Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Q&A with Ryan Miner, candidate for Board of Education

The following are answers to the WashCo Chronicle Board of Education candidates' questionnaire for Ryan Miner, candidate for Board of Education. Thank you very much Mr. Miner for responding to the questionnaire!

1) Why should the citizens of Washington County vote for you to become a member of the Board of Education?
I offer Washington County a fresh perspective and a tinge of youth and enthusiasm, combined with applicable experience that certainly will lend itself well to the makeup of the board. I have a passion for children and education, and I believe I can parlay my experience in business, budgets, public policy, communications and substitute teaching into our school system.

I believe I have a profound understanding of our school system and its policies and operating procedures, and I understand the responsibilities of developing board policy and working through complex budgets while maintaining fiscal prudence on behalf of our taxpayers. Our school system is an entity of the state of Maryland; I have the political experience and have developed relationships across the board with state educational professionals, legislators and staff that will prove especially beneficial as a board member. If elected, I look forward to engaging with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and working on behalf of Washington County to advocate for our public schools and improve our education model for our children.

I am running on three basic platforms: 1) Local Control 2) Taxpayer Accountability 3) Common Sense Curriculum.

My vision for our school system is the following:

  • I fundamentally believe that teaching is the most important job in America. I want to ensure that our school system recruits and retains excellent teachers with competitive incentives, excellent benefits and rewards.
  • My candidacy is pro-teacher: Teachers’ concerns are my concerns and I will work with our teachers to empower them in their classrooms and collaborate with them to increase transparency in our school system.
  • Teachers must have the resources they need to teach. As a board member, I will reach out into our teaching community and listen to our teachers’ concerns and work together with our educators to improve our classrooms and school curriculum
  • I believe our school system can recruit a diverse teacher workforce, reaching out into new mediums to recruit qualified teachers outside of our traditional scope.
  • I support a local decision-making approach within our public school system. I believe that Washington County parents, teachers, administrators, and community members know best how to administer our education system, not a Washington, D.C. bureaucrat.
  • I support a fiscally balanced budget and will work to ensure that our students receive the best possible education and that taxpayers receive a return on their investment with college or career ready graduates.
  • I will work to stop the obsession with standardized testing; the more time teachers spend on standardized testing, the less time they spend educating our students.
  • I will work to address the implementation failures of Common Core and work with board colleagues, teachers, and administrators to match standardized tests with curriculum currently being taught.
  • I will always vote on board policy objectively and fairly, with diligence given to each decision, without preconceived ideology or notion.
  • I support advanced literacy initiatives within our elementary schools using the resources of our community groups and outside organizations.
  • I support current board policy to address school bullying, but I will champion a comprehensive approach to stop bullying inside of our schools and work to secure all Washington County students in classrooms that are safe and conducive for learning.
  • I will work with our school system to ensure that students with special needs receive an IEP which functions to meet their individual needs. My hope is that we can adequately address the past difficulties with IEPs and work directly with parents to ensure we are meeting their child’s personal needs to the best of our ability.
  • I will use my combined experience in business and technology and work to update our school system technology using the latest advancements; technology in education is crucial, but having a well-trained teacher in every classroom is vital to the success of our public school system.
  • I hope to see an expansion of downtown Hagerstown’s education hub and I will work to enhance the boutique school model in Washington County
  • I am a major supporter of our Washington County Technical High School and our Washington County Fire Academy. I would like to see an increase in trade programs at the Technical High School to meet the challenges and demands of a changing economy
  • I am a major proponent of the arts and athletic programs within our Washington County Public Schools. I am a proud alumnus of the Williamsport High School Blue Band. I have a deep appreciation for our arts and athletic programs, and I will work to build relationships inside of each respective community and field their concerns about how to strengthen each individual program.

I pledge to the voters that I will work on behalf of our students in Washington County and ensure that they each receive an equal opportunity at an equitable education. I will work to reduce government interference in our local education system. I will work to reduce government red tape and get Washington, D.C. the heck out of our public schools.

