julie Kingsley: I do not believe that closing schools is generally good for local jurisdictions. Although it can be difficult to quantify, there are many negative impacts from having to take such a drastic measure. However, if faced with such a decision I would advocate for minimizing the impact to future economic development in the county. Having already taken the difficult measure of closing schools, I believe that working to stabilize school enrollments and improve our county’s economic development can help us avoid having to close schools in the future.
Donna Sivigny: Yes, unfortunately, I do believe that we need to close some schools. Given the significant decline in student enrollment, I believe we need to reduce fixed overhead costs. But I believe that this all needs to be done in a comprehensive way that makes financial sense, optimizes current resources, frees up funds to give our educators raises, and maintains a great education for our students. I believe that the school closure plan needs to focus on a solution for the aging schools identified in CCPS’s Facilities Master Plan as being in POOR condition and needing significant capital infusion in the near future to remain functional. I developed a plan during the school closure debate that would have saved the county $88 million more over 10 years than what was being proposed by the Board of Education as Option 2. In this plan, I recommended closing the 4 poor-condition schools in the county and re-purposing Winter’s Mill as a middle school, along with comprehensive redistricting to accomplish in a reasonable way. While I feel that this plan is significantly better than the Option chosen by the Board of Education and does a lot more to help solve the financial problem that we are facing, my plan did not contemplate the best way to handle the Career and Tech Center needs. The plan should be revised to contemplate this, as part of a comprehensive solution. I believe there is a way to do this that would make the overall 10-year savings to the county even greater, and improve the quality and access of the school system.
What should we do about the Career & Tech Center? Do we need a new one and, if so, how much should we spend?
Julie Kingsley: The Career and Tech Center is a great asset to our school system. There are two fundamental problems with our current CTC system. First, the facility is out of date and long overdue for modernization. Second, it does not have sufficient capacity and 25% of applicants are turned away as a result. Although building a new facility could solve both of these problems, there are lower cost alternatives that should be considered. One alternative is to change the delivery model so that many of the CTC programs are moved into the high schools. This change could take advantage of existing high school capacity, and could reduce the large capital investment that is required to build a new Career & Tech Center.
Donna Sivigny: I do not believe that we need a brand new Career and Tech Center facility, but we absolutely need to expand the access to and capacity of the Career and Tech Center by several hundred students. This needs to be part of the comprehensive plan for the school system, and I believe it could be done in combination with redistricting to create more space at Westminster High, expanding the current CCCTC facilities, and potentially using a branch operation at more than one high school for some of the classroom-based programs. The costs to accomplish this need to be studied further, but I believe that it should cost far less than the $97 million that is currently in CCPS’s capital plan.
What is or should be the role of the CCEA in our school system?
Julie Kingsley: The CCEA’s role is to advocate on behalf of our critical teacher workforce. One of our county’s most important assets, our teachers represent a highly educated and well trained workforce. Recent years have shown that our teaching professionals are mobile and highly sought out by neighboring counties. By advocating for our teachers, the CCEA is also advocating for our students by striving to keep our valuable teachers here in Carroll County.
Donna Sivigny: I have read CCEA’s mission statement and am comfortable with their stated goals.
Do you think there should be term limits for BOE members?
Julie Kingsley: Yes. I believe that BOE members should be limited to two terms.
Donna Sivigny: While I don’t think term limits has been a real issue or concern in Carroll County for BOE members, I firmly believe in the concept of term limits and think it should apply to BOE members.
What is the most important thing voters should know about you?
Julie Kingsley: I believe that my background and experience as an educator is critical to ensuring that we operate an efficient and effective school system here in Carroll County. Throughout my career, I have taught various high level math courses ranging from Algebra 1 to AP Calculus. My experience has taught me how to prepare our students to be responsible, contributing, career and college ready citizens – which is our most important job as parents and as a school system.
As a teacher, I also know what works (and what doesn’t) about our education system. There are aspects of our school system that we need to improve. I have the necessary skills and experience to oversee improvements, and to hold the school system accountable to measurable results.
Our schools are an integral part of Carroll County’s viability, and together we can help ensure our schools and county thrive!
Donna Sivigny: I am a parent of two children in the public school system, and I volunteer regularly at the school. I care deeply about the quality of our students’ education and the operation of our schools. I absolutely believe that the economic viability of our county hinges on the success of the school system, but I am also well aware of the financial constraints we face. I would like to use my financial background and communication skills to get CCPS back on track financially, so that we can get the focus back on the students where it needs to be.