Without a local debate this year, MercerMe asked questions of candidates running for HVRSD Board of Education based on ongoing community issues in the vicinity. The answers in this article have been provided by Peter DiDonato, who is running for re-election as a member of the HVRSD Board of Education.
What professional and personal skills do you bring that would make you a successful board member?
First and foremost, I keep actively involved with my children who are in CHS and BT. I have remained an active Parent at BT, a member of the committee for the BT Outdoor Learning Area, was a Cub Scout Den Leader and Recreation Soccer coach. These activities have helped me understand what a variety of groups, children and their activities mean to becoming a whole child. I own and operate a solutions integration consulting services company. We focus on Collaboration and Business Intelligence. The skills I have gained from my leadership, mentorship and overall teaching have helped me understand a variety of challenges at all levels in our District. I am able to apply these life skills to making our School Board more effective.
How would you balance the need for students’ safety with the need for a welcoming school climate? Do you support any staff members having a gun in school?
There are several ways to balance both worlds of safety and welcoming in our District. This can be achieved by integrating solutions that can be effective to students from the second they step on the bus or school to the second they get home. Safety stems from instituting proper polices, governance, collaboration and constant upkeep of both training, awareness, and policies. Most of this does not and should not be visible to our children. They need to know they are safe, cared for, welcomed and prepared for anything.
How well does the District address issues related to racism, bullying, the lgbtq community, and income disparity? What, if anything, should it do differently?
The Board has done a good job at altering policies more specific policies regarding gender and is working to broaden the scope of these policies to not isolate any specific groups or students. The Board has adopted a less tolerant policy relating to HIB’s within the school with a more rigorous workflow to assist students and or parents who feel their children are being bullied. The best we can do for all of our children in the District is to create opportunities for all. The late busing program with increased activities is an example of providing keeping more children active.
In addition to academics, our schools now educate our students in such topics as social-emotional wellness and suicide prevention. Do you think this is appropriate? How well do you think the schools do in communicating with parents and the larger community about sensitive subjects?
I don’t think enough districts take the social emotional education seriously. I am sure there is always room for improvement. Our District has continued to adopt these goals that provide a more complete set or training toward social emotional and continue to push for mental health and wellness among all students. The effectiveness of the social emotional training at a young age will continue to foster healthy children. I think our District has improved over the years at communicating to the district parents more effectively. I appreciate the information provided to me about my children and our schools.
Please comment on this year’s budget process.
It was one of the most difficult budget cycles the District has seen in a while. The reason for the difficulty was to involve all board members throughout the entire cycle. Each board member had the opportunity to meet directly with the Board Administrator and spend an extensive amount of time discussing the budget in detail. I sat on the Finance committee and pushed to have several work sessions to involve everyone in the process. We spent extra late nights researching, extensive committee discussions and intensive work sessions until we could we all understood our options.
Do you think that standardized testing is the best way to measure student achievement? If not, what do you think is better and how would you implement it?
I think it is unfortunate we measure student achievement from scores. I am grateful this District offers second chance learning and a lot of teachers decide to stay in the District and connect with our children to push for their success. Our barometer for a students’ success should be measured on how enthusiast they become about their academics and continue to strive to become better.
Are you running as part of a slate ,and if so, why?
I am not running as a part of a slate.