Hernando County School Board Candidate District 4 Q&A

Time to read
6 minutes
Read so far

Hernando County School Board Candidate District 4 Q&A

October 26, 2016 - 19:22

Please note that both candidates were given a word limit to adhere to in their responses to the given questions. Below are the questions and responses by Gus Guadagnino and William Vonada.

Gus Guadagnino


Gus Guadagnino, candidate for school board district 4

1) Recently, the Lee County School District chose to opt out of common core and then opted back in after feeling pressure from the state. How do you feel Hernando County should approach common core?

Hernando County, will follow the State Board of Education established standards. We have seen our students and staff succeed and achieve. There are many indicators of this, our school and district grades have improved over the last three years.

2) a.Hernando County School District was recently criticized by Judge Karen Gievers for not allowing the consideration of a student portfolio as an alternate way to determine promotion to fourth grade. Do you feel we should consider a student's portfolio and classroom grades if a student opts out of the standardized test or does not pass the test?

According to statute, third grade students must participate in the statewide standards assessment program. Students must demonstrate proficiency in reading in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. Students who do not have a valid FSA ELA score are eligible to take the State-approved nationally test, Stanford 10 Reading Comprehension Assessment, to achieve promotion via demonstrating mastery of Grade 3 standard for reading.

Students not achieving a Level 2 or higher on the statewide assessment (FSA ELA) or SAT/10 Reading Comprehension score of 45 percent may qualify for one of 6 good cause promotion categories. If a student meets one of these good cause promotion categories, they would be exempt from retention and promoted to Grade 4. One of the good cause exemptions includes students who demonstrate, through a student portfolio, that he or she is performing at least at Level 2 on the statewide standardized assessment. As an Elected Official it is my duty and responsibility to make sure The Hernando County School District always follow the law.

2) b.Every student that opts out makes it harder to meet the requirement that 95% of the students in the school as a whole meet or exceed the annual measurable objectives in order to receive full funding. How would you balance the ease of opting out vs the potential loss of funds?

Florida Statutes Section 1008.22(3), states: “Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools…” Furthermore, Florida Statutes Section 1008.25(4) further states: “Each student must participate in the statewide, standardized assessment program required by s.1008.22…”
There is no language in current law that provides an opt-out option. Until such time that there is a change, I will make sure Hernando County school district will continue to follow the law.

3) Are you comfortable with the school district maintaining a 3% reserve level? Please explain your reasoning.

For the first time in eleven years, the Hernando County School District approved a balanced budget without any budget cuts. This shows that through extremely difficult times, financially, for the first time in a very long time, due to conservative spending, strong leadership willing to make tough decisions, we ended our year with a solid fund balance. During my tenure on the school board, we wrote and approved a 5% fund balance policy to ensure that we had enough reserve funding to be able to provide all of our employees with payroll coverage in the event of a emergency.

4) Recent teachers and administrators at Moton Elementary have struggled with resources. As you are aware Former Principal Jamie Young says she resigned due to a lack of resources and concern for the safety of students and teachers. What ideas do you have about how the situation can be fixed at Moton and other schools that have a higher number of students with behavioral issues?

Moton has been on a steady decline for many years and deserves a leader who is dedicated, committed to the mission, and willing to do what it takes to bring Moton back to the “A-rated” school that it once was. We now have strong leaders with a strong leadership team that will continue to put structures and systems into place so all students and their families are assured that their children are receiving a high quality education.

5) How do you think remediation should be provided for under achieving students?

All Hernando County students who are struggling in school are provided with
interventions through a multi-tiered system of supports. This system allows teachers and other educational staff to provide high quality instruction and interventions throughout each school day that is matched to the individual need of each student.

6)What are the biggest problems facing the Hernando County School District?

• Decreased property values has required our school district to rely heavily
(73%) on the state for general revenue funding – with that comes unfunded mandates
• Need for improved technology tools for students
• Need for PARENTS SUPPORT and community members support of an “A-rated school district of excellence” to help improve the economic future of our community
• TEACHERS need to be RESPECTED as PROFFESIONAL EDUCATORS and let them TEACH

7) In your view what is the school district doing right?

