School Board Candidate for District 7: Russell Kaufman
This is part of a series on all the school board candidates. To see all the candidates and learn more about them, click here. Russell Kaufman is running against three seats to replace outgoing Bob Parks who held the District 7 seat for close to 25 years. Kaufman is running against Jim Lansing, Nora Rupert and Travis Williamson.
Russell Edmund Kaufman grew up in Broward County after moving here from Michigan when he was a baby. Kaufman attended Cresthaven Elementary and Pompano Beach Middle and is a proud graduate of Deerfield Beach High School.
While at Deerfield, he was on the newspaper and yearbook staff, and part of 1337, an award-winning multi-media production society. Kaufman received the Silver Cord award for extensive community service and a Magnet Diploma for extracurricular involvement. After high school, Kaufman started working at Pompano Beach High in the technology department. Kaufman started college at Broward College and is finishing up his degree in political science at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).While in his role as the micro-tech for several schools, Kaufman claims credit for creating a tool to monitor equipment at each school, saying In his current job, at Pompano Beach High School, Kaufman claims he has accounted for almost a million dollars of equipment that could not be accounted for in prior methods.
Campaign finance reports: http://browardsoe.org/CFElectionFilings.aspx?elect_id=89&office_id=191&cand_id=2633
1) In under 200 words, why are you running for the School Board?
After identifying what characteristics a good board member should possess, I have concluded that I fulfill all prerequisites. I do know that I possess fresh new ideas and leadership to implement those ideas for our schools and more importantly for the students. I believe I possess all of these traits. It’s time for someone who doesn’t have business connections, someone who has the energy, and one who really sees the students as a priority, to help lead our schools. The question should not be why I am running but why more qualified people are not running.
2) If you could, what would you change and why? How would you fund it?
Based upon current budgets and the costs associated with measures that are state mandated and others mandated by voters, future expenditures for these changes are growing and we need find ways to help curb the costs.
I propose that the district use the funds they have received from the federal stimulus money that is tied to capital projects and use it for the installation of solar panels on our schools. Therefore, this first innovation would drastically reduce the money spent on the district’s power consumption both now and in the future.
In addition, if we are going to follow through with the proposed furloughs for all employees we must assure ALL workers that the monies will be used for restoring all proposed cuts in positions. Up to this point, the Board and the heads of the school system have NOT made this clear.
Additionally, I would work to end many of the present testing methodology… such as the Broward Achievement Test (BAT) and the remaining FCAT tests to be replaced with area tests. In order to initially save money, I would have school districts create their own testing tools. To establish statewide tests, such as those used in New York City Schools—the Regent Exams—this would be funded on a state level and based upon formal curriculum requirements now included with Sunshine State Laws. Since the FCAT is now being phased out, it is now time to save over $1 million by eliminating the BAT tests also.
3) What are your past, and current affiliations, with any school board committee, council, group, PAC, association or any other possible roles within the school system? Who appointed you to those positions? How long?
I am proud to say that I have no affiliation to any contractor or investment firm. I have no ties to any school board committee or PAC. I believe that it is time for fresh new ideas and someone who can get results by NOT having any of these connections.
I am young and ready to formulate policy that is not tainted by having any affiliations to hinder positive movement on the part of our Board.
4) How long have you lived in Broward County? Did you go to school here? Where, if any, do your children go to school?
In my 24 years of residence in Broward County, I only have attended schools in this great district: Cresthaven Elementary, Pompano Beach Middle and Deerfield Beach High.
5) The budget crisis in Broward schools has been a big issue in the community. Have you read the upcoming budget? Past budgets? What is your financial background to review these documents accurately?
I have had years working with budgets and school board budgets. I have had multiple accounting classes and fully believe that I have the required knowledge and skills to understand budgeting issues. On July 29th 2010 the district held an ‘open to the public’ meeting regarding the 2010-2011 budget. This meeting finished at ten minutes after midnight and I was the only District 7 candidate still in the room.
In addition, since I have been the micro-tech for several schools, I have been able to create a reliable tool to monitor equipment at each school. Many schools have now adopted my procedures along with other student oriented programs. In my present job, at Pompano Beach High School, I accounted for almost a million dollars of equipment that could not be accounted for with the prior unreliable methods in place.
6) How would you address the cuts being made in the Broward district? What would you keep, and what would you cut? Any pet projects? Why?
First, pet projects have contributed to this budget problem. We need to keep staff and find other areas to cut. To do this we should end pointless programs like the BAT and find ways to cut future costs. It seems that the Union has discovered many areas of waste and it is our job to establish a special task force to examine each of their suggestions.
My pet project is simply this: “Work for the future of America. Our children come first!”
7) How would you work to alleviate problems with the Broward Teacher’s Union which has been extremely vocal in its displeasure with the current school board? How would you work to get past the mediation of issues?
The school board members work for the people of Broward County and not the Union. One of the biggest problems is in the negotiation process with the union; the district has staff that cannot make the final decisions and thus each time they must take them back to the superintendent for approval.
The district needs to stop wasting time and instruct the superintendent to meet with the union directly to speed up the process of resolving the issues the union has.
