Birthdate and place: December 19, 1952; Philadelphia, PA

Residence: Olney

Family: Married. Wife is an MCPS high school teacher. Two daughters, ages 18 and 20. One is a 2007 Blake HS graduate and now a freshman at Lafayette College and one is a 2005 Blake HS graduate and is now a junior at Muhlenberg College

Education: J.D. University of Maryland School of Law, 1977; B.A. Economics, University of Pennsylvania, 1974

Professional experience: Deputy Assistant General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1980 to present

Community experience: 2007: MCCPTA Chair, High School Committee; 2004 – 2007: MCCPTA Co-Area Vice President, Sherwood⁄Northeast Consortium; 2004 – 2006: Member, MCCPTA Grading and Reporting Committee; 2002 – 2004: Blake Cluster Co-Coordinator; 2000 – 2002: Farquhar MS PTA President; 1998 – 2006: Member, Board of Directors, Northeast Montgomery Political Action Committee; 1994 – 2006: Member of various MCPS committees, including School Improvement Plans, Boundary Advisory, School Naming, Principal and Community Superintendent Selection, and Curriculum Advisory at the elementary, middle, and high school level; 1993 – 1996: Parent Volunteer, Jackson Road, Brooke Grove, and Sherwood ES

Key issues: Addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse student population during fiscally challenging times; the accountability requirements on schools and students mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act and the High School Assessments; selecting the next superintendent.

Web site: www.philkauffman.com

E-mail address: philip_kauffman@yahoo.com

Telephone: 301-570-0166

Campaign headquarters: Friends of Phil Kauffman, P.O. Box 400, Ashton, MD 20861

Link to state Board of Elections campaign finance database

Board of Education, At-Large

Philip Kauffman

Q. The slots referendum on the November ballot says the "primary purpose" of allowing up to 15,000 machines in Maryland is to raise revenue for education. Do you support or oppose the slots referendum?

I will vote to support the slots referendum. This is a difficult issue and I respect the arguments of many elected officials and community members that have described the proposal as flawed and poor public policy. However, the fact remains that Montgomery County and the State of Maryland are facing significant budget deficits, both near and long-term. Revenue from slots will not cover those deficits, but I believe it needs to be part of the solution. Montgomery County residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the country and I do not believe that we should be raising individual taxes further. We will also need to cut spending, but there are limits to where spending can be cut, without doing real harm to our children's education. Slots are not the best way to address budget deficits, but in my opinion, the alternatives of raising taxes or significant cuts to education, are worse.

Q. What are your top three priorities for the next four years, if elected?

Reforming the middle school program. We must ensure that the middle school reforms are implemented successfully by supporting additional teacher training, an accelerated curriculum, and new technology. Our middle school students deserve a challenging educational program that helps prepare them for the rigors of high school. There are still too many students entering high school without achieving even minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. There should also be more extended-day learning opportunities and additional after-school programs to support these children. Extended learning opportunities would provide additional structured support and ongoing monitoring of students who are in need of additional reading, writing, or mathematics instruction after school.

Parent and Community Involvement. There is a definite link between actively involved parents and successful students. We must make meaningful efforts to increase parent involvement by supporting parent development programs aimed at helping families understand MCPS services available and learning best strategies to help their children succeed, such as the new Parent Academy, and increasing the number of school-based parent community coordinators. Our Board of Education needs to listen to all community members to understand the challenges our students and their families face. I support regular town meetings for the Board of Education so that board members can hear directly from the community their concerns about our schools.

A Responsible Budget. We owe the taxpayers of Montgomery County an honest assessment of how their money is spent. Every MCPS program should be reviewed on a regular schedule to determine whether the expenses of maintaining those programs are justified by the measurable gains in student achievement.

Q. How would you rate the performance of the current school board: excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?

Good. I support the changes they have made to their meeting schedules which allow more time to discuss key topics. I also commend the board for adopting and updating a strategic plan for the system and advocating successfully for increases in both the operating and capital budgets. They added an analyst to their staff to help provide an independent review of the budget.

However, the board has not adopted a sufficient number of performance measures and goals for student performance in the strategic plan. The board’s meeting process does not provide sufficient opportunity for meaningful stakeholder input. The board does not perform a strategic review of programs to determine whether they are achieving gains in student achievement or should be eliminated. They have not yet mandated greater transparency and provided critical questioning in the school budgeting process. They also do not conduct reviews of school system operations to determine if board policies are being implemented consistently.

Q. Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has said he doesn’t expect to extend his contract beyond 2011. What qualities, skills and expectations would you seek in a new superintendent?

The superintendent must demonstrate an ability to lead successfully in an ethnically and culturally diverse community.

The superintendent should possess awareness of innovations and contemporary movements in education. MCPS, under Superintendent Weast, has successfully implemented many of the proven techniques for improving student achievement – smaller class size, use of data, staff development, increased parent involvement, standardized curriculum, etc. However, to take MCPS to the next level, I believe we will need to be more innovative in our approaches.

The Superintendent must be able to build consensus and commitment among all stakeholders to achieve effective outcomes.

In addition, the Superintendent must possess strong interpersonal and communication skills with the ability to articulate clearly the district’s vision to all stakeholders. The Superintendent has the best knowledge of the workings of the school system and must be able to advocate for its interests. As a school district outside our nation’s capitol, I want to see our Superintendent show leadership when educational issues are discussed. As the state of Maryland’s most influential county, we also need to better advocate effectively to the state regarding our educational priorities.

Q. Do the superintendent and the unions have too much influence over the school board?

I believe that the perception remains that the school board works for the superintendent rather than the superintendent working for the school board. This perception is due to the lack of critical questioning of the superintendent by the board, which suggests that many discussions are held in private sessions.

