Where They Stand: Nathan Williamson

Nathan Williamson

What are the three biggest issues facing your school district? How will you address them?

Making sure to support and respect teachers as professionals. When you honor staff, students achieve at high levels. Ensuring the fiscal health of our school district, and invest money where it is needed most, in classrooms, academics, extracurriculars. Effective communication, wants parents to know their voice is heart and input is valued.

What is the most important thing you can do as a school board member to improve student achievement?

Listen to the experts: teachers, administrators. Ensure fiscal spending remains healthy, maintain appropriate class sizes, provide additional support to those who needs it most. Promote student achievement.

Do you favor adding any academic, sports or extracurricular programs, facilities or facility upgrades? Why or why not? What curriculum changes would you suggest?

Would look to strengthen and expand existing programming that is going well. Look at what students enjoy and has the biggest impact and how we can do it better. Schools are safer and better equipped for student needs than ever before. Would not support changes until study shows it is needed. Curriculum has to be driven by teachers. Wants to provide leadership, but ownership of curriculum must start with teachers.

If funding became so tight that programs would need to be cut, how would you decide? What would be a priority?

Priority is always services and academics that impact children directly. Wants to make sure that the school district is supporting kids learning. Maintain appropriate class sizes, teacher-student ratios, programs and coursework that are interesting and appeal to students. If the school district needs to cut something, would need to be far removed from students. Would also need to make sure to look at how efficiently the school district is operating.

Do you favor selling naming rights to parts of schools, classrooms, scoreboards or buildings?

Advertising can be effective when done responsibly and there is an appropriate time and place. Can be done to support schools, programs, extracurriculars, fine arts. Families know which businesses support our schools.

What, if any, policies should be in place to accept advertising dollars? Who should be involved in approving the contracts?

Contracts are approved by the school board with guidance and support of the administrative team. Need to make sure companies support students, represent values of community before allowing them to advertise. Wants to make sure it is a strong benefit to our students. If we can’t tell how it will benefit our children, should look to other means to support our needs.

If area businesses are willing to give schools thousands of dollars, why is the money being spent on athletics? Why is that the top priority? Couldn’t the advertisements still be displayed on a sports facility with the money going to academic or other programs?

There is a balance. When a school district accepts outside funding, they have to work with the organization to find what complements the area of need for the school district and organization. Athletics do play an important part of achievement of students. Students develop responsibility, work ethic. Funding can go to academics as well.

What facility improvements, such as turf, outdoor labs, remodeling, expansions or new buildings does your school district need? How will they be paid for?

Facility study has to be done first to make sure we are maximizing current space. Are we using the space as effectively as we can? Must answer that question before look at building new. Any upgrades need to be in locations easily accessible to students, so near or in schools. Would favor using existing capital projects funding, instead of raising taxes or asking the community for more money.

You are in charge of evaluating the district’s superintendent. What does your superintendent need to show to earn a positive evaluation?

Any effective leader is a servant leader who supports and sets up others for success. Culture of high achievement has to exist and be communicated by superintendent. Needs to be good communicator, must communicate well with teachers and families to remove barriers.

The number of students on free and reduced-price lunch from low-income families has been rising. What can your district do to ensure all students receive the kind of resources and help they need to be able to succeed?

Students coming from varying backgrounds often need additional support — extra time with teacher, smaller class sizes, tutoring. Also need teachers that are trained to meet their needs. When you provide those supports and are hiring and retaining good teachers, can support all students.

The number of National Merit Scholars has been viewed as a measure of a school district’s achievement. Do you agree? What do you think the school district can do to get more students into this program?

Does agree that should be one indicator measuring our success, but should not be the only one. Students who perform at high levels need counselors that support their college and career planning. Would also encourage district to look at other indicators to measure our success, including career and technical education, achievement in related arts, and other areas not tied solely to that scholarship.

How well is your school district preparing students for college? What more would you like to see offered, or what should be changed?

Is an emphasis not just on college, but on preparation for careers. Dual credit, Advanced Placement, technical and career training all will help better prepare our children to succeed and go on to college and careers. Must maintain and grow those programs. Wants to make sure all students, no matter income, can participate. Keep costs low, so equitable for all children. Graduation rates are high, rates of students in college and career readiness are high, but wants to make sure every child has opportunity, can continue to improve,

How well do you believe your school district is preparing students for technical careers, including manufacturing, computer programing and nursing, which has been identified as a priority? What do you believe could be done better?

We have an effective model with Central Nine Career Center. However if we can ensure additional programs are offered in a convenient location and students can still do other coursework, students will participate. Wants them to have plenty of options to consider, and then can participate more.

