Rob Hardy

Candidate for School Board

hardyAn education is essential for the strength of our economy, the health of our democracy, and the realization of our individual potential as human beings.  The fulfillment of this nation's foundational promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" rests upon our ability to provide all our citizens with a well-rounded education.  School board members are important stewards of that promise.

As a member of the school board, I will be an informed and energetic advocate for the students in the Northfield Public Schools.  Being a school board member will be a part of my own continuing education.  I will continue to study the issues, and make decisions based on the best information available and the best interests of our students.  I will join with my colleagues in the careful stewardship of the district's educational resources and facilities.  I will listen to the concerns of stakeholders—parents, students, teachers, taxpayers—and continue to engage in a community dialog about the important issues facing our schools.  I will always do my best to be prudent and well-informed in my decision-making, and accessible and collegial in my interactions with others.  I have no private agenda.  My agenda is always to join others in doing what's best for our schools and our community.

In a time when education has become increasingly about standardized testing, we need to work together to make it about community.  No child will be left behind if we, as a community, take collective responsibility for giving all our children the best education possible.  The child who knows only a few words of English, the college-bound student with a full load of AP courses, the child training for a vocation as a carpenter or a mechanic, the special-needs child: as a school board and as a community, we are responsible for preparing all of them to lead productive, well-informed, and happy lives.

As a parent, as a teacher, and as a member of this community, I can think of no greater honor, and no greater opportunity to make use of my talents, than being elected to serve you and our students as a member of the Northfield school board.

Return to Election 2008 page.

Responses to questions submitted by Northfield.org participants:

1. How would you address the concerns of schools not making "Adequate Yearly Progress" as identified by the No Child Left Behind Act?

There are a number of reasons why a school might not make adequate yearly progress (AYP). Failure to make AYP is usually based upon the underperformance of a specific subpopulation in the school; for example, English Language Learners, in the case of schools in Northfield. Since AYP is also based on the percentage of a school's population that takes the test, a small school could even fail to make AYP if too many of its students, for whatever reason, don't show up on testing day or opt out of the testing process. This seems to have been the case at ArTech. So, first of all, we need to identify the problem and the subpopulation involved. Then a plan must be put in place to address the problem, as has been done with the ELL program in Northfield. At the same time, we must continue to advocate for changes in the law to make it less punitive and more supportive of efforts to raise student achievement. We must also continue to monitor for signs of potential problems, and take steps to address them before they develop into problems that threaten a school's ability to make AYP.

2. Although significant budget cuts have been made in the recent past, further cost cuts or additional income might be necessary. How would you approach such a situation?

The school district must, of course, carefully weigh its budget priorities. I cannot comment on specific cuts without full information about the exact circumstances and options available. When difficult decisions have to be made, I will gather and study all the information, and work with others on the board and in the administration to make the best decision possible under the circumstances. In general, though, supporting student achievement must always be the school board's first priority. I can say, specifically, that the district is exploring options for reducing its energy budget by 10% or more through conservation and increased efficiency. This is something I definitely support.

3. What do you see as particular points of pride in the Northfield Schools?

The Northfield schools are full of imaginative, talented, and creative students. My favorite events of the school year are the concerts, plays, and art exhibits that showcase this creativity and talent. For me, the strength of the arts in Northfield is a good indication of the strength of our schools and the promise of our youth. I'm also proud that Northfield is such a supportive community, with such a time-honored commitment to education. I'm proud of the adults who tutor and volunteer in the schools, and who raise their own children to love learning. I'm especially proud of the youth who make the effort to become involved in the community—as tutors and volunteers, and as role models for younger children.

4. What relationship would you like to see between the district and the two charter schools it sponsors?

Both district-sponsored charter schools—Prairie Creek and ArTech—provide important and innovative alternatives to the traditional public schools for some students. I would like to see the district provide support for both schools, but otherwise stay out of their way and allow them to develop their own unique educational programs. The director of ArTech, Simon Tyler, spent many years as a teacher at Prairie Creek, and has an excellent understanding of the progressive, alternative educational mission of both schools. (Full disclosure: Simon is a close personal friend.) I believe that both schools fill an important role in the district, and will continue to evolve and grow and provide excellent educations for their students.

5. Both colleges in town have made news as leaders in bringing better --and more locally grown -- food to the students' tables. Do you feel that Northfield's public schools are doing a good job of providing our children with healthy and smart food choices?

Here's an area where ArTech is a real leader, exploring more locally-grown options and providing healthy and interesting meals—and making lunchtime part of the educational program. I'm excited about the possibility that ArTech might establish its own garden or greenhouse, and really dig into issues of locally-sourced food. Meanwhile, I can't say much about the food options in the public schools. Both of my sons (now in 9th and 11th grade) have been bringing their lunches to school since sixth grade. Ideally, I would like what is served at school to support the school's educational mission—it should support education about good nutrition, the advantages of eating locally, etc. But this is something I would have to research more carefully before suggesting that specific action be taken.