2) What do you feel the most important challenge is facing today's students? How can the county overcome this challenge, and meet the students' needs?
I have watched education in our country make some serious shifts in policy since I was in grade school and even college. Some of my worst fears continue to manifest themselves inside of our hallowed academic halls of our public schools. I think education has transformed itself away from our teacher’s creatively teaching into a bizarre obsession with standardized, high-stakes testing masked under the guise of educational reform.

I have been on the inside of our school system as a substitute teacher, albeit only a very small fraction of the amount of time that our teachers spend shaping our young minds inside of their classrooms. I believe that American students can compete with the best students from around the world. The data from the PISA results will show a comparison with our students to other countries; American students rank somewhere in the 20’s. Is that good enough? America is the world’s leader, and we should especially be leading in education.

But, if we extrapolate out the data by district poverty level, and look at our districts that have comparable poverty rates to the other countries, it is quite obvious that our students are at or near the top in the comparisons. But our highest performing students are only a small percentage of our overall population, even in the honors classes.

Joshua Katz, a former Florida teacher, talks about this educational dilemma and describes the Toxic Culture of Education in great detail. Below is an excerpt from his TED Talk:

“Parents will talk their children into purposefully failing tests so they can qualify for social security benefits, up to $800 per month per child. There is a lot of abuse of social welfare, and the parents know how to milk the system for all it’s worth. This abuse is happening when people truly in need can’t get the help.”
 “What’s out there waiting for those students? Jobs? College? They are in an educational system that (repeats the fallacy) “if you don’t go to college, you have no worth” so their alternative is to be underemployed, find illegal work, or abuse social security.”
I have been stressing in my campaign that we must reject that fallacy that is perpetuated onto our students at an early that in order to be successful in life, you have to go to college. This is nonsense!

“It is those students who are marginalized by what the “Toxic Culture of Education”. It doesn’t matter if a student is a gifted artist, a loving caretaker, a poetic writer, or a talented musician. Those students are the fish being measured on how they climb trees. The common motif has been that college is be all/end all, or we leave students to the lowest skill level work (which, more and more, is being occupied by college educated people). Even with the honors students, they are, in general, too worried about grades and results, and not interested in true learning, which affects their performance in college.”
 “This is exactly what began before the 1980’s and culminated in No Child Left Behind. Private companies realized they could utilize the education system (at the time a $750 billion industry) to create a nearly endless stream of taxpayer funds. They channeled millions of dollars into lobbying efforts in order to create two buzzwords that put everything in its place: “Accountability” and “Rigor.” State statutes were passes, district rules were put into place, and No Child Left Behind was finally passed.”
 “They decided to take the education system that produced the individuals that put a man on the moon with technology less powerful than the cell phone in my pocket, and paint a picture of “failure” using the word “accountability.”
Like Mr. Katz says in his TED Talk, our country relies on one myopic system to measures accountability: standardized testing.

 “So, we implement standardized testing, and it shows that schools are failing, teachers are failing, and students are failing. And when everything is failing, guess what we need? We need new textbooks, we need new resources, we need new training, we need charter schools, and we need new need private schools The only way to feed the business model in our Toxic Culture is to perpetuate the picture of failure. In fact, I’d love to see any education company that has a business model that is built upon success.”
 “How can we possibly believe standardized testing accurately measures student achievement? How can it measure student growth? How can it measure that “a-ha” moment when a student’s light is finally lit? That moment when a student says “thank you” for helping him graduate with a 2.0 GPA? That moment when a student athlete works hard in study hall and finally gets a C in her class because her coach helped? How can we attach a number to that moment when a 5th grader finally has the ability to write his or her name?”
But as Mr. Katz points out, like him, I too believe our nation “craves educational standardization and we believe we need high stakes testing, and we eat up misinformation provided by companies using test results with no validity.”

