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Transforming Education Today: Second in a series

TRANSFORMING EDUCATION TODAY
(Second in a Series of Interviews with Leaders in Education)
Featuring Dr. Elizabeth Arons
 
Note from Chuck Cascio: Given the difficult issues facing educators today in the USA, I am presenting a series in which I contact established educators and request their insights, in their own words, on a number of vitally important education issues. Readers who would like to comment on the views expressed may email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com. My Twitter handle is @ChuckCascio. Not all comments will be responded to by me and/or the individuals interviewed, but all will be read and, if appropriate, forwarded to others engaged in meaningful education reform. I am pleased to present as the second interview in this series of the views of Dr. Elizabeth Arons, whose profile follows:
 
Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Arons (earons@theushca.org) has served for more than 50 years in public education with more than 40 of those years as a leader in human resources in public school systems. As founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy (www.ushcacademy.org), she has established an initiative that focuses on essential human resources reform and the development of human capital leaders. Betsy has also served as Chief Executive Officer of Human Resources for New York City Department of Education; as Associate Superintendent, Human Resources, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools; and as Director of Human Resources in Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools. Throughout her leadership roles, Betsy has instituted numerous human capital and human resources reforms to elevate the strategic role of HR in meeting student achievement goals. Early in her distinguished career, Betsy served as an assistant principal intern and a high school English teacher. Following are her views on transforming education today:

 

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>>>What inspired your career as a leader in education?
 
The lack of women leaders (Principals, Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents) back in the '70's and '80's was notable, and I felt the need for more women who represented a vast majority of teachers to expand more into leadership roles.  
 
>>>What do you see as the major challenges in education today?  
 
The critical shortage of both teachers and principals that existed before the pandemic has now increased even more, and I see no signs that it will be improving. I strongly believe we have to rethink the concept of a quality teacher in every classroom and drastically change the role of the teacher and begin using technology to solve the shortages.
 
>>>Has the remote learning that started as a result of the pandemic become entrenched as a new direction that education will take and, if so, could it have a positive impact?  
 
Yes...and definitely yes!  Why do we continue to look for, say, 23 Physics teachers for 23 high schools? Why not one excellent Physics teacher piped into 23 high schools with aides in the classroom to help students with homework, labs, etc.?  While technology may not be able to replace a teacher in every classroom for elementary-aged students, it certainly can work for middle and high school students.
 
>>>What can be done to encourage people to go into teaching or other areas of education?
 
Teaching careers that are all 9 1/2 month jobs cannot ever compete with 12-month salaried jobs.  We have to employ teachers to work a 12-month year with a 12-month salary.  There are many functions they could perform over the summer, including curriculum design and review, student achievement results, planning for the coming year, etc.  They still could have vacation time in July, but it is critical that their salary levels are comparable to all the other 12-month careers available.  
 
>>>What makes you optimistic about education when you look ahead for the next 3-5 years and what concerns you the most over that time period?  
 
In a strange way, the pandemic has shown us the power of technology and remote learning, even when students are physically present in schools.  If we don't take advantage of that learning now, we will miss a huge opportunity to redesign education.  I think it will take 3-5 years to accomplish that redesign, and it will be a difficult pill to swallow for teachers' unions, because it will mean far fewer employees to meet educational needs.  So working collaboratively to take advantage of this moment with all stakeholders is critical.
>>>What do you consider to be the appropriate line between politics and education--including the role of Federal, state,and local governments as well as school boards--in establishing standards, content, and policy, 
particularly in K-12 public education?
 
The lines between the varied roles of Federal, state, local governments and School Boards are often blurred.  Ideally, the Federal government would provide funding with no strings attached, set broad policies with a wide band, and School Boards would handle policies without micromanaging superintendents.  But the reality is that each governmental entity wants to regulate and micromanage, and the result is that school districts are more regulated than almost any other entity.  The most recent example in Virginia is the most egregious, where the Governor has established a hotline for parents to report any teacher who broaches a subject the parent disagrees with or does not want their child exposed to.  We are dealing with an atmosphere of intervention by Federal, state, local governments, as well as School Boards and now parents, making the life of a principal and teacher extremely hard to handle.  I fear this will cause many who have no autonomy to leave the profession.  
 
Copyright: Chuck Cascio and Elizabeth Arons; all rights reserved.

chuckwrites@yahoo.com