UAPCS emailed all candidates the following questions in late May. Many candidates chose to respond and their answers are listed on our website. If a candidate chose not to provide their policy answers and educational philosophy, the space below their name will be blank.

Dixie Allen

1. In your opinion, what are the two most important functions performed by the State Board of Education?

One of the two most important functions that should be performed by the State Board of Education, I believe should be the establishment and evaluation of Core Curriculum and expectations of mastery by students to qualify to earn credit and be awarded credit and/or mastery of the curriculum.  This verification that the students could move onto the next level of instruction in the area of instruction should be verified based on mastery of the curriculum areas as presented in teacher evaluation or testing evaluation.

The establishment of a Core Curriculum should not only be decided by the State Board, but the Board should work to insure that quality educators are in attendance to clarify and support the recommended Core Curriculum expectation for all students.  Teachers and Districts should also have a voice in the type of testing or other verification necessary to ensure student mastery.

The second issue of great importance is the Board’s responsibility to insure that quality educators are available to be hired to be placed in classrooms, where they have a complete understanding of the curriculum for that area of instruction and the teaching strategies to help students be successful.  The State Board should do this in conjunction with Higher Education Programs of Teacher Training and also input from Districts as to the level of educational expectation they need in the classroom.  This also requires the state to hold regular evaluations of teachers that may have had inappropriate behavior in relationship to their educational setting.  These teachers should not be allowed to go back into the classroom until there is a legal finding that they have rectified any inappropriate behavior or expectations toward students.

2. How does your experience qualify you to represent the residents in your district on the State Board of Education?

My experience that qualifies me to represent the residents of my district on the State Board goes back to my career choice of becoming an elementary teacher with a degree from Utah State University.  Secondly, I also completed by Master’s Degree from the University of Utah in Educational Administration.

Based on these degrees I taught second grade for 5 years and then was appointed to Davis Elementary for 6 years, where I was a K-6 Elementary Principal and was able to gain a Governor’s Award of $10,000 for one of 20 schools in the state in 1992 to receive the Governor’s School of Excellence.

In 1994, I was appointed to be principal of Discovery 5th Grade Center, after the local district  chose to make 2 elementary schools K-2, 2 others to b 3-4 and Discovery Elementary to be a 5th grade center for all fifth grade students in the Vernal area.  After serving there for four years, I was appointed to Uintah High School as Principal for four years.  I was then appointed to be the Student Service Director for 2 years and then returned to the High School for 4 more years.

In 1990 the Northeastern Educational Services and the State Rural Schools Council named me the Principal of the Year.  Shortly after that I ran for the State School Board after being reassigned as Student Director for the District and held down both jobs for about two years, then retired to serve on the State School Board.

I also served as the Utah Education Agency local President for Uintah School District and the President of the Rural Schools Council for two years during my tenure at Uintah School District.

I have served on the State School Board now for 14 years and for the first six years represented Daggett to San Juan School Districts, containing 12 different districts down the Eastern part of the state.  I was then reassigned to represent Daggett, Duchesne, Uintah, Wasatch, South Summit, North Summit and part of Alpine for the past eight years.

On the State School Board, I have served as President, Vice President, Committee chairperson, on the Utah Charter School Board, on the Utah Rural Schools Council and have attended several appointed meetings with the National School Boards Association.

3. As you know, the State Board of Education manages more than $4 billion per year in public education funds. Recently, it has come to light that the boards, and its staff, have neglected critical finance and accounting matters. These miscalculations will likely take years to fix. First, what measures would you propose the State Board adopt, in order to prevent similar future problems?

It is my belief that the Board has already done much to repair the problems that have caused much of the issue with funding for the State.  It has become obvious that the assignments to the State Office of Education and The State Board of Education have been covering much more than the educational programs of the state.  The assignment of Quality Remediation Programs that are not specifically curriculum based, like the State Rehabilitation Programs and some others have caused the State Office to oversee some programs without much input or help from the State Board of Education.  It is obvious that we cannot continue to assign programs that fall outside of the Educational Process to the State Office of Education nor the State Board of Education.    The Office of Education and the Board have their hands full overseeing the educational programs of the state and the support of medical remediation in many areas has been problematic in regard to quality oversight and Board support.

4. And second, what makes you uniquely qualified to assist in the correction of these errors?

After spending so many years working in education, it has become obvious to me that not all problems can be solved by the educational programs.   Any time we find ourselves with students who need medical treatment of any method, it requires someone who understands the medical programs and the possible problems such a program could cause for the student, but also the programs that attempt to solve the issues, without clear understanding and oversight.

One such issue that came to our Board last month, while the Governor was attending our Board Meeting, was the determination of the President Obama that all schools should allow transgender students to use the bathroom that fit their self – sexual belief of their lives.  However, as a Board and with the blessing of the Governor, we rejected the idea and asked that our schools find ways to deal with this issue, but not at the expense of other students who are not transgender or even understand the meaning of such a solution to these student’s concerns. Even though our state and others who responded the same did not get the blessing of the President or the Federal Government, but to date we see no way this issue can be mandated in our schools.