 “Our testing culture begins in elementary school. From a one-day, 4 hour, computer-based test, the future path of the student is set, the academic identity is established, and the message is delivered loud and clear: either you can make it, or you cannot make it. No matter what the teacher tells them about how good they are or what talents they have, if they don’t score well on that test, they know what it means. They define themselves in the third grade. It’s starting to happen in kindergarten.”
 “And what do we do as a system? Our only interest in education “reform” is to create policies that include additional standardized testing, to place higher stresses on teachers and students, and continue the picture of failure so private companies can sell the answer. And all this ignores highly publicized and easily available data on effective policy-making and effective practices.”
 “Our main focus is on the schools, on the teachers, on the curriculum. We need to start paying attention to our students. If a student fails Algebra 1 in the ninth grade, chances are it is not because they do not understand the material. Chances are it’s not because the teacher isn’t teaching. Chances are it’s not because of the school. Chances are it is because the student lacks some type of intangible characteristic (a “Non-Cognitive Behavior”) that enables them to succeed.”
 “All the talk about failing schools and failing teachers and how to improve teachers and improve schools needs to be changed to failing students and how to improve students. How can we help them to be better students? How can we help them to be better people? How can we help them with these Non-Cognitive factors like integrity and work ethic? How can we feed them? Give them a place to sleep? It’s the public narrative that needs to be shifted. We have to discuss what is happening with our students, even the Honors students. Because right now we are simply creating a massive population of future citizens who are afraid to attempt anything challenging, unable to read or think critically, or unable to find ways to earn a meaningful income.”
 “The truth about education policy is that it is written and enforced by people who have either spent little or no time in the classroom with the students that these very policies affect. Why not allow the individuals in direct contact with students to mold and shape the environment of the students? Education is the only industry that is developing a product without any valid market research from its users! Students aren’t asked what they want or need. Teachers aren’t asked what would work for their students.” --- This must change!"
 “We must change the public narrative on education. We must fight our Toxic Culture! We must end high stakes testing for the sake of “accountability”. Let’s have education policy that builds up our students with sensible human standards instead of fitting them into robotic boxes for “college readiness”. Let’s focus on getting students out there in the evolving global economy. Let’s focus on teaching them the important things: how to read, how to think, how to research, how to reason, how to master basic skills, and how to be good citizens. Let’s talk about the non-cognitive factors that are the true measures of student achievement: persistence, integrity, character.”
 “Let’s teach students how to learn and how to innovate, not how to take tests. We must change the focus of our Toxic Culture away from curriculum, teachers, and schools, and we must focus on our students!" 
I paraphrased some of Mr. Katz’s TED Talk in this question because when I first watched the YouTube clip, I stood up at my desk and clapped during almost every subsequent paragraph uttered. Mr. Katz outlined what our American students are facing inside the classrooms. High stakes testing is a challenge for our public schools, and I’ll talk more about this endemic educational problem in a later question.

3) What has been your biggest challenge in your campaign so far? How have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have faced throughout this campaign is the dissemination of misinformation combined with skepticism about who I really am as a person. I began my campaign with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. Serving as a board member is an opportunity to channel my passion for public service into our Washington County Public Schools and give back to our students. But my passion for public service has often been met with negativity, skepticism and sometimes hostility and hatefulness.

My personal life has been a serious issue in this campaign for some people, but from the outset, I knew that my flaws would become an issue when entering the race. I am imperfect; I am human. I am not infallible. I have come up short at times. But I am human, and I own my mistakes. I think an important lesson I have learned from my personal failings is how to redirect negativity and make lemonade from some really sour lemons.

I wake up every day thanking God for a new opportunity to do something good. My faith teaches me to love and to forgive and do what is right in the name of Christ. I try very much to live the teachings from the Gospel in my daily life.

I dwell on my failings more than I may let on to people. I have learned to keep my blinders on and tune out the negativity, especially the chatter from social media, but there are days when friends and family bring to my attention something that someone has said about my character, and truthfully, it is excruciatingly painful.

 Many of the people who have attacked my character may not have taken a moment to consider having a conversation with me or to ask pointed questions about my personal indiscretions. I will never shy away from honesty. A select few people are so wrapped up in defeating my candidacy; I think perhaps they lose track of the issues in this race. If I fail to win a seat on the board of education, I can assure you that my life will go on and I will continue working on behalf of the Washington County community. I don’t quite understand the vehement hatred that some have invested in me. If the naysayers are that concerned about my mistakes, instead of blasting me on their social media pages, why not ask to meet with me one-on-one and address their concerns with me personally? That is typically how adults interact in the reality of the real world. I feel deep concern for people who devote all of their time to defeating my candidacy. I wish them well. I pray for them.