I do not know if the unions have too much influence over individual board members. Board members must be independent and consider all views when making decisions. The unions are important stakeholders in the school system and I believe that it is acceptable for board members to have good working relationships with them. In the end, however, the most important stakeholders are the students.

Q. Is the county funding for schools too much, about right or too little? If too little, where would you find additional money?

I believe the current level of funding in the operating budget is about right. There is always more MCPS can do, but in these challenging fiscal times, there are limits on the ability to fund new initiatives. I would favor increases in staffing allocations for counselors, school-based administrators, school-based parent outreach coordinators and special education. I believe the capital budget should be increased so we can accelerate the modernization schedule. In addition, the board should periodically review programs to determine whether they are achieving measurable gains in student performance. Programs which are not achieving gains should be revised or eliminated.

Q. Do you think the system for renovating schools is adequate, or does it need changing?

It needs changing. At the current pace, some schools will operate 60 or more years before they are modernized. This is unacceptable. It is simply inequitable for some students to attend beautiful, state of the art buildings, while others must attend dilapidated facilities, with old furniture, old equipment, and increased risk for adverse health issues from asbestos, mold, and lead. For MCPS to establish and maintain a 30-year schedule would require the modernization of 1 middle school and 4 elementary schools each year and 1 high school every 2 years.

Q. How well are the county’s high school consortia working to raise student achievement?

I believe that the consortia high schools are all working to support MCPS initiatives to get more kids into honors and AP courses, more SAT preparation and participation, etc. Unfortunately, MCPS does not report data in a fashion that would allow an easy analysis of whether students in the Northeast and Down County Consortia are achieving measurable gains as a result of being part of this special program of schools. Nevertheless, I believe the choice process has resulted in greater student engagement in a school he or she wants to attend. The nature of the program also compels principals to work closely together which is beneficial to students. The choice process also stimulates comparisons, so it can’t help but raise everyone’s awareness of areas MCPS needs to continue to work on.

Q. There is a strong focus on improving the county’s middle school curriculum. How well is the middle school reform working to raise student achievement?

As we are only in the first stage of the pilot, there is not sufficient data to determine whether the reforms are working to raise student achievement. However, anecdotal evidence from the five pilot middle schools suggests promising results.

Q. Are too many students being pushed into advanced placement and honors classes without proper preparation?

We need to challenge students to enroll in honors and Advanced Placement classes. MCPS is making better use of data to identify the students most qualified to be successful in these classes. However, these classes should be for students that are truly interested in acceleration and enrichment and not pressured to enroll in order to improve honors or AP participation rates for the school. It is important that we provide the necessary supports for all students to ensure they are successful in these rigorous courses.

Q. The school system’s health curriculum includes discussions of homosexuality and demonstrations of contraception use. Would you change the policy or let it stand?

I support a comprehensive health curriculum. The board adopted the current curriculum in response to the recommendations of a community advisory panel that recommended these discussions of homosexuality and demonstrations of contraception use. I would not change the policy.

Q. What do you think about the board’s relationship with the community?

I believe that, overall, the board’s relationship with the community has improved. However, the board’s relationship with the special needs community is strained due to last year’s decision to close the secondary learning centers. I think that individual board members have good working relationships with different segments of the community. The board’s relationships could be improved if it establishes two-way communications by holding town hall meetings.

Q. Does the County Council have too much, too little or not enough oversight of the school system?

I believe the oversight the County Council has provided is appropriate. The school system should present its proposed budget to the Council and advocate for its programs. The Council should review the spending plan and decide what level of funding is appropriate. The Council must appropriate operating funds into general categories, giving the school system broad powers over how it spends its resources. The Council may have a little more authority to review capital plans for the school system. This year, the Council hired two staff members to analyze the school system’s budget. This initiative should give the Council better information. However, the Council should not act as a ‘‘super” school board by micromanaging school system operations.

Q. What should the school system do to improve performance of struggling students?

We can improve performance by correcting the curriculum. Fundamental skills should be taught in the early grades that will provide the foundation for the skills necessary for students to take higher-level courses. The emphasis on calculators must be reduced so they are merely aids and not substitutes for knowing how to solve problems. Literacy remains a challenge for many students. The school system must continue to search for better and more effective interventions, especially for older students. I support an increase in literacy content coaches as their presence in our schools can help provide the training and support for teachers and meet the different learning styles of students.

Other critical steps for the school system will be to continue to work to obtain greater parental engagement and involvement, establish greater connections through mentoring students to guide and encourage their success, multicultural training for teachers to make classroom instruction relevant to all students, continue to remove barriers and provide motivated students the support to seek out advanced course work, ensure high expectations for all students regardless of race and culture, provide academic supports where needed, and increase after school programs, especially at the middle school level.

Q. Do you think the school system is doing enough to meet the needs of special education students?

No. Special education students are lagging far behind general education students in almost every measurement of academic proficiency. Despite the money being spent, we are not meeting the needs of many of these students. We need to provide a level of choice into our special education system. Parents of students with disabilities should be able to choose the level of inclusiveness and type of programming they believe most appropriate for their child. Making families true equal partners is a practice we should employ to help address the needs of special education students. MCPS must also explore ways to address the shortage of highly qualified special education teachers.

Q. Are the schools safe for students and teachers? If not, what should be done?

Schools are generally safe. However, there have been acts of violence on our school campuses. We need a discipline policy that is consistently implemented throughout the system that has a zero tolerance for dangerous acts. There needs to be greater collaboration and coordination between the school system, county agencies, and community organizations to address the causes and prevention of youth violence. In addition, we must promote each student’s connections with his or her individual school. Students who feel connected to school are less likely to use alcohol and drugs, less likely to join gangs, and less likely to engage in violent or deviant behavior.