• SunTech Education opens
• Awarded District Grade of ‘B’ for the second consecutive year
• Balanced 2016-2017 budget presented to the School Board
• Passed a ten year, $85 million dollar half-cent sales tax referendum
• Earned recognition from Florida’s Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, for improved performance on state science, U.S. History and civics assessments

8) What one issue is your top priority?

• An “A-rated school district of excellence” with the Arts and Sports brought back

William James Vonada


William Vonada, candidate for school board district 4

1) Recently, the Lee County School District chose to opt out of common core and then opted back in after feeling pressure from the state. How do you feel Hernando County should approach common core?

Hernando County needs to become more vocal about the need to repeal (or at the very least, greatly revise) Common Core. This can be accomplished by having close and consistent contact with our local representatives. It has been somewhat shocking during my campaign to discover how little this happens, and therefore, how uninformed some of our leaders are about the negative affects of this program on our schools. We must also find ways to join with our neighboring counties to make our voice louder; we are all fighting the same battle. Finally, we must also find ways to work with our teachers and students to find methods that will allow us to meet standards without sacrificing the many other avenues and programs that lead to a well-rounded education.

2) a.Hernando County School District was recently criticized by Judge Karen Gievers for not allowing the consideration of a student portfolio as an alternate way to determine promotion to fourth grade. Do you feel we should consider a student's portfolio and classroom grades if a student opts out of the standardized test or does not pass the test?

We definitely need to consider many different ways to evaluate the educational progress of students. Education tends to be very cyclical. It was not many years ago that teachers were encouraged to find alternate ways to evaluate students; now we find that those other methods are neither encouraged nor valued. Much of this is due to state and federal mandates; however, we cannot allow this to become the fall-back excuse for why we are failing our children. Our first priorities must be to fight for the best education for our children and the brightest future of our county and nation--standardized testing is not the answer for either of these areas.

2) b.Every student that opts out makes it harder to meet the requirement that 95% of the students in the school as a whole meet or exceed the annual measurable objectives in order to receive full funding. How would you balance the ease of opting out vs the potential loss of funds?

We must first do all that we can to restore the faith of the parents and students that we have their best interest in mind. When we do this, when we build more trustworthy relationships, we will be more likely to have buy-in from the stakeholders, who will then be more likely to support our efforts and needs as a district.

3) Are you comfortable with the school district maintaining a 3% reserve level? Please explain your reasoning.

I would ideally like to see a higher reserve level, but we currently operate in much less than ideal times. I would like to see us strive to increase that level to 5% (a reasonable figure that provides a buffer for emergency issues), but not at the expense of the many financial issues with which we are currently dealing (i.e. Substitute money, staff salaries, program expenses, safety/security, supplies, transportation). This should be part of a long term plan for the financial future of our district.

4) Recent teachers and administrators at Moton Elementary have struggled with resources. As you are aware Former Principal Jamie Young says she resigned due to a lack of resources and concern for the safety of students and teachers. What ideas do you have about how the situation can be fixed at Moton and other schools that have a higher number of students with behavioral issues?

Full resource support must be given to Moton and any school that serves students of any exceptionality,because to do any less puts the teachers and ALL students at a severe disadvantage. In the case of Moton, every effort must be made to repair the relationship between the staff, the community, and leadership. This should include town hall meetings and full transparency of future plans at the very least.

5) How do you think remediation should be provided for under achieving students?

This is a question that cannot be answered in generic terms, as each case should be evaluated individually. Each student brings a unique set of circumstances, and therefore unique opportunities for success and/or failure.

6) What are the biggest problems facing the Hernando County School District?

We have a morale problem that those not closely associated with our schools cannot comprehend. It is causing us to lose students and staff alike. I believe that it is due to a lack of belief in what most would say is the top priority of our district at this time--the district grade. As one administrator confided in me not long ago, "It's tough to be a team player when you no longer believe in the cause of the team."

7) In your view what is the school district doing right?

We have some phenomenal people who have dedicated their careers to teaching, as well as some outstanding parents, students, and volunteers who are are working hard to overcome the many stresses placed upon them. We need to do all that we can as a district to support them.

8) What one issue is your top priority?

My top priority is doing whatever it takes to help students receive a well-rounded education while exploring and developing their unique talents and abilities. I believe that this will require us to ease the testing expectations currently placed upon students, as well as the documentation requirements and teaching restrictions currently placed on our educators.