I think the whisper campaign about my flaws and shortcomings is just part of the campaign process. It is a challenge, however because I do take the attacks on my character very personally. I have done serious groundwork to never again make the same mistakes of my past, but the people who have taken on the mission to defeat me have yet to discover that there is an entirely different person than the person they are bashing on social media or writing invective about to the newspaper.

Typically the naysayers will not come directly to me to express their concerns. That is a real challenge; I am always willing to have a conversation, talk issues and address the concerns voters may have. My policy has always been to talk openly and candidly about my flaws. But most importantly, I want to talk about the issues.

4) How do you plan to improve the educational environment for our students?
Looking objectively at the current board, board members Dr. Hartings, Mrs. Brightman, Mr. Bailey, Mrs. Fischer and Mr. Ridenour have worked very well together and have amassed a great deal of accomplishment on behalf of our public school system in Washington County. Furthermore, our Superintendent, Dr. Wilcox, working with said board members, in my humble opinion, has stepped outside of the proverbial box and retrofitted our schools with new technology, upgraded software and has put new safety measures into effect to further secure our schools and the safety of our students.

I am a supporter of upgrading technology in our classrooms while working to offer our students devices that are proven, by measured data, to enhance their learning experience and streamline how they consume information.

As I state on my website, I believe technology will play a significant role in the future of public education in Washington County, especially as students explore their path to knowledge in their own way, using an array of resources to include both traditional and nontraditional means of learning.  The access to technology, in my opinion, helps students become better learners.

The expansion of open online education will play a major role as well as the expansion of tablet computers and e-readers as essential classroom tools. SRS clickers, smartphones, and laptops as teaching tools is important in reaching today’s students who have grown up with most of these digital devices. A Washington County Public School teacher’s ability to connect with students will become a simplified task with the use of technology.

Every student’s learning style is different; the future of technology in our public school system creates an opportunity for students to take advantage of both conventional and nonconventional resources.

Although my belief is that technology will play a crucial role in the future of public education, our Washington County Public Schools should maintain its focus on recruiting and retaining the most qualified and well-trained teachers. Empirical data consistently proves that having well-trained teachers in our classrooms lead to improved grades, higher graduation rates and better preparedness for higher education.

I will use my experience and background in budgets and business to allocate our taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently on behalf of our taxpayers. 85% of the budget is locked into place with salaries and benefits, so that leaves only a small percentage of discretionary spending. Board members have an obligation to spend money on behalf of our school system -backed by data- to ensure the best return on investment for our students and taxpayers. I will always be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars, and that is a promise.

Another way I hope to help improve our schools is working directly with our staff to upgrade our current facilities. Several improvements have been made to our school facilities in recent years, including tearing down the old Bester Elementary School and building a new Bester, building Rockland Woods and especially the addition of the Barbra Ingram School for the Arts. I am strong proponent of the boutique model, and my hope is that we can expand this model into an education hub in downtown Hagerstown and create new vocational opportunities for our students.

Another major concern of mine is how our school board will address school capacity issues in the next four years. Our community is constantly evolving as development increases in Washington County. If presented with the responsibility to make redistricting decisions, I will make decisions by first listening to our community and analyzing the facts and data.

My passion is also centered on the Washington County Technical High School. Our Technical High School currently offers many excellent vocational trades and career-ready skills for students who are preparing to enter the workforce upon graduation. I think we can expand upon trades and use the resources of our community to help build a more robust technical school in Washington County.

I am very serious about addressing the way our school system handles school bullying. I do support current board policy to address bullying, but I believe a problem that has yet to be fully addressed is how our school system adequately addresses the social media aspect of bullying and how it presents both parents and schools a greater task of finding solutions. Bullying embodies many forms, and our school system must be able to discern between what is bullying and what is not and then procedurally determine consequences that fit the action. Parents have to be willing to work with our school system and trust that our administration is working with them, not against. I believe it necessary to host a summit with our community leaders, support groups, teachers, parents, educational specialists and mental health professionals to address bullying and the effects it has upon our students. We are now at the point in this country where the safety of our students is at risk because of bullying-related incidents. We watch in horror and disbelief when we see the graphic images of another school tragedy unfold in real time because bullying was never addressed and mental health was placed on the backburner. If I am elected to our school board, this will a major initiative I hope to accomplish. We have to get out in front on this issue and stop applying conventional thought to a 21st century problem. Technology exacerbates bullying, and students use technology as an extension of themselves to perform a variety of daily functions and activities. I would like to address school bullying comprehensively and take the lead on this issue, and hopefully other school systems will follow our lead.

