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School Board Questionnaire: Bill Campbell

Patch asked candidates for School Board to complete a questionnaire to shed some light on where candidates stand in issues important to Alexandria City Public Schools. Here's what they had to say.

Patch School Board Candidate Questionnaire

District A Candidate William E. "Bill" Campbell

Age: 50 years, 9 months, born Jan. 16, 1962
Occupation: Program Engineer for Department of Defense
Incumbent or non-incumbent: Non-incumbent
If incumbent, how many years have you served on the board? N/A
How long have you been an Alexandria resident? 7.5 years
Which neighborhood do you live in? Northwest Old Town/Parker-Gray District
Website, Facebook page or other contact information: www.billcampbell4schoolboard.com, campbelw1@verizon.net, Facebook: bill campbell, 703-399-9521

What unique perspective, experience or expertise would you bring to the School Board?

I am in my 26th year of working for the Department of Defense. I have had meaningful direct responsibilities for managing multi-million dollar programs and have had a significant role on a $1.4 billion dollar undertaking. I have lived and traveled throughout the United States and abroad. I have been involved with school districts in West Virginia, Virginia, Alabama and Washington state.  I have served as a contracting officer representative and contracting officer technical lead on multi-million dollar engineering, production and facility construction contracts.

I have served as a manager of personnel including guiding a team of 47 employees while serving as the Director of the Army Stryker Transformation Team. I have assisted with hiring personnel and have been intimately involved with personnel issues. In addition to my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, I have a master’s certificate from Georgetown University in Paralegal Studies (concentration in Government Law and Intellectual Property) and I am enrolled in courses working toward a doctorate in the area of industrial and organizational psychology. I escaped the cycle of poverty that is often resigned to low-income children of color, born to unwed, undereducated and unprepared mothers. I understand racism, institutionalized bias, the value of having positive role models and mentors, dodging peer pressure, etc., not because I read books or imagine or empathize how it must have been, but because I have experienced and been rewarded by each of these things. I will bring these life perspectives and workplace expertise to the school board dais.

What are top challenges facing ACPS and how do you plan to engage the community to address them?

Top challenges for ACPS include raising achievement, addressing capacity and developing teacher and leader assessment plans. To maximize one’s educational capabilities, we must begin by establishing a healthy, socially and emotionally well-adjusted child. This begins at home and is fortified and nurtured in the street, by every adult that comes in contact with a child. We as adults not only owe this to our children, but we owe it to our communities. We cannot be afraid of our children. We cannot turn away from bad behavior. We must be role models. We must be arbitrators. We must at all times correct and reward. I’ve done this. I do this, and I will always do this, whether elected to the school board or not. With regards to education, I have a very simplistic approach: Enthusiastic and emotionally well-adjusted children, engaged parents and quality teachers. As a school board member, I don’t think that ACPS can ever be described as a quality, “internationally-leading” school district until we make significant improvements in achievements for low-income children of color.  Addressing capacity and teacher/leader assessments, in my opinion, are also linked to achievement. With the community as a partner, I will lead the development of a capacity plan, which will include exploring adjustments to enrollment boundaries.  Lastly, working closely with our teachers, we will agree on and implement a teacher and key leader assessment plan. This plan will have metrics that are directly tied to student outcomes. 

What role do the members of the School Board play in ensuring transparency and accountability at the ACPS Central Office?

There is an axiom that “the school board has only one employee, the superintendent.” I would say that this seems to me to be a bit narrow focused and perhaps even a passing of the buck. As an elected official, I would feel that the school board is entrusted by the community to be responsible for all aspects and operations of the school district to include all employees from the superintendent to a contractor hired for one day to remove brush. Therefore, to the extent that we do not violate any employee personnel rights, if I’m elected to the board, I will fight to ensure that every aspect of our business is an open and easily accessible product. Our parents, teachers, and community members should not have to threaten legal actions or go through burdensome “Freedom of Information Act” requests simply to see what we are doing. Working to establish real and meaningful relationships with our families and the community will be a focus of my board tenure. This, I feel, is the key to achievement sustained positive educational outcomes. To do this, we must establish trust and transparency is an important component. Transparency of our operations will also foster more trust with City Council. This will be critical as we work together developing both short and long-term capacity plans.

What is your opinion of the superintendent’s job performance?

Only a few weeks into his tenure at ACPS, I had a quarrel with Dr. Sherman. I was the PTA President at Jefferson-Houston Elementary School. We had just gotten notice that the school, for the first time, met the Annual Yearly Progress standards. Back then, schools would proudly place banners at their school entrances indicating that these standards had been exceeded. I attempted to explain to Dr. Sherman why displaying the banner at Jefferson-Houston was critical for the psyche of the community. He argued that the standards were “minimal” and that we needed to have higher expectations. While I did not disagree with this thought, I emphasized the years of struggle, the delicate nature of the community support, and other subtle, but critical Alexandria neighborhood nuances that made it important to acknowledge the AYP achievement. Sherman ignored my advice, mandated that no banners would be flown, and in the intervening years, Jefferson-Houston has yet to meet or exceed those achievement levels. In this instance, Sherman did not bother to first get to know the community or spend time to talk with others prior to making his unilateral decision about the banners.  I think this is a reflection of a characteristic that is not in line with “the Alexandria way”, which is community inclusion. Poor or mixed achievement results, coupled with unilateral decision-making and indifference toward the community are not a good recipe for Alexandria. To be frank, I’m of the opinion that Dr. Sherman will have to change or leave.

