By Erika Webb
For Hometown News
Walter Fordham has spent a lot of time in Volusia County schools, starting in kindergarten.
Dr. Fordham said "firm resolve, tenacity and persistence" plunged him into the Volusia County School Board race for the third time. The first two attempts were for the District 2 seat. This time, as a result of last year's redistricting, it's a bid for District 4 on Aug. 14.
"I want to stop seeing schools regress," Dr. Fordham said. "That was a big motivator for me to come in and use my background, training and experience to better align policies with a plan to accomplish the goals we need to set."
His career achievements include elementary school principal, substitute teacher and educational consultant. He has worked at Bethune-Cookman University for more than 24 years as dean of education, assistant to the executive vice president and full professor of education and kinesiology education.
In addition to his bachelor's and master's degrees, Dr. Fordham received a doctorate degree in administration, supervision and curriculum development from Florida State University.
As principal of an elementary school with "very high ratings at the time" - the mid-70s - he discovered what works.
"The superintendent gave approval for local control of the school, so we had the complete autonomy to identify a curriculum strategy in best support of students' diverse cultural and environmental situations," Dr. Fordham said. "The school provided the resources to meet their needs. Teachers had the flexibility to create lesson plans, changing some of the core course content, so the students could better understand math, reading and science. These were innovative, creative plans which helped students get on the fast track."
If elected, Dr. Fordham said his first priority would be a recommendation to implement Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
PARCC is a consortium of states developing a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math fixed on college and career preparedness. Its aim is to have students college or career-ready at the end of high school, marking students' progress from third grade up, and providing teachers with timely information to advise instruction and provide student support.
"We say we don't have money for resources. PARCC will provide the tools teachers will need to meet goals for common-core state standards," Dr. Fordham said. "We should not have a board that approves policies to limit flexibility in teaching. One plan does not fit all when you're talking about different learning styles."
Dr. Fordham said each county in Florida has a different interpretation of standardized test results.
"No Child Left Behind required every state to give a test. In Florida we identified a company that had not pilot-tested the criteria," he said. "If PARCC replaces FCAT, all data will be consistent, and all teachers will have the same instructional strategies for students to meet course requirements."
A dual program of core classes and technical training, starting right after middle school and culminating with a standard high-school diploma, would be ideal for students who are not interested in going to college, Dr. Fordham said.
His experience with the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has deepened Dr. Fordham's commitment to developing appropriate assessment criteria and school programs to prompt higher student performance and school rankings.
"As dean of education I have had an opportunity to ensure the university's students were given time to study the use and application of the best lesson plans and teaching strategies," he said. "We have produced teachers who were highly qualified to prepare methods to best serve needs of students in the diverse areas of Volusia County."
Dr. Fordham and his wife, Gloria, have been married for 30 years. They have three children and six grandchildren. In addition to being an educator Dr. Fordham has long been a community volunteer, serving on numerous charitable and not-for-profit boards.
"When I look at Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics in the community, their difficulties and high drop-out rate in our system, I believe it's because we're not giving strong support to their needs in preparation for careers," Dr. Fordham said. "I think we can make a difference in ratings, teacher morale and student success."