Voters’ Guide: Nebraska State Board of Education, District 8

The State Board of Education is an elected, constitutional body that sets policy and ensures that the State Department of Education functions effectively within the framework developed by the state Legislature and the board. By law, the board and the department have broad leadership functions to carry out certain regulatory and service activities. — from the board’s website

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

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Candidates for State Board of Education, District 8

Pat McPherson (R):  http://www.votemcpherson.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Board of Education, 2014-2018.  Past Public Office, dates held: Papio Natural Resources District  1978-82.  Education: Central High School, Omaha, Nebraska  Creighton University, B. A. Degree.  Military experience: U. S. Army Reserves.  Volunteer experience: Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Board; National Association of State Boards of Education; Omaha Charter Review Commission; Community Health Charities of America and Nebraska; American Diabetes Ass;Foster Child Review Board, Red Cross

Deborah Neary (D):  http://neary4stateeducation.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: No previous attempt to run for public office.  Past Public Office, dates held: No previous attempt to run for public office.  Education: Master’s Degree in Public Administration and History.  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: *Business Ethics Alliance, Trustee  *West Omaha Rotary – Member & Former Club Officer  *ServeNebraska Board –Appointed by Governor Ricketts *Madonna School Board Member *League of Women Voters – Former Board Member *Leadership Omaha, Class 31.

State Board of Education, District 8, Candidates’ Responses

Do you see this board as being an elected or appointed body?  Please explain your reasoning.

Pat McPherson: It should continue to be an elected body.   Its current elected 8 member board represents diverse areas of our state which have unique demographics and needs and concerns.   These range from small rural districts to large urban cities.  Having district representatives assures all voices are heard and needs addressed while also providing respect for local control rather than top-down decisions made in allegiance to one who appoints.

Deborah Neary: It is the responsibility of each board member to listen to the constituents they represent, and to parents, students, teachers, & administrators, to develop policies that guide high quality education. I believe the elective process is more democratic and can prompt citizens to take greater interest when they feel their voices are heard. Education policies deserve to be thoroughly researched and discussed, and conform to no political agenda.

What can be done to ensure safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Pat McPherson: The board has adopted school safety standards but that’s not enough because of limited Department of Education personnel and funding.   The board must insist on better compliance in all of Nebraska’s 244 districts and 1100 schools.   The board must work with the legislature to provide stronger safety requirements for new buildings and funds for implementing improvements in existing schools.  Those schools that don’t adopt necessary changes must be held accountable through accreditation process.

Deborah Neary: I believe our Nebraska’s schools need resources to continue planning for the possibility of violence, to coordinate with law enforcement, and to secure their buildings from potential intrusion.  I also agree school districts need resources for increased numbers of mental health counselors, psychologists, and social workers able to identify and work with students whose behavior may include warning signs for potential violence.

How can the continuing education of teachers be supported?

Pat McPherson: Too many teachers get their teaching certificate and then choose to leave the classroom after only a short time because of lack of support or preparation.   Ongoing education should better reflect the challenges they face daily in their classrooms.  Providing continued education that helps recognize learning difficulties like dyslexia as well as mental and toxic stress issues would help them better cope with the challenges they face. Having the benefit of master teachers would also be beneficial

Deborah Neary: Quality teaching is the most important factor for student success in the classroom and it is imperative teachers have access to the supports they need. Professional development and continuing education opportunities are crucial to improving teaching skills. However, I do believe it is time for an NDE review of current processes regarding continuing education credits and increased compensation for teachers.  Successful models deployed in other states are available for consideration.

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Pat McPherson: 1) I want to assure the board’s strategic plan continues to be implemented and that as we complete the second year of it this December that we have an unbiased third party evaluate our performance; 2) I want to make sure that the upcoming revision of the state’s social studies standards are rigorous, receive strong input from parents and business, reflect the uniqueness of our state and national governments and prepare students for civic life and community engagement.

Deborah Neary: The most urgent role of this board is to find ways to close achievement gaps and to provide teachers the supports they need to be successful in this goal. I will advocate for innovative measures that strengthen schools, uphold state standards, and continue the tradition of taxpayer oversight via elected board members.  And, I will advocate for more behavioral supports. We can review new delivery models for services that minimize out-of-classtime and provide cost efficiencies for districts.

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