How can a School Board member improve communication between ACPS and parents/caregivers?

This would be a critical priority for my school board tenure. I’m convinced that establishing real and meaningful relationships with students and families is the primary key to making sustained achievement gains. First, we must especially and dramatically improve connections to the minority, ELL and special needs communities. These communities have an incredible amount of distrust with ACPS as well as a discomfort and therefore reluctance with interacting. I will personally commit to establishing a relationship with each and every family who struggles to navigate ACPS. I will work to ensure that every student is aware of all support services available to them. Finally, I will work with established community organizations to ensure that information is timely, repetitively and adequately conveyed. Partner organizations will include fraternities and sororities, Tenant and Workers United, churches, Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), NAACP, civic associations and recreation centers. I served on Alexandria's Early Childhood Commission and I'm absolutely positive that maximizing one's educational potential begins with positive exposures in the early years, 0-8 years. We need to better align ourselves with Alexandria’s Department of Human Services to work with young mothers and families to ensure that they avail themselves of all early childhood assets available in the city. I also would work diligently to ensure that all of our students’ have meaningful “Individual Achievement Plans (IAPs)." Finally, no IEP or IAP will go unsupported.

What are some of your ACPS budget priorities? For example, do you favor spending more money to keep class sizes low or a longer school year or day? Are there certain areas that should be trimmed financially?

We need to emphasize the criticality of having a socially and emotionally well-adjusted child. Our community needs to increase the availability of quality early-childhood services. It is unreasonable to ask teachers alone to provide the intellectual, social and character-building stimulus and support that our children need. School Board members need to emphasize the importance that the entire community plays in the education of the child. We must establish a continuum of health, educational and social supports. With socially and emotionally well-adjusted children, the impact of class size is less. Also the need for altered programming such as an extended day diminishes. My budget priorities would reflect a focus on early interventions and parental support services. I also would focus funding on securing additional high quality teachers and counselors. I also would advocate for the implementation of a restorative justice discipline program (RJDP). Research indicates that RJDPs can lead to reductions in dropouts and improvements in achievement primarily by working to eliminate the root causes of discipline issues, rather than simply suspending or expelling students. Finally, I would be a strong advocate for securing more highly qualified paraprofessionals especially to support our special needs students. ACPS’s achievement results for our special needs students are well below surrounding jurisdictions and state averages. Often this is a product of us simply “making due” with inadequately trained and insufficiently staffed support teams. I would assess and trim all programs that are ineffective and ones that have outlived their usefulness.

The next School Board likely will need to address the possibility of boundary adjustments and attendance zone changes. What are your guiding principles regarding economic or racial segregation, neighborhood schools, magnet schools, class and school sizes, busing policies and other considerations?

WOW! There is a lot to this question! I could take the easy way out and say simply that the Constitution and other federal and state laws guide me, but that answer would be no fun! Thank goodness that, generally speaking, folks can live where they want to live. The exceptions to this are families that live in federally supported housing in which case one must live where the federal housing is. I definitely support giving families more choices in non-concentrated, quality housing. I likewise support providing quality schools in each of our neighborhoods to support families being able to send their children to their local elementary school. I’ve never seen busing as a major obstacle in Alexandria given that we are less than 16 square miles and a bus can traverse the city in 15 minutes. I think it is great for parents to have choice between quality public, private or parochial schools. I do not support taking money from public schools to support charters. Attendance boundaries should be developed based on school location, a community’s child population and projected child population increases. I will advocate for the development of a comprehensive long-range capacity plan. This plan would be prepared by a taskforce consisting of members from the community, City Planning & Zoning, demographers, developers, school board and key ACPS personnel.

What role does a School Board member play in helping raise academic achievement for all students and close the achievement gap?

I am convinced that a strong contributing factor to ACPS's low achievement is the lack of social and emotional readiness of many of the students, specifically low-income and minorities. Oftentimes, this lack of social and emotional readiness can lead to hasty loss of focus and bad decisions when dealing with conflict resolution. Too often, especially in our high challenge schools, our teachers have to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with social-emotional issues and discipline. It is virtually impossible to train and develop the intellect if the student is not focused or motivated. Unfortunately, these types of problems are systemically rooted in low-income, undereducated community pockets and are developed from birth to five years. I still believe that ACPS and School Board members can be catalyst in terms of raising expectations and capabilities. We can help deliver the message to communities regarding the criticality of early years development, relationships and exposures. We need to develop connections with these families early and help provide the tools necessary to improve the health, social and emotional readiness of the children who will be attending ACPS schools.  This will require improved coordination between ACPS and City Agencies.  Having served on both City and ACPS committees, I am well positioned to hit the ground running toward forging and improving these critical relationships. The school board, ACPS leaders and teachers, our parents and the community should all be held accountable for our children. It truly does take a village!

oldtowner October 29, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Since the Schools get about 82% of their operating budget from the City, I think Patch unfortunately failed to address the issue of the relationship between the School Board and City Council. School Board members/candidates can talk all they want about how to improve school quality, but they get their money from the City; they have no taxing authority. Considering the Vice Mayor called for the Superintendent's resignation this past year, the relationship between the School Board and the Council is vital. Patch ignored this important issue.

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