Most schools across the county give students devices, such as laptops and tablets, to use. Do you believe these devices are needed in the classroom? Why or why not? And how should schools measure the effectiveness of these devices to see how they are helping students learn?

Students are entering college and workforce where technology is the norm. We must equip them. Must ensure professional learning time for teachers exists to work together to create lessons that effectively integrate technology. Technology should enhance learning. And if students are participating, graduating, etc, then we can view technology as supporting those efforts.

School security has become more of a focus in recent years. Do you believe schools are safe enough? What else should be done to make them secure?

Many facility upgrades have been done in recent years to ensure buildings are as safe as can be. Training for staff should be consistent and ongoing, so they are prepared and students know how to act and behave. Safety comes from within the building. Schools should also be ensuring students are behaving well, so they can focus on learning and student achievement and behavior doesn’t detract from that.

Local public schools have been losing more students to private schools through the state’s voucher program. How can public schools remain competitive to retain and attract students?

Parents are going to choose the education that best fits their students’ needs. If we offer high quality learning, effective teachers, learning environments that are safe and clean, then we will be the choice for parents. Enrollment has continued to grow and that is due to parents recognizing value of their children going here.

What have you done to prepare for the job of a school board member? Have you attended school board meetings, requested documentation or met with any officials, educators or parents? What specific steps have you taken?

Is a parent of four Center Grove children, and wants his children and all others to succeed. Former teacher, been administrator, university professor and now state education director. Knows what it’s like to work somewhere that supports children. Met with community members to get feedback, works with educators who work each day in schools and listens to what they need. His experience and ability to communicate makes him a valuable board member. Has attended board meetings, been a part of strategic planning and looks forward to building on that.

While parents play a huge role in a child’s physical wellness, children spend a large part of their day at school. What is your school district doing, or should it be doing, to ensure that children and employees have opportunities to get part of the recommended amount of physical activity during the school day? Do the current policies and nutrition offerings support healthy choices, even when it comes to concession stands, fundraising items and vending machines?

Providing well rounded education so children can participate in physical education across entire career at Center Grove to help them make healthy lifestyle choices. School should also have effective communication with parents. Physical activity and healthy choices can’t only exist at school, so work with parents. His children love school lunches, and he does think those are healthy. Concession stands should not be focus of whether school is offering healthy items. School lunches and minimizing sugary snacks so students focus on learning is most important.

Construction is set to begin soon on a $10 million student activity center. Do you believe this facility is needed? Why or why not?

Yes, does believe it is needed. Knows it first hand, from listening to community members who supported the center and the staff. Will ensure students across multiple activities and sports have room to practice, and can practice at appropriate times, not well into evening or very early morning due to lack of space. Also attracts students to enroll, one option of well-rounded program we offer. Did not raise the taxes our community pays.

The cost of the student activity center is just below the threshold in state law for requiring a public vote. Should the public have had a right to vote on this project? Why or why not?

The guidelines are set by legislators for a reason. Was put for a school board vote. And school board members have a right and duty to listen to what public says. Every decision needs to occur in an environment where community provides input. Still had opportunity. Ultimately because of remonstrance, community did support the center so school board made the appropriate choice.

Enrollment, especially at the elementary level, continues to grow and exceed projections. What steps does Center Grove need to take to address that growth? How should that be paid for?

Growth is a sign the school district is attracting new families. Growth also comes with added state funding. Extra teachers, equipping spaces, often is carried out with funding from the state. Growth is sign of positive things occurring, also gives us opportunity to continue to improve. May be point when additional space is needed, but must first ensure we are using our space effectively so students can stay enrolled in the schools they are assigned.

Center Grove has been buying homes near the high school as they become available for future growth needs, and has already spent at least $300,000, with plans to buy at least three more homes. Do you agree with this practice? Why or why not?

Does agree that school district needs to strategically plan to meet needs of future. May require additional learning space, depending on additional enrollment. Is forward thinking to make sure we can meet our needs far into future. But before we do anything with the space, should make sure community gives input and cost of living in community remains low.

Teachers, principals and administrators are not to engage in interviews with the media unless the school communications director has arranged and supervises the interview. In some cases, interviews with people ranging from the superintendent to teachers are delayed for days, weeks or months or school employees have been discouraged from contacting the local media directly when they want to tell their stories from the classroom. Why is this the best practice? Should it be changed?

Do encourage ability of all staff members to be able to tell what is going on in school district. Effective and accurate communication is important, and policies to make sure that is shared with community. Would encourage school district to make sure that is timely and that there isn’t a barrier for our teachers and staff to be able to share the good things going on in our district.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.