Where they stand: Pingnan Shi

Pingnan Shi

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

Math. Has been math teacher for six years, and is always surprised at how bad math education is. Is not a new problem. Most high school graduates don’t know much about math. Middle and high school math education is a waste of time, students go through it and forget all of it. With more technology and innovation, industry needs a workforce good at math, for engineers and technicians. Mental health. Statistics show us more than 20 percent of teens have some kind of mental disorder, which impacts their academics and well-being. Society doesn’t talk about it. Schools need ways to encourage students to seek help, and make sure there is support to help them. Faith. Because of separation of church and state, students’ faith is put aside. We should better welcome students of all faiths. Textbooks give Christianity a negative view. Wants to see students get spiritual help and a support system.

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

Still needs to better understand the Center Grove school district. Doesn’t know enough to give specific ideas. Schools need to stress math education, have qualified teachers and pay them according to market value. If you are good at math, you can easily find a job at least twice the salary of what teachers make.

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

Doesn’t know enough to answer that question.

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

The priority should be math and English, those are essential skills. Students don’t have to know about history, but if they are going to find a job, they have to know math and English. Some colleges have dropped essay requirements because students can’t write one. Music and sports are also important. Music teaches students to appreciate arts and is good for mental development. Sports teaches them physical activity, team work, perseverance.

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

Not sure about that. No objection to that as long as we can get money.

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

The community should be involved in this. Has to be someone who is a role model, someone to look up to. Should be considered an honor, so should be an honorable person who our kids can look up to.

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?

The school’s priority is academics. The reason we have sports is to be able to build students’ character. Want our students to have academic achievement so when they graduate they can go anywhere they want. Everything should work for that goal.

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

Doesn’t know yet.

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

Has to be well respected by students and teachers. Creates an environment where good teachers can excel, get compensated accordingly. Needs to have some kind of matrix to evaluate the academic achievement of the school.

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?

At school, students should have the same treatment from teachers and not be treated differently based on their parent’s income. Doesn’t think students would be treated better because their parents make more money.

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?

Is a good indicator. But also need to look at trends, instead of just one year. Academic achievement is not only on the school, it is also on the parents and the community. Has to be looked at as a long-term trend to make sure we are moving in the right direction.

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

Doesn’t know enough about the schools to have all the details. But across the nation, schools are lacking in math education. If can improve there, that will increase academic achievement. Sometimes students don’t understand why they need it. Worked as an engineer for 20 years, didn’t use calculus, but it did give me a different perspective and skills.

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?

Doesn’t know enough about the schools to have the details. But sees a trend. Have to have two tracks. One for people good at academics to go as far as they can. Another group is better at hands-on work, and we need to train them to be technicians. High school needs an apprenticeship and academic track and make sure we are training students for the future and the trades that will be there.

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?

Doesn’t think they help from his experience. Thinks they become a distraction and shorten students’ attention span. Technology has its purpose, but this is too young of an age. In college or at work, do need to have experience and be able to use the technology. But should not be doing one-to-one devices at elementary and middle or even high school levels.

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?

Thinks schools are safe enough. Because we watch the news, that makes people think the danger is worse than it actually is. Has lived in Center Grove area for 17 years, not heard of any incidents. Is a safe area.

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?

Works in private Christian school. One issue is the environment. Is not a secret that Center Grove High School has drug issues. And parents are uncomfortable. Faith is another concern. A lot of parents feel that in public schools their children’s faith is being challenged, put down. Another is academic. In my school, student ratio is less than one to 20. This year had most at 19 students, but in previous years, sometimes had 10 or less. Can give more personal attention to the students. Son attended Center Grove High School, and was just one of many students. Vouchers take students out of public schools, but we can use that to make school change for the better.

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?

Has an appointment with the superintendent. Will be talking to as many parents as he can, and has already been talking with some. In the past, went to forums, voted in elections. Still has a lot to learn.

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?

Doesn’t know enough to give details. One concern is too much sugar in drinks, snacks. Should be cut down to provide more healthy choices. School needs to provide organized activities. Need to incorporate parents, since a lot of parents have time and want to volunteer, so need to build on that. Could also look at adding more activity time for middle and high school.

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

Doesn’t have enough information to know that.

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?

Thinks public should have been able to vote on that. Is a lot of money. Has a lot to do with students’ physical well-being, helping build those life skills. Need to at least get consensus from the community.

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?

Class size will definitely be an issue. Need to make sure students get individual attention so class sizes need to be limited. If we need a new elementary school, we have to think about that, or other ways of adding more classes. One idea is to work with the churches, if space becomes an issue, to use their facilities. During the day, facilities are pretty much empty. But would need to look at if there would be legal issues involved. Should also do some experimenting at elementary school level, and look at Montessori schools or other schools that are more project-focused. Can give parents choices of the type of school to go to.

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?

Doesn’t know enough about it.

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?

Is not the best practice and it should be changed. Teachers should feel free to contact the media. Parents have the right to know what is going on in schools.

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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.