Saturday, October 22, 2011

AAPS Board Candidate: Larry Murphy

Many thanks to Larry Murphy for responding to the questionnaire. If you have further questions for him, you can put them in the comments and perhaps he will answer them. I believe all of the candidates are also willing to answer questions independently if you send them an email or make a phone call to them.

 1. To parents who are wavering between sending their child to the Ann Arbor Public Schools and a charter or private school, what would you say to convince them to try the Ann Arbor Public Schools (besides that they would save money if they are considering private school)?

In my door-to-door canvassing I fortunately came across a family that almost sent their son to Greenhills at 9th grade. They did not do it because the 9th grade was full at the time. In retrospect, they say they did the right thing because Ann Arbor did such a good job at advancing their son. They put him in the next grade's math class each year, and even put him in a U of M class when he was a senior. He also had dedicated teachers who would stay after school to help him with additional and more challenging work. He graduated and went to Harvard.
This is basically an example of how  Ann Arbor is really good at individual treatment of students. You may not get that at a homogeneous private school, especially a for-profit school.

2. What specific ideas do you have for engaging parents and taxpayers in AAPS decision-making and governance beyond the individual child/school level?
AAPS does a pretty good job of informing the public of what they are doing except they don't let the public know the details early enough. When there are budget cuts, you need to let the parents know exactly what effect it will have on them - and let them know early so they can plan accordingly. It's not enough to say just before the budget deadline that you are going to cut $475,000 from athletics. You need to tell the parents that this means no (or reduced) freshman sports.
3. What ideas do you have for making the AAPS web site more user friendly for parents, staff, students, and taxpayers?
I wish there was more financial detail, like pie charts showing where the money is being spent ... and have several pie charts that shows the spending in different ways (e.g. one chart showing spending on salaries/benefits versus materials versus facilities, and another chart that shows classroom spending versus administration, etc.)

4. Describe your personal approach to district-union negotiations, not just for teachers but also for administrators, custodial staff, etc.. What is your primary goal?
The teachers should get a fair wage. Their job is difficult and they deserve this.

5. Do you generally support Rick Snyder's approach to education and education reform? 
Do you support any of the listed reforms that he and the legislature have made/have proposed?  
a. Emergency Manager legislation
a) No.
b. Changes to the School Aid Fund, including funding colleges as well as K-12 education from the SAF
b) No. It was not a good idea to "rob" the School Aid fund for higher education.

c. Changes to the rules around charter schools, including removal of caps on number of charter schools   
c) It is okay. I really don't think increasing the quantity of charter schools is a threat to public schools. The first few charter schools may have been successful because they selected the most enthusiastic students/parents. But I think the "low lying fruit" has been picked.

d. State-driven teacher evaluation system that relies on standardized testing   
d) I'm not sure. This is a really difficult situation. It may sound theoretically possible to do this measurement but until it is tried, neither side of the debate can say whether it will work. It's so difficult that I wouldn't even venture to say whether it will work.

6. At this point, would you call the privatization of transportation services a success or a failure? If faced with the same question today (should transportation be privatized, and if so to whom), what kind of a decision would you make, and based on what information?
The pain we are feeling now is due to the budget cuts - and the pain is so large it is masking any advantage/disadvantage of the privatization. In my canvassing I haven't heard any complaints about WISD's management of the system. The complaints are about lack of coverage as dictated by AAPS. So, given the savings, I would say it is a success and I would consider it again in the future.
7. What was your most influential K-12 school experience (good or bad)? How does it influence your approach to the school board?
The incident that affected me most was when my son first attended Whitmore Lake schools for kindergarten. Early on I could see he wasn't learning much so I started tutoring him for just 10 minutes per day and just 3-4 days per week. He learned more from me than he learned all day in school. Why? Not because I am a great educator, but because we had a teacher to student ratio of 1. That's when I realized how important student to teacher ratios are. That's why the main focus of my campaign is class size. Also, we moved from Whitmore to AA 3 years ago just because of this experience. But now that we are here, AAPS is cutting teachers!!!

1 comment:

  1. I would like to see a more well thought out response to the private/public high school question. Saying that there is more individual attention at Pioneer than at Greenhills? I doubt it. Perhaps for the Harvard bound.