2011 School Board Candidate Questionnaire: Paul Cockerham

Image: Paul Cockerham and his wife, Ronda

Paul Cockerham and his wife, Ronda

1) Please tell us a little about yourself (current work, education, experience, background).

My name is Paul Cockerham. I grew up in Italy, attended our schools and graduated from Italy High School in 1987. I joined the US Navy and spent four years in submarine service as a missile technician aboard the USS West Virginia SSBN 736. I was medical discharged for an injury I received during service. I worked in the fire protection field as an Operations Manager. I was recently laid off and now attend Navarro College full time working towards a Registered Nurse Degree.

2) What ties do you have at the Italy school district (i.e. children enrolled, family employed, former student)?

I have four girls in the district and they are the third generation in my family to go to school in Italy.

3) Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?

I am seeking to be reelected, because I want the best education we as a district can provide. I want to equip each student with the skills they need to make the next step in their lives. Many will join the workforce, while others will go on and further their education. Each of these students deserves to be pushed and be able to obtain the goals they have in life.

4) What qualifications or experience do you possess that voters should consider?

While in the Navy I was responsible for training new executive offices on naval tactics on the Ohio class submarine’s capabilities. I have managed 35 personnel, worked with FBI on cases involving alarm related functions. I have been a member of the Italy Volunteer Fire Department for over 14 years and last but not least I truly care about all the kids in the Italy Independent School District.

5) What do you consider your primary responsibility as a school board member?

My primary responsibility as a school board member is to oversee the hiring of a well qualified superintendent and make goals and objectives which are governed by the policies that are set. I am also responsible to you as a parent and tax payers.

6) What do you consider the most important issue facing our school today?

We and many other schools are graduating kids that had not retained what they were taught in school. I want to get students excited about learning and take pride in what they have achieved not just getting by.

7) What do you consider the most positive and negative aspect of being a member of the school board?

The most positive part of being on the board is on graduation day when the students that have worked so hard walk up to that special teacher and thank them for being there for them. Along those same lines the negative aspect is the students that do not get to walk with their class.

8) What do you think should be the top priorities of the school board after this election?

The top priority of the school board after this election is to work with our new superintendent to make some positive changes. I want Italy to be an exemplary campus. I want the pride to return to our hallways and teachers and students alike want to be at school.

9) Are there any policy changes you would seek to implement at the school? If yes, which ones?

The problem is not our policies but, the ones we have are not getting enforced.

10) What community services have you given the school or community in the past?

I am an Engineer with the Italy Fire Department and work with a group of very dedicated firefighters. I am also very active in my church (First Baptist Church) and work with the youth. I have also delivered meal for elderly residents in the Waxahachie area through the Meals-on-Wheels program.

11) Explain your position on hiring non-certified teachers?

With the recent lay off of many certified teachers, I do not for see us needing the services of a teacher without a certification.

12) How would you maintain a healthy balance between education and athletics?

I remember when I was in school and this was never an issue. We were winners in the classroom and on the field. Once the grades start to slip everyone says we focus too much on the sports and that is not the case. The fact is we have not put our focus on the classroom. Sports are a great sense of pride and I am the first to be at the games but, we must prepare these kids to make it after high school.

13) Title IX laws pertain to all state funded districts. How do you feel the Italy ISD performs in this area?

Every dollar that is spent, donated or through a fund raiser must be shared equally between boy and girls (or like funds). I feel like Italy ISD has made a good faith effort to comply with the Title IX law. Some issues were brought to our attention and we should make sure we are in compliance.

14) Because discipline is a nationwide problem, what ideas or changes would you like to see to continue to improve school discipline?

Our Policies that are in place must be enforced. Our teachers must be visible in the hallways. I would also like for all employees of the district to have free lunches, provided they eat in the cafeteria with the kids.

15) Considering the current state funding crisis, what ideas do you have to keep the budget trim?

Over 80% of the school budget is in salaries. We recently made some hard choices as a board. I never like to let someone go but, these cuts we made were it would make a larger difference in our budget short fall.

16) What positive changes within the infrastructure of our schools might be made to retain and/or attract quality teachers to educate our children?

People see a community with pride and to restore that through positive leadership is the best way to motivate teachers and students to excel.

17) In what ways can the district’s school board be more open to listen to teachers and parents about their concerns?

The board has started a new email system that is in the works, so anyone can email board members with questions and concerns. Feedback is needed to make sure the direction of the board is current and people feel like this is “their board” and not a closed minded group of people.

18) What incentives, if any, do you think should be implemented to motivate students to improve their performance in the classroom?

We need teachers and staff who truly cares about each kid. I must brag on our new Superintendent Barry Bassett, he wants to know each student by name and make sure they knew he cared about them. That impressed me and I knew that was the type of positive change we need. This kind of motivation has been missing in Italy.

I have lived here all my life and my family is truly vested in this small town. I love it here and know if we want a better community, it starts in our schools. My Pastor has a saying “that the youth are not just the future of our church, that they are a part of our church” and that is true in our community. These kids need role models that they can trust and be proud of them. We can write down all these different ideas about how to fix or improve the schools but, it always boils down to the small stuff, a smile, a gold star, or a hug. We can’t institute these policies but we can, hire the people who demonstrate these attributes.

I would appreciate your vote!
Paul Cockerham