Meet Martin Hodits

Meet Martin Hodis
1. Why are you running for election/re-election? When I first ran for the Board of Education six years ago student learning was my main issue and it is still the same today. Education is a life long process and student educational needs are my first priority. All students deserve a high quality education whatever their learning ability. Public school systems are where most students receive their education. No other time in the history of the United States has public education faced the challenges that it does today. Public school districts and all educators are being made the “whipping boy” of the U.S. Congress and the General Assembly of the State of Missouri. These two governmental bodies’ mandates are the real issue with public education. Their mandates handicap all public education with rules and regulations that take time away from educating students and force all educators to be paper pushers. It is my belief that these bodies of government should only establish guidelines for all educational institutions and let the local communities determine how to educate the student. Along with student learning, fiduciary responsibility is extremely important. The taxpayers of the Francis Howell School District, the Board of Education, and the central office administration of the district have continued to practice sound financial management to balance the needs of both students and taxpayers. Due to the turn-down in the U.S., state, local and world economies the burden to finance public education is increasing on the local taxpayers. With the declining economies, the U.S. and state governments are still imposing laws and mandates on public education which they are required to fund by law. These unfunded laws and mandates that are being imposed on all public school districts are placing additional funding burdens on local taxpayers. Whenever our governments impose laws and mandates on the public, I believe that they should be held accountable for funding as required by existing laws and not place the burden on local taxpayers. Over the past six years I am proud to say that I am a member of the Board of Education for the Francis Howell School District that has changed course and is now focused on preparing students for the 21st Century. The use of technology, critical thinking skills, along with proficiency in math, communication arts (reading, language and writing), science and history are now the norms. I will continue to support these educational elements and the fine arts components of education.

2. Why do you think you should be on FHSD’s Board of Education? Please refer to answer for question one.

3. What do you hope to do for the district, if elected? To provide quality teachers and support staff to every student who enters any school within our District because every student deserves a high quality education whatever their learning ability,

4. What types of things do you think the Board should be focusing on right now? Educating students for the requirements of the 21st century. When today’s students enter college, the military, or the work force you will be required to have a different skill set than I was required to have in the 60’s. How you think, solve problems, the type of electronic equipment you use or is available to you is changing at a faster rate than ever. If my generation was able to put a man on the moon with the use of slide-rules and a large main-frame computer that required an area as large as your gyms, with the 21st century skills we are trying to educate you with, the universe is your limit. The other major thing the Board should be working on is our finances because of today’s economy. No matter how much money you think we have in reserves we must look into the magical crystal ball and try to predict when we will need to find other sources of funding because it appears that the state and federal government will not be able to finance education like they are required to by law.

5. What has the school board been focusing on this year? Improving student learning. The Board of Education has increased the use of technology in our classrooms, improved or repaired different buildings within our district and focused on educating all students for the 21st century needs. This includes additional funding for student publications at all of our schools and not just the high schools.

6. What do you like most about our district? The quality of education that is provided to all students.

7. Why has the district been focusing a lot on bullying? Some forms of Bullying have been around longer than any of us can remember but with the invention of the different social medias it is now reaching epidemic portions and our governments are making school districts accountable for its elimination within our schools. Most of the Internet and social media sites allow the person who is doing the bullying to remain anonymous and allows them to destroy the self esteem of our youth. If you recall St. Charles County has seen the Internet destroy one student and now the State of Missouri has a law in her honor to try to prevent other students from experiencing the same tragedy. The effects of bullying can be seen at other schools around the country, This morning there was another example of the results of bullying. Is that seen often throughout the schools? I cannot tell you how much bullying is going on in the Francis Howell District but I will guarantee you that it is going on now. Students need to wake-up and start reporting any form of bullying to parents, school resource officers, or educators before it becomes another statistic. What are ways you would like to help fix that problem? The District is doing everything it can to inform students, staff members, teachers and parents the signs of bullying. But to eliminate the problem we must educate the students to step forward and report each and every case of bullying so it can be investigated and stopped before something tragic happens to one of YOUR friends.

8. How has technology changed throughout the schools? (Smart Boards, iPads, tablets, etc.) The District recognizes that a 21st century education requires each classroom within the District be equipped not only with smart-boards and computers but with a network of equipment that allows students to interface with the teacher. Some of the improvements include the use of personal smart phones, iPad’s and laptops that belong to the students. With the wifi network presently installed in every school building in the District every student has some way to access the Internet. . How will that impact students’ learning? See answer to first question. What are your thoughts on the district using more technology – and social media – in classes? Since the beginning of the school year the Board o Education has increased the use of technology in every building. We have purchased over 40 additional smart-boards, added an additional 420 laptop pc’s to the 1,500 we purchased last year, 48 iMAC’s to the high schools for use in the journalism and art classrooms, 60 net-books for special needs areas, and nearly 400 iPADs. All this new technology equipment allows every student access to 21st century. The use of social media in schools is a two way sword. It would allow students a form of communications to each other but it would also place undue stress on every teacher because they would be policing its use by every student in their classroom. Social media can be a great tool but without students understanding the full ramifications of improper use the District cannot be responsible for allowing its use in our schools.

9. How did the $4 million get overlooked last year when a lot of teachers were laid off? The CFO of the District, the entire central administration and the Board of Education did not overlook the $4 million that you indicated. The revised budget that was approved by the Board of Education in November 2010 indicated that our surplus in funds would not increase and maybe a small deficit based on the information from the budget manager for Governor Nixon. As the revenue for the State of Missouri improved Governor Nixon revised his withholding for school financing, changed how much the “hold harmless districts” would receive funds and re-appropriated how the funds would be distributed. These changes along with the decrease in district spending caused the increase in the district’s reserves in June 2011. Also, staffing and the issuing of contracts had to be done, by laws, before the Governor revised school funding. One of the major issues with school funding is how budgeting works. Each district in the state is required to approve a budget before the General Assembly approves the budget for the state. So each district’s budget is based on preliminary information from the state budget department which is always less than received by the end of the fiscal year. What is the school using the money for now? Since the reserves increased last year and it appears that we will receive additional funds this year, the Board of Education reinstated 12 of the positions that were eliminated last year. Also, these extra funds allowed the Board of Education the give all staff members a raise for next year plus their step and lane changes and hire additional staff.

10. How long has the district been working on the School Messenger? The District has been talking about some form of parent notification system for the past 4 years. The major reason for not doing this earlier was the cost of the system and the per unit cost for each notification. Why did the district decide to do that? Parents and members of the communication committee had this as their top priority. With some of the changes that were approved to update our technology equipment this allowed the District to use our network and the cost became manageable.


11. What are your three main priorities if you are elected to the board of education? Increase student learning, Integrate additional technology in every classroom and library in our District. Fiduciary responsibility. For additional explanation of these three priorities please see the response to question 1.