Sarah Bilotti

Instructional Integrity, Fiscal Accountability

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Interview – Part 1 – Philosophy of Education

April 17th, 2009 · No Comments · Interview

I recently took part in an interview with the Easton Area Education Association.  Below are my responses to their questions.

Philosophy of Education
1.     Why have you decided to be a candidate for the School Board?

I have a passion for education and feel that I can make a difference in our public schools.   I currently am a school administrator and I feel that the logical next step for me is to become involved in my town’s own public schools.  This desire to be a positive part of Easton’s public school system is what prompted me to run for the BOE.

2.    What is your view on the purpose of education?

I believe that public schools are charged with creating unique, thoughtful, and responsible citizens.  I believe that students have a right to an academically challenging program of study and that they should be educated in a manner that is effective for them and respects the diversity of all learners.

3.    What are your top 5 objectives if elected to the school board?

If elected, I would like to ensure the following:
1.    Instructional integrity
2.    Compliance with state and federal regulations
3.    High level of ethical integrity
4.    An effective and efficient education for all students
5.    To make a positive impact on the students of Easton

4.    Do you oppose tax support of private and parochial schools through a system of tuition vouchers or tuition tax credits?

Yes!

While I respect a person’s right to send their child to private school, I do not agree that it should be at taxpayer expense.  Public tax monies need to go to support our students at our local public schools.

5.    Privatization, or the corporate takeover, of public services is receiving increasing attention.  Would you oppose efforts to allow private companies to provide the services now offered by our public school district such as custodial, transportation, or food services?

Yes, I am opposed to this.

I do not agree with the privatization of public school services.  However, I do support districts entering into shared services agreements and joint ventures with other government agencies (such as other LEAs, townships, etc.) to provide services and support for schools.

For example: sharing the costs of out-of-district transportation with neighboring schools with special education students attending the same out-of-district school, providing free use of facilities to a township in exchange for free snow-removal, buying energy or fuel in bulk in conjunction with another school district to save money, etc.

6.    Do you have children in public schools or did you have children attend public schools when they were younger?  Do you have children in private or parochial schools or did your children attend non-public schools when they were younger?

I do not have children, but if I did, I would proudly have them attend Easton schools.

7.    Have you done volunteer work with public schools? PTA/PTO?

Yes!

I have done extensive volunteer work for both PTOs and Boards of Education.  I have served on numerous committees as well as spent time volunteering directly with students through tutoring, adult education, reading engagements, and direct instruction for struggling students.

8.    How would you respond to a parent who wants the district to limit access to, or remove books from, a school library?

First, I am a strong believer in chain-of-command; if a parent has a question, the parent needs to approach the classroom teacher first.  I do not believe it is the role of a board member as an individual to respond to parent complaints or suggestions.  If a parent came to me directly about this issue, I would refer the parent back to the librarian or building level principal.

If this were an issue being brought before the Board, I would first want to ensure that the current policies covering the selection and retention of library materials was current and in keeping with PA Regulations.  It looks as if currently, BOE policies 105.1, 107, and 702 cover this topic.  This policy sets forth a procedure that ensures that the books selected are:

“considered on the basis of content as a whole.  Evaluations shall be based on the total effect of the material, not on the presence of words, phrases, or situations which might appear objectionable or taken out of context…evaluate[d] thoroughly any material which is manifestly unimportant, cheap and trivial, deliberately distorted, or sensationalistic, particularly in the areas of religion, sex/hygiene, race relations, political ideologies and fiction” and that while public suggestions are considered, they are not binding. (EASD Policy 107).

This policy also sets the framework for a book selection committee, comprised of “professionally-trained personnel employed by the district.”  These committees may involve “principals, teachers, librarians, directors, and coordinators.” (EASD Policy 107)

That said, I think this policy clearly gives the discretion of library materials to the staff who serve on the library committee to choose and maintain the books they feel are appropriate and meaningful to the instruction of the students.  I personally agree with this policy, the selection of library books should be left up to appropriate personnel who have been hired to provide their educational expertise to better the students of Easton.

Incidentally, the courts have ruled that schools may have items such as bibles, so-called ‘banned-books,’ and other controversial material available for borrow in public school libraries, citing that students have the choice of taking out said questionable material; therefore, the rights of a student are not violated simply by having the material present in the library.

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