School Board Candidate Profile: Chris VarwigWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Varwig’s goal in running for Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Board of Education is to make sure parents’ concerns are represented on the board. Varwig, who has been married for 24 years, is a graduate of Bowsher High School. Her daughter, who is currently attending Bowling Green State University, is also a TPS alumna.
“I’ve always been active in TPS,” said Varwig, who has a lengthy resume of involvement in parent and volunteer groups associated with the school district. She has volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, Chess Club adviser, lunchroom helper and tutor, among other things. She has also served as president of several organizations: the TPS Parent Congress, a districtwide parent advocacy group, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at Beverly Elementary and Byrnedale Junior High and the Bowsher High School Boosters.
“I’ve made it a point to get involved in the district, to attend meetings, join committees and build a relationship with the administration,” she said.
The catalyst for Varwig’s involvement occurred about seven years ago.
“The district was going to put in a $50,000-$70,000 mobile classroom on the playground of Beverly Elementary that would accommodate seven students,” Varwig said. Beverly was at capacity, but it was the first-choice school for these seven students. I let the board know I thought this was a high cost for a few students to not have to attend their second-choice school. Also, when they were going to close Beverly in 2005, I helped prepare a presentation and went to the board. Beverly didn’t close.”
Varwig said TPS’ low graduation rate is a significant problem. Through her service activities, Varwig helped begin what was known as College/Career 101 at Bowsher High School as a way to get students thinking about their future after graduation.
“We brought in businesses, community colleges and universities to set up tables and have a college night,” Varwig said. “The program was successful and it became the TPS College Night, which they now hold at UT.”
For Varwig, another one of the big issues facing the district is communication between the schools and parents.
“Parents often feel they’re left out and there isn’t a lot of communication,” she said, citing last-minute notice of scheduled school delays as an example in which parents have little time to make plans for their children.
“Our parents’ voice needs to be heard on the board. There needs to be a place for them to share their grievances and concerns. Also, as a school, we need to let the community know what our needs are.”
Varwig hopes voters will see her as a unique candidate.
“I’m a TPS grad who has raised a child in TPS, and I’ve created opportunities for our district through volunteering. I have no political agenda with no desire to run for City Council. Running for school board is a natural progression for me. I’ve been asked by parents and administrators to run before, but I put it off in the past to focus on day-to-day things.
“But now that my daughter is in college, I think the time is right. My passion is for public education, and I want to provide a voice for parents and make great things happen for our kids.”
For more information on Varwig, visit www.facebook.com/VarwigForSchoolBoard.
Editor’s Note: Each Toledo Public Schools Board of Education candidate was also asked to answer 10 questions. Here are Varwig’s unedited responses. Plus: Exclusive analysis by Urban Coalition member Steven Flagg.
1. What are three most crucial issues – in order of importance – facing Toledo Public Schools? What would you do as a board member to address the issues you identify?
Three of the most crucial issues facing Toledo Public Schools are the Graduation Rate, Early Education, and Financial Stability. As a board member I would work with fellow board members and administration by:
- Graduation Rate
- Continue with wrap-around services, and work to expand to additional schools
- Encourage college/career tech opportunities by connecting with local businesses and apprenticeship programs within the trades
- Strive for earlier connections with career tech programs
- Early Education
- Support of Head Start program
- Continue with wrap-around services, and work to expand to additional schools
- Create a Pre-School Fair (possibly per learning community) – invite families with toddlers into our schools; discuss what families can do at home to prepare for Kindergarten
- Financial Stability
- Continue to implement aspects of the performance audit as a tool to assist with savings
- Lobby state and federal legislators to make public education a priority
- Continue to look for creative ways to save dollars; bring staff, parents, community together per learning community to share ideas
- Communication (this is my fourth crucial issue)
- Share the positives within our district; better communication with parents; and work on letting our community know the needs within our district
2. Why should voters select you to represent them in decisions and matters affecting the education of Toledo’s children in their public schools?