5) An issue on everyone's mind lately is Common Core.  What are your thoughts on Common Core? Should WCPS implement this national standard, should only local standards be developed to meet local needs, or a combination of both? Please explain.
In 2009, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers partnered with Achieve Inc., a nonprofit that received millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates essentially bankrolled the efforts behind Common Core while passing off the standards as a state-led initiative.

But in reality, Common Core was contrived by an insular group of education testing executives at the Federal Level with only two academic content specialists. Neither specialist approved the final standards and the English consultant publicly stated that she felt the standards provided students with an empty skill set. Look no further than which Department of Education staff members now work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; this should prove just how much of a “state-run” initiative Common Core pretends to be.

Educators and administrators were later included in the evaluation and feedback groups but they had no seat at the table when drafting the actual standards.  The standards are sold as rigorous. In my opinion, these standards are not rigorous; they are just different. There is a great marketing campaign underway to sell Common Core. Incidentally, Congress never voted on Common Core and states were handed Common Core without with any votes casted in state legislatures. Where is the democratic process involved?

Nevertheless, Common Core emerged in the states. President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, coaxed states into adopting Common Core by giving out Race to the Top grants. Take this money, implement these standards and have at it, but do not’ ask us (the Feds) for help when your teachers struggle with implementing these untested “rigorous” standards. Where is the data that confirms these standards actually work? Much like No Child Left Behind, the program promises more national testing. And therein lies another major problem that I have with Common Core.

I believe Common Core illustrates mistrust in our teachers. These subjective standards do more to damage a teacher’s self esteem than we have yet to understand. I believe these education standards are not only mediocre, but could eventually lead to the atrophy of our schools. Common Core is a cookie-cutter approach to education that now has a lot of parents, especially in Washington County, pretty darn upset.

Local control has worked very well to make America’s education system the envy of the world – at least at one point of our nation’s venerable history. I think we began losing this advantage when school districts began losing their autonomy.

I think we all realize that any attempt to nationalize our educational system on a large scale will be met with serious public scrutiny and backlash. It’s already happening all over our nation. Historically, local communities have managed the affairs of their education system. This has been America’s approach at least until 1965 when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which gave money to schools to help educate the children of poor families. Do you remember Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty?” I think the word failure is synonymous with Johnson’s poverty campaign. This law gave our federal government considerable access into our public school system. And in 1980, the Federal Department of Education opened its D.C. doors after President Jimmy Carter axed it from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

The brain trust behind Common Core were clever; they knew they could not convince Americans to hand over more control over their education system to the Federal Government, so its creators attempted to be coy and pass Common Core under the guise of a state-led project. And thus began another hoodwinking scheme.

Let’s get to the bottom of my opposition to the standards. I have done considerable research in dissecting each of the standards, and it should be noted that I am not opposed to educational standards. I agree that benchmarks should be set and standards must be present, but I don’t want the Federal Government deciding what those standards are, and I most definitely do not want these standards written without our teachers being involved throughout the process. I would much prefer standards to be state based, teacher-driven and without another egregious layer of standardized testing. Again, the more time a teacher spends teaching students a standardized test, the less time they spend educating our students.

Under Common Core, rote mathematical memorization is sidetracked for critical thinking methods that place the why in front of the how. Students are expected to conceptually understand a math problem without first mastering the fundamentals of basic arithmetic. This new critical thinking approach has made math universally difficult to approach and understand for parents when helping their children at home.

I have equal concerns with the English standards. The Common Core State Standards have substituted informational texts over the conventional literary-based readings. I am concerned that Common Core is gutting classic literature from the shelves of our public schools and replacing it with informational texts. Students often learn by the creativity of telling a story, but Common Core removes that specific emphasis in learning. For instance, teachers are expected to present to students Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but without context or historical perspective. I do not consider this a “rigorous” change.