5. The State Board of Education is unique in that its members are elected, and it has rule-making authority. How would you approach the sometimes tedious process of writing, implementing, and enforcing education rules, all of which have the force of law?

Our Board has carefully asked for educators and specialists in the field, including parents, to help us make policy and other recommended changes in our educational rules.  We have worked hard to insure that our recommendations contain the input of those in the field that understand the outcomes of these decisions and how best to put them into effect and to evaluate them.  Our State Board relies heavily on experts in the field of education both at the State Office of Education and those in the Districts and Schools we serve.

6. Who do you believe should be the primary driver of education policy – the State Board of Education, the Legislature, or the Utah State Office of Education? Why?

Educational policy should be controlled by the State Board and the Utah State Office of Education; however, it requires input from all involved in the educational process, which includes teachers, administrators, district office personnel, parents and students.  However, after all the ramifications are discussed it is up to the State Board in conjunction with the State Office of Education to put the rules and processes into writing and provide the needed training and explanation to all school personnel in the field.

7. Charter schools and school districts have historically disagreed on a number of different issues. Those disagreements often manifest themselves at the State Board level. How would you manage disagreements between charter schools and school districts? 

Since Charter Schools often fall outside of the day to day approach to education that districts are held to and believe in, there is often concern that either one or the other may be undermining student’s rights and responsibilities.  Thus I believe that anytime a Charter School is located in a District and is asking for and receiving permission to attend to issues in a different manner than the local district, where they are located, that there should be a meeting of both governing groups of the Charter and the District to iron out possible concerns and continue to meet to address any concerns that may cause concerns or frustration for the local area.

It is also important that the districts work to share changes or possible issues that may infringe on the Charter School to also keep their constituencies informed and aware of why there are differences and that they are being addressed through the different educational programs and outcomes shared with students, parents and the community if necessary.

8. Over the years the State Board’s relationship with the Legislature has waxed and waned. How do you envision the Legislature and the State Board working together?

I believe that over the past year, with our Associate Superintendent who has served in the educational programs of our state for some time, that our Board has met often and regularly with the legislature, senators and the Governor’s office to insure that there are no surprises and that each group was working to address any concerns that may be brought to the groups that stand out as concerning.  These meetings on an ongoing basis help keep everyone informed and up to date on possible proposed solutions to the issues at hand.

9. And what will you do specifically, to foster that relationship?

I believe that for all Board Members it becomes our responsibility to talk with our own legislators or senators and inquire to their impression  of what is or what is not working and then to bring those issues back to our State Board and make plans on how to address the issue and help the legislature better understand the plans or prepare to make minor changes that might solve the problem for all concerned.  Understanding the issues on all fronts helps both the legislature and our State Board make better and more informed decisions.

10. Many students are working out of textbooks older than they are. How will you work to modernize public education, and ensure Utah students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly technology-driven economy?

Over the years we have seen textbooks that cannot be rewritten to address some minor changes, without huge cost.  However, it is fairly easy to help post the necessary changes to certain subject on the internet or on a computer program that would help schools inform students of changes in the curriculum and would allow for consistent presentation of such information if properly posted on a computer based program.  Those issues, also based on computer programs could be used to inform the textbook companies and would allow for their input and support to improve the changes in their textbooks or help schools address it continually through other informational posting, such as computers or accompanying informational textbooks to address the changing issue.

11. In your opinion, what is the State Board’s role in shaping standards and assessment?

I believe the State Board must have the role of ratifying changes to standards and assessment.  I also believe they should be involved in the discussions so they understand the reasoning behind any changes or expectations.  However, those who play the major role in determining changes and the prospective changes necessary should be the teachers and specialist in the field in regard to the subject level they are working to update.  After teachers and specialists have made their proposed changes and documented and shared their reasoning with specialist in the field and the State Board, then the State Board should be responsible to make sure the data is properly stated as a standard and addressed correctly with the assessment tools necessary to evaluate the standards.

12. How do you plan to address the statewide teacher shortage, and what should the State Board do to help school districts and charter schools attract competent and effective teachers?

One of the major issues in the statewide teacher shortage is funding for quality teachers in the classroom.  It is very clear that for a full time position such as a teacher, that we must adequately support their salaries to meet the needs of their profession and their life styles.  Once we have our salary schedule in place to adequately fund educators, then we must provide for our educators in the classroom to have a voice in the determination of the school process, the adoption of support materials and sharing any concerns they may have in relationship to the proper placement of subject level instruction, and the placement of students, who may not be ready for the level of instruction need to be successful.  If we continue to treat teachers as the specialists they are in the field, the more we will come to have their support as we move to make changes or upgrade the curriculum, assessment and other issues for a quality education.

Alisa Ellis