Voters should select me to represent them in decisions and matters affecting the education of Toledo’s children in their public schools because I have the best interest of our children at heart. I am a Toledo Public School graduate, my daughter attended Beverly, Byrnedale, and Bowsher, and I have been a very active and involved parent within the district. I have pushed to create a parent seat at the Board of Education meetings, created events such as College & Career 101 Night for our entire district, lobbied in Columbus on behalf of public education, created the Beverly Elementary Chess Club where we had 80 students at one time participating, continue to chair the TPS Elementary Chess Tourney, and have a great working relationship with Board members, Dr. Durant, administration, teachers, principals, custodial & food service staff, as well as parents from across the district. I have always put children first, and will continue to do so.
3. What is the primary role of a Toledo Board of Education member?
The primary role of a Toledo Board of Education member is to improve and advocate for public education to benefit our students, work with fellow board members to establish effective governing policies, as well as listen to and be a voice for our community.
4. The Toledo Public Schools recently completed a performance audit with projected savings of $91 million over 5 years. Do you agree with and support implementation of the recommendations provided by the audit?
The performance audit is a tool that we as a district can utilize to find savings. Some of the recommendations I agree with are the phone line usage savings, energy management program, feasibility of the Board of Education building, and the textbook inventory system (which the district is currently working on).
5. TPS will need to negotiate contractual changes to realize a significant portion of the savings recommended in the audit. Do you believe contractual changes can be made to realize these savings and how would you as a board member facilitate negotiations?
Board members do not negotiate contracts. With that said, there is no easy answer here, but what I do believe is our employee’s working environment is our children’s learning environment. Any changes to contracts are changes to that environment, so we must examine very carefully before we attempt to save dollars as that would directly impact our students.
6. TPS currently has a renewal levy on the ballot that will raise approximately $16 million annually for five years or about the annual savings that can be obtained by implementing the performance audit recommendations. Why should the TPS renewal levy be approved by voters?
Your question assumes that all of the ideas in the performance audit are good. Some of the ideas are valid and are being implemented. The performance audit is a tool, nothing more, nothing less; the recommendations are forecasted savings only and could take years to implement. If would be great if some of the savings could be redirected into current and improved programs to help our students be more competitive upon graduation. Some of the ideas need to be thoroughly assessed before decisions are made. The renewal levy is crucial for the day to day operations of the district as well as the efforts for progress.
7. Ohio statutes require that TPS teachers and principals have regular performance evaluations with student performance on standardized tests a component of the evaluation. Should teachers and principals be held directly accountable for student performance in their individual performance evaluations? Why or why not?
No, teachers and principals should not be held directly accountable for student performance in their individual performance evaluations because it is very difficult to tie a teacher evaluation to a student’s performance when there are so many outside variables. Homelessness, absenteeism, emotional & social situations, socio-economic issues are a few of the variables that will affect a student’s performance in school. I do not believe the state’s mandates accommodate for these variables.
8. Ohio is currently implementing national standards regarding the skills and knowledge all students need for success referred to as the “Common Core”. Why do you support or oppose the adoption of these standards?
While these standards are rigorous, I do support the concept of Common Core. In today’s mobile society, it’s important to have similar standards across the nation. On a personal level, Common Core would have been beneficial to me as I was one of those transient children and always felt behind as I switched schools. Unfortunately, classroom educators were left out of the initial development of Common Core so therefore implementation may be a challenge.
9. What endorsements have you received as a candidate? Do you believe any of these endorsements present a potential conflict of interest with the community you would be elected to represent?
As a candidate I am pleased to say that I have received the following endorsements: Toledo Federation of Teachers; Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel; AFSCME; UAW; NOW Building & Construction Trades including IBEW Local 8, Sheet Metal Local 33, Cement Masons Local 886, Plumbers/Fitters Local 50, Roofers Local 134; AFL-CIO; and Teamsters. No, I do not believe any of these endorsements present a potential conflict of interest with the community I would be elected to represent, because many of the union members families, most importantly their children, are part of the community I would represent.
10. Parents today have a plethora of options including private, parochial, charter, virtual, and home schooling besides traditional public schools. How are parents to make this decision? And when is the public school option the best choice for parents?
Parents make a decision on education that best fits their children’s needs. The better question is when is public education not the best choice? Our district should be looking at that question and how we can best provide options families are looking for. I am an advocate for public education because I believe in its availability for every child, and every child deserves a great education. I believe that Toledo Public Schools offers that choice.