published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Peck says she would be a hands-on leader
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Roberta Peck is running for Superintendent of Schools.
Part of the reason she seeks the position is that, "I've been trained to take the initiative from my mother. To step forward when things need to be done. When I'm 84 years old I want to know I tried to solve problems. I don't want to have regrets," Peck added.
She said that the school district has challenges.
"We've taken another hit financially, teacher morale is low, and truancy a problem," adding she is upset about the number of "D" schools in the district.
First, she said, "we want schools to be places where kids want to be."
As an art teacher in Highlands County for 33 years Peck said, she has answers.
"I have been trained in teaching our most gifted students," she said, "and I contend that the best ways to teach gifted children is the best ways to teach all our children."
She believes in holistic education.
She talked of the value of art education, which enhances creativity and teaches problem solving. She said chorus is important too, because it requires teamwork. Origami, she added, has been shown to be useful in teaching geometry and algebra, as well as developing patience.
Peck spoke of simple, no-cost ideas, like how to motivate students. She told of an experiment where students who were praised for their intelligence did not do better as work grew harder. They grew discouraged instead, while students who were praised for hard work, were persistent and optimistic. "I love seeing kids excited about their work," she said.
Peck knows improvement will take time and much effort on everyone's part, including her own.
"I have a hands-on style," she said. "I'll visit schools periodically, unannounced."
As to improving student attendance, Peck said she would create a cadre of school volunteers that would begin work before the school year began by calling all the at-risk children. She envisions relationships building between the volunteers and the students, "so they get to know the kids they called." She strongly supports lunch passes for volunteers so they can eat with students. "Volunteers could be very significant people," she said.
Peck said she will lead by example. "Donating 25 percent of my salary back to our schools is common-sense leadership when teachers have to do more with less. We have too many $100,000-plus salaries at the top. I am the only candidate promising to a motion to restructure school board salaries." She said board members met 82 hours in 2011 with a base salary of $30,616 and benefits. She would first, however, hold a town meeting for citizen input.
Peck said the district can benefit when small savings add up. For example, "whiting our flat-roof schools is a wise solution Florida Power has reported will save millions over time. The biggest cost outside of salaries is air-conditioning. Retro-fitting air conditioners with a new American-made technology has reported savings of 30 to 80 percent."
Peck said, "We've got to be frugal and save what we've got. My platform is excellence in schools without raising property taxes."
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