Farmington Schools Candidate Q&A: Steven Goldberg

Farmington Voice sent questionnaires to Farmington Public Schools candidates running on November 3. Responses are being published in the order they are received. Read all of our election coverage here:

Steven Goldberg (six-year term)

Farmington Public Schools trustees recently approved a diversity proclamation, with one trustee dissenting. Please share your thoughts about the proclamation.

In my campaign I’ve learned a great deal from listening to others about the challenges in our schools, though by no means do I consider myself highly informed about the situation. As I’ve said before, we should be approaching everything we do with equity at the forefront.

As a resident, I wish the Board and District had provided more information about what led to the creation of the proclamation, including an in-depth summary of the problems and the parties involved.

As a board member I would have advocated that the recommendations be part of a holistic FPS diversity, equity and inclusion plan, rather than a stand-alone statement that spoke to only certain populations. While I agree with many points within the proclamation and that we have real work to do, I believe we can better accomplish our goals through a more inclusive and holistic approach. I look forward to seeing such a plan from the new FPS executive over diversity, equity an inclusion.

COVID-19 will impact the district’s budget, perhaps for years to come. What values, concerns, and priorities will you bring to the table when it comes time to make budget decisions?

My priority will be to continue to offer the diverse academic programming we provide today. While FPS will surely incur substantial unplanned costs due to Covid-19, this is certainly not the only major factor impacting our finances. At the end of the day, FPS may very well have to make some major decisions about where to spend precious funds and explore non-traditional funding options. Especially during times of crisis, as we are in, we need to think differently.

We may not be able to continue all the programs we do, just as some colleges have been forced to cut some sports. If we have temporary or one-time needs, such as new classroom equipment or janitorial staff, we should consider non-traditional financing options, such as donations or volunteers. By no means am I saying we should start cutting the various academic paths we offer or teacher pay. With an MBA, a B.A. in Finance, and 20+ years in health insurance, I bring skills that I feel the district would very much appreciate and value.

Trustees have had some challenging conversations among themselves and have listened to a great deal of public comment over the past few months. What would you bring to the table to improve board relationships? 

I promise the community I will conduct myself at all times in the manner that is expected and which would make our kids proud. It’s essential we have honest, courteous discourse and acceptance of decisions. By working collaboratively and within the formal processes, we can best uplift our school district and gain the respect of our residents. I feel it’s also important to point out that I bring no special interests nor personal relationships to the current board or administration, so my objectivity is unencumbered.

In health insurance, my business, it’s very difficult to create solutions that customers will buy without collaboration across many stakeholders. These stakeholders include doctors and hospitals, employers who purchase insurance for their employees, agents and consultants who advise businesses, and, of course, the individuals using their coverage, etc. The parallels to education are obvious. The department I work in at Blue Cross is charged with understanding stakeholders and producing related metrics that are bought into by the entire corporation. Thus, I have great familiarity with what has worked well in the area of obtaining useful stakeholder input.

The key to success is engaging stakeholders so that you clearly understand what they value and what their concerns are. I do not believe the Board should be the main conduit for “hearing resident’s concerns” – this can lead to “squeaky wheel” syndrome and the Board doing the job of the Administration. Rather, the Board should ensure that the district has rigorous and transparent programs in place to obtain clear and comprehensive stakeholder feedback when and where it’s needed. For example, we might have a formal committee called “Teacher Relations” that serves as the forum for regularly discussing topics. This is what governing looks like.

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