I have spoken with many teachers who describe being “overwhelmed” by Common Core. After Maryland adopted Common Core and the state began its implementation, our teachers didn’t exactly have a lot of time to prepare to teach the standards or dissect the content. Some teachers are confused and may lack training and skills to implement the standards. This causes immense pressure on our teachers. Moreover, the technology to implement Common Core has been lagging. We need millions of dollars in upgrades alone in Maryland to upgrade our technology just so students can take the PARCC assessments that are attached to Common Core. This will obviously stretch thin many local school board budgets.

The question that I am most often asked on the campaign trail is what can I do about Common Core if I am elected to the Washington County Board of Education. To be candid, I can do very little as one board member to halt Common Core in Washington County because Common Core is state law. However, I can work with board colleagues and our Washington County state delegation members to remedy the failures of Common Core. I have the political background and more importantly, the political acumen to lobby on behalf of our students, parents and teachers and work with our state legislators to fix many of the implementation problems we are currently experiencing and may experience in the future

During the 2014 Maryland legislative session, lawmakers in Annapolis recognized some of the oversights and implementation breakdowns with Common Core and addressed those with three key pieces of legislation.

To quote the Maryland State Education Association’s website press release, “Along with parents, superintendents, and school board members, MSEA led the way on several pieces of common sense legislation to improve the state’s implementation of Common Core State Standards, the new PARCC test, and new teacher evaluation systems. These bills passed the General Assembly through a series of overwhelming and bipartisan votes during the 2014 legislative session and were signed into law by Gov. O'Malley.

  • HB 1167/SB 676: Performance Evaluation Criteria - Use of Student Growth Data
Reaffirm the authority of local school districts and their bargaining units in the development and implementation of teacher and principal evaluations and guarantee that no state assessment can be used for personnel decisions through at least the 2016-17 school year. From protecting Maryland’s nationally recognized Peer Assistance and Review programs to cultivating the next great locally developed evaluation model, local autonomy is essential to Maryland’s abilities to encourage innovation and strengthen the teaching profession.

  • HB 1001/SB 910: Education - Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act – Waivers
Ensures reforms are implemented in a dynamic process where local districts can make necessary adjustments and we are not locked into a one-size-fits-all timeline and model.

  • HB 1164: Common Core State Standards and PARCC Implementation Review Workgroup
Assess the professional development needs and technology gaps necessary to successfully implement new curriculum and administer new state tests aligned with the curriculum and standards.

I agree with MSEA that these reforms were “necessary to re-establish common sense in the implementation process,” but these important pieces of legislation still do not assuage my fears that we are implementing Common Core without the backing of any serious data. And the data that has been collected has created a new host of privacy concerns for many of our nation’s parents. I think Common Core should have been beta tested in select school districts around the country while collecting data and learning what implementation methods work and what does not work.

I value my professional relationships with our Maryland legislators, and I will carry the feelings and sentiments of our Washington County school system to Annapolis and work on behalf of Washington County to improve upon Common Core and continue to work to ensure that our education decisions are primarily administered locally.  

6) Do you feel that it is more important to elect same-minded individuals to the Board of Education, or more important to elect those with dissenting points of view, to provide a broader range of options? Please explain.
I believe most successful boards are organized and developed with a variety of skills from all sectors of our community coupled with an array of unique personalities. The makeup of a board should be widespread to represent all factions of a community to include business, finance, vocational trades, public and private sector, teachers, and many other professions, if able. Our current board of education encompasses five former educators and one businessman and one businesswoman. Each person on the board fits a specific role and embodies a very specific position on the board. While I can appreciate that the majority of board members are former teachers, I believe that if elected, my position on the board will represent an emerging youthful contingency in Washington County.

But for a board (especially a board of education) to operate at peak efficiency, it is vitally important for members of said board to show respect for one another despite their disagreements. Each board member offers a different perspective; debate and disagreement are inevitable among seven different distinct personalities, but respect should be the overarching philosophy to ensure that the board is doing what the public has elected it to do, and that is to serve our Washington County Public Schools, students, teachers, administrators and taxpayers to the best of its ability.