8) The Broward Sheriff’s Office is also looking at budget cuts, which could get rid of some school resource officers. How would you continue to look at addressing parent’s concerns about safety in our public schools?
Our schools must be kept safe. Students need a learning environment that allows all students to work hard and increase their learning potential. The school system currently pays part of the SRD’s salaries and MUST continue to work with BSO to provide this important function to our students. This item is not for discussion. It must be funded without even considering reducing this important resource.
9) What priority do you put on what is considered extras (anything non-FCAT related generally)? How would you look to fund it?
Over the next 6 years the FCAT is being phased out. Instead of an all-in-one test, each student will take an end of term exam. Current non-FCAT classes like art and music should be kept providing students a chance to grow into well-rounded adults. There is more to life than that one test.
With the stress always being placed on FCAT reading remediation, schools are losing a valuable reading and learning tool: reading within a curriculum area. The Magnet programs are now suffering because their funding has also been cut. The potential of these learning devices must be allowed to expand as more students are picking the ‘school within a school’ option. Reading is an immediate option, which is inherent with the learning curve of each program. In other words, students learn by participating in programs that will prepare them for a careers and further study on the college level.
10) How would you reach out into the community to build creative ideas to educate students while working with local businesses?
School board members need to be careful reaching out to businesses. I believe that the board members need to reach out to the people in the community and create a good communication system to help solve the issues we are facing. As I have said many times in this campaign, I would like to schedule meetings at local schools every month to help bring teachers, parents and student into the learning process.
Although SAC committee meetings are presently set up to take care of this, I believe that we must BUILD the vocational program and provide intern programs for high school students. We are educating students in the future and this is not essentially only academic. The vocational area needs to be explored. By creating these internships, local businesses will immediately be working with the schools throughout the District.
11) What is your perspective on the various boundary issues, such as Cooper City, and other concerns about overbuilding while schools on the east have more space? What is your stance on boundary concerns and their impacts on communities?
Our schools work hard to accommodate all the students and their families. Sadly, every year there is debate over this issue. Right now if parents don’t want their children to attended a low performing school and are forced to, those parents should be shown how the district is planning on improving the school.
With some schools overcrowded and some under enrolled, the school system needs to look at the bigger picture. There are going to be some cases where accommodations need to be given to students with special situations, like ESE students.
Our problem, at the present time, is that transportation has been hit hard with budget cuts due to upkeep of equipment and the costs involved with fuel. The ideal would be to establish more magnet programs in both the east and west side schools. Transportation would be kept at a minimum and still provide students a fair education throughout the district.
Until we can find funding for the updating of schools, this issue will not be solved as quickly as we would desire.
12) Do you support the constitutional amendment in the November ballot that would relax class-size rules, allowing schools to base class size as a school wide average instead of strict per classroom numbers?
Only if this is a temporary change because there is not way we should allow class size to reach the levels they were 15 years ago. In addition, the old saying goes that if you give an inch, ‘they’ will take a foot. In other words, if you relax the class size requirements now, it will be difficult to go back to what the voters want.
It must always be understood that this was a major ballot change a few years ago. If necessary, if the voters want this to be continued without interruption, it may require the small increase in property taxes that are being reviewed.
13) What companies have made donations to your campaign?
14) What are your qualifications to help meet the educational needs of the students of Broward County in the 21st Century?
I have seven years of technology experience directly tied to education. I think this makes me the perfect candidate to help usher technology into the classrooms of all of our schools. On top of my technology experience, I was a student in our school system, which makes me able to understand the types of needs our schools must address and implement.
15) Obviously residents in Broward have grave concerns about ethics violations. How can you assure us of your morals, ethics and genuine interest in the school board? How will you continue to address this issue with constituents?
I have no ties to contractors or lobbyists. To help keep the citizens of district seven informed, I plain on holding town hall meetings at the local schools and not at the KCW building in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This will allow all the stockholders in education a chance to interact with their board member.
Since I have been working, I now ‘see’ the other side of the coin and have worked to save funds for the District. Once again, I have no ties to lobbyists and promise not to fall prey to lobbyists in the future.
16) What do you think should be the school system’s focus over the next four years?
Finding ways to keep the financial down turn from affecting the students in the classrooms. The current financial situation was not their fault and should not hamper their future capabilities.
In addition, we now have the ability to finally test students at the end of each term based upon the curriculum that is presented in all of our schools. We are not the same as other schools in the State. We need to function based upon our own needs.
Also, as I mentioned above, two important areas that I believe must grow include: Vocational training opportunities which are now provided at: Atlantic Vocational, McFatter and Sheridan Vocational.
Attempt to experiment with a school that ends at 10th grade and siphons students into several areas: Academic for College, Business for students who want to work in these areas and Vocational.
Finally, we must make sure that our funding is adequate for our extensive offering of magnet programs. The framework is present: better choices must be made.
- School Board Candidate District 4: Penny Madden
- School Board Candidate for District 4: Bob Sutton
- School Board Candidate District 6: Melvin “Doc” Propis
- School Board Candidate District 6: Lynn Simon
- School board candidate District 6: Laurie Rich Levinson
Short URL: https://browardnetonline.com/?p=9056
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