At her core, Isadora Dean is a teacher.
The 42-year educator taught a generation of students, and after seeing them move on to careers as police officers, firefighters, doctors, attorneys, pastors, engineers, accountants, administrators, principals, motivational speakers, authors, and professional football players, Dean is ready to move on to her next career – school board member.
Dean is running for the Orange County Public School Board District 7 seat against incumbent Christine Moore, and fellow challengers Matthew Fitzpatrick and Laura Rounds. District 7 has over 100,000 voters and includes all of Apopka, where her husband Billie Dean is Vice Mayor, and a City Commissioner for the past 22 years.
And if she is elected, Dean’s primary focus will be the same as it was for 42 years – the students.
“I’m running for a seat on the school board to promote policies and fiscal integrity for our future - our children. I have seen, first hand, what a good education can do. I was there when it worked better.”
Dean wants a return to those days, and her immediate concern is the loss in quality teachers.
“Many OCPS students have fallen by the wayside because of our obsession with testing. Teachers are leaving the teaching profession in droves, and support professionals receive low pay and disrespect… and parents have little or no voice. It’s time for change. It’s time to involve parents, teachers, students and the community…This is not about me, it is about our students! My top priority would be to put the education of children first, by getting back to some of the basics, of making literacy a priority.
And according to Dean, it’s her experience in teaching, and focus on students that separate her from the other candidates.
“I am the best candidate in this race because of my 42 years of teaching experience in Orange County’s public education system. As both an educator and a parent of children who attended Orange County’s public and private schools, I always put students first. I have a plethora of experience teaching in middle and high schools, teaching home economics, life management skills at Apopka Middle and Apopka High and intensive reading at Ocoee High and Acceleration Academy West. I was also Lead Teacher with the Even Start Family Literacy Program, where I conducted and coordinated parent involvement/literary workshops, playtimes for parents and their pre-school aged children, GED and ESOL classes and conducted home visits and served as Migrant Advocate. I have worked in some capacity in many areas of district 7---- Winter Garden, Apopka, Ocoee, and Tildenville.”
If elected, she would also strive to bring accountability to the school board in terms of keeping parents informed and with a tight budget.
“It is the board’s responsibility to maintain certain standards such as engaging parents and community in key issues and keeping them informed in a timely manner. Just as teachers are held accountable for the academic performance of students, then school board members should also be held accountable for students’ academic performance. They should support the superintendent in improving student achievement… however, they are not employees of the superintendent. Actually, the board and the superintendent are our employees.”
“Recess benefits children physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually and if elected I will actively lead the push for a minimum of 20 minutes of mandated daily recess.”
She would also like to see more challenges for students who may not be college-bound.
“I really would love to see vocational education back into our local schools. I think we do a good job with our college-bound students, but tend to ignore the average and below average students. Vocational/technical/trade programs in local schools, expand middle school sports, mentoring, and parental involvement would help these students a great deal.”
And when it involves teacher evaluations like the Marzano System, Dean remains fiercely loyal to her fellow educators.
“Marzano stated in his book that there is “No One” Teacher Evaluation Instrument for effective teaching. Also, in my opinion, teacher evaluation should be based on performance, not friendships with administrators or district staff. OCPS needs to focus on the professional growth of teachers and allow teachers to do what they are trained to do - teach. Many teachers are disappointed in a school system where less than 3 percent of great, experienced teachers were rated “highly effective”. Rumors are that administrators were advised to give low ratings. To me…that’s wrong.”
While being against standardized testing seems to be a common opinion among students, teachers, parents, administrators, board members and candidates, Dean has a more tempered approach with solutions.
“Accountability is important and testing will not go away, however there needs to be balance. First and foremost students are children and it is proven that children process and learn in different ways. Passing a test just to pass for county or state requirements is a great disservice and injustice to our teachers and students and is not an accurate assessment of learning. Student performance should be evaluated throughout the school year rather than relying solely on one test given on one given day. Alternatives forms and multiple measures of assessing performance can and should be utilized, including authentic portfolios of student’s work throughout the year, projects, oral presentations, and interviews and teacher-made tests. All students deserve to engage in authentic and meaningful hands-on learning experiences and need time to process, discuss with their peers, internalize and enjoy learning…not spend valuable time preparing for a test, as it undermines student learning.”
Dean announced her intentions to run for District 7 in March, and since that announcement she has gone full force at this goal to be the next OCPS board member. But win, lose or runoff, she will always view this experience as she does most things - a teachable moment.
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