If elected, I would very seriously look forward to working with seasoned professionals like Mrs. Fischer, who so obviously offers our school system a wealth of knowledge, teaching experience and previous board experience, especially in policy. I would also look forward to working with Mr. Perini, who I believe will offer our board of education experience in business and budgets, and I believe he will invariably apply logic and reason when voting on board decisions, like Mrs. Fischer.

I have a great respect for Dr. Hartings, Mrs. Brightman, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Ridenour. I believe they have served our students, teachers and school system very well during their time spent on the board, and it would be my pleasure to work alongside Dr. Hartings, Mrs. Brightman and Mr. Ridenour and learn from each of them. Each individual I have mentioned above always places the best interests of our students first and foremost. They make decisions that will serve our students well, without personal agenda. 

7) An important part of life is learning from the past, and relaying those life lessons to our children so that they can also learn. What is one of the toughest personal challenges you've faced in your life, and how have you overcome it?
Most people know that my candidacy brings with it some extra baggage. Some days I feel like I am carrying on and other days I feel like I checked eight bags at the airline gate with a $100 fee attached to each subsequent bag full of 50-pound anvils.

I have had a great deal to overcome because of some of the choices I have made in my life. I have struggled, and I have experienced some very dark moments in my life because of the mistakes I have made. My favorite musical is Les Miserables; the protagonist in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel is Jean Valjean, who struggles to find a life of normalcy after serving a prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister’s child. I feel like my mistakes will always be part of my DNA and ultimately become my new normal. My mistakes do not define me, but there will always be an asterisk next to my name. Like Jean Valjean, I have struggled and continue to struggle very deeply with my mistakes and how people interpret me. I have learned from my past indiscretions and spent serious time reflecting in prayer.

But each day is a new day. I control my destiny. There are some folks out there who have made it their sole mission to dig up every conceivable mistake I have made and blast me for it. If this is a prerogative for them to pursue, then I wish them peace and happiness, but I live my life to help others and make them happy, especially my family, friends and Kim and her two beautiful children. I once had this innate desire to be loved by everyone, but that desire quickly evaporated once I entered the arena of politics. And I have principles – real principles - so I do not easily relent. Combine that with persistence, old-fashioned hardheadedness and bluntness, and what does that equal? It is unholy combination that often elicits visceral reactions from my most ardent detractors.

My significant other, Kim has two beautiful children. I hope they understand that it is okay for them to make mistakes; we will unconditionally love them, just like my parents love me unconditionally, but with the right guidance, we can help them to avoid mistakes like I have made and make the right judgment calls. Kim and I do our very best to teach Josh and Paige character. We teach them to love those who disparage you and do something kind for someone who needs warmth. I think what people do not know about me is that I am deeply committed in my faith to Christ, and I take Catholicism very seriously.

I will always reserve judgment until I have walked in someone’s shoes. God knows, I have asked for my share of second chances and forgiveness. I think my past mistakes will help me become a much better board member.

8) Do you have any closing remarks you would like to share?
I have an unconditionally loving family and a group of friends who will move the ends of the earth if I asked. I am beyond blessed to be in a relationship with Kim, the love of my life; she is my rock, my heart and my partner in every endeavor. We are a team, and we share our lives together. We are raising her two beautiful children, Josh and Paige – although not my biological children, they have changed my life beyond anything I can put into words. I love them dearly as if they were my own children. The joy they bring to my life is so potent and incredible. They are my life, and I cannot imagine being without them.

As I watch Josh and Paige grow and learn, I think about what their future will be like in ten or twenty years. Have I done enough to help them succeed? Have I been a role model for them? Have I done everything to help them reach their full potential? How can I teach them to avoid some of my past mistakes and help them make decisions that will propel them into a successful career and life? These are the things I think about every single day. Josh and Paige are now at the age where Kim and I can still somewhat shield them from the darkness that adults create. But soon enough, they will begin to experience life on their own, without their mom, dad, and me, and we will not be able to hold their hand; the work we do as parents and role models now will determine how they respond to many of life’s toughest choices. They will not be our little babies forever, so maybe now, I hope I can help shape who they become and the choices they make on their own for their futures.

Note: In October Candidate Miner was accused of re-using content from other websites in the response without citing his sources. You can read more information about this here, as well as his response.

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