Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final story in a series on the candidates running for the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education. The election is Feb. 7. Below this news story are the brief bios for each candidate followed by their answers to a Journal questionnaire.
The race for Albuquerque Public School District 7 includes the youngest candidate in the field, a 27-year-old math instructor and game developer, who is up against incumbent Dave Peercy and two other candidates.
Ian Burch completed his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in math at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and now teaches at University of New Mexico — Valencia County Branch. In is free time, he developed an action-adventure video game called Moonstrider.
Burch is the only candidate under age 30 among the 19 fighting for four APS board seats.
“My first priorities would be to improve student engagement with modern teaching methods, support community schools, and work to end the overuse of standardized testing,” Burch said.
Peercy, the current board president, is seeking his third term representing District 7, the far Northeast Heights.
Now retired, Peercy, 72, was a distinguished senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories for almost 25 years. He completed his Ph.D. in math at New Mexico State University in 1971.
Peercy’s goals are diverse: “Implementation of the Academic Master Plan: early learning, experiential-based curriculum, socio-emotional learning for education excellence; expanded community schools to build educational capacity with communities; art and music every year in K-5.”
William Steinberg, 63, retired after working in sales at a variety of New Mexico businesses, including Concrete Systems Inc. and Highfiber Network.
If elected, he hopes to boost graduation rates, help address the tight budget and “clear a path to allow teachers being able to do their jobs in a manner for which they were educated.”
The final District 7 candidate, Brian Tierney, 45, earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and now works at Sandia National Laboratories. The 45-year-old Massachusetts native is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Military Intelligence Corps.
Tierney is pushing for an independent audit of APS finances, greater parent collaboration with the board and more autonomy for teachers in the classroom.
He has also taken a strong stand against the district’s transgender directive, which allows kids to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities. For instance, a student who was born male but is transitioning to female can access the girls facilities.
“The directive is a disgusting violation of every child’s safety,” Tierney said. “It indicates that the current board, as led by my opponent, Mr. Peercy, is devoid of a basic understanding of human nature.”
Steinberg is also against the APS policy, calling it “a safety issue.”
Peercy and Burch are both supporters.
“Transgender students are all too often the victim of bullying and harassment, and need both the backing of the administration and teachers and the right to be treated as their gender to succeed,” Burch said.
Peercy noted that the directive includes proper staff training and ensure privacy for all students.
The candidates also divide on Common Core, controversial math and English standards adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia.
“Many states that instituted Common Core have since repealed it,” Steinberg said. “It is too costly and has not produced its promised results.”
Tierney would also like to abandon the “‘one-size-fits-all’ curriculum designed to politically indoctrinate children.”
To Burch, Common Core provides a “solid foundation,” while Peercy has mixed feelings.
“Indications are that Common Core may not survive, but it is useful to have educational standards if those standards are reliable and valid for intended use,” Peercy said. “Common Core needs to have an improvement feedback mechanism.”
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Master of Science, Mathematics, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 2014; Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, minor, Biology, NMT, 2011.
Occupation: Educator, five years; game developer, three years.
Family: No spouse or children.
Political experience: None.
Major professional accomplishment: Working with other educators at NMT to successfully modernize lower division math courses.
Major personal accomplishment: Developing and publishing Moonstrider, an action-adventure video game.
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Ph.D., Mathematics, New Mexico State University, 1971; Master of Science, Mathematics, NMSU, 1967; Bachelor of Science, Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado, 1966.
Occupation: Distinguished senior scientist, Sandia National Laboratories, 1990-2014, retired; principal scientist, BDM Corp., 1977-1990; technical principal, Texas Instruments, 1973-1977; mathematics instructor, Colorado Academy Prep School, 1972-1973; post-doctoral member of faculty, West Virginia University, 1970-1972.
Family: Martha, married 48 years; two adult sons: Brad, Lane.
Political/government experience: Forty–plus years of experience in industry either working with government agencies or employed by agencies such as Sandia National Laboratories that are associated with the government; Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, 2009-2017.
Major professional accomplishment: Qualification lead with exceptional teams for several major weapon/weapon-related programs at SNL, and internationally recognized software logistics engineering expert. Recognized by SNL with special appointment senior scientist position that less than 1 percent of technical workforce achieve.
Major personal accomplishment: Married the love of my life, a graduate of APS and 31-year speech language pathologist for APS, and raised two boys, both graduates of APS and college, who have become very successful young men with fantastic families.
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Major in Communications, Minor in Geography, University of New Mexico, 1979.
Occupation: Retired, Allstar Audit & Inspection Service of New Mexico, 1980-1988; Ecolab Pest Elimination, 1988-1996; Highfiber Network, 1996-1999; Salvation Army, 2000-2003, Concrete Systems Inc., 2009-2015.
Family: Holly, No children.
Political/government experience: None.
Major professional accomplishment: Western Region of Ecolab Pest Elimination Service Specialist of the Year, 1991; highest fumigation sales, 1989; highest pest products sales, 1990; Circle of Excellence Award, 1990 and 1991.
Major personal accomplishment: Ran the Tour of Albuquerque Marathon in 1988, finish time of 2:55:03; Bolder Boulder 10K, 1992, finish time of 37:10.
Brian D. Tierney
Place of residence: Albuquerque
Education: Ph.D., Electrical Engineering (device physics), Arizona State University, 2011; Master of Science, Electrical Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2001; Bachelor of Science, Physics, Boston College, 1993.
Occupation: Ph.D. engineer/scientist (postdoctoral appointee), Sandia National Laboratories, 2014-present; reliability engineer, Intel Corp., 2011-2012; radio frequency engineer, Antenex Corp., 2001-2002; applications engineer, Sanyo Semiconductor Corp., 1997-1999; particle accelerator operator, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, 1994-1997.
Family: Camille, two children.
Political/government experience: U.S. Army Reserve Officer, 35-Delta All Source Intelligence Officer, Airborne Qualified (mobilized, 2013, Operation Enduring Freedom), 2005-present.
Major professional accomplishment: Earning a position doing Ph.D. research at Sandia National Laboratories. It is a privilege, an honor, and fun to spend each day addressing fascinating scientific questions and engineering problems pertinent to America’s national security.
Major personal accomplishment: Completing my Ph.D. and serving in the U.S. Army Reserve while my wife (a stay-at-home mom) and I started our family, with one old car and living in a very small apartment.
APS District 7 Candidate Questionnaire
1. Do you support legislation that would require retention of third-graders who can’t read at grade level, coupled with intense early literacy intervention? Why or why not?
Burch: Third-grade retention should be handled on a case-by-case basis, with intensive summer programs and specialized classes being the primary approach and holding students back used only as a last resort.
Peercy: No. Retainment should be under local school/district control with School Assistance Team, teacher, parent/student collaboration. Very much favor preventive early/continual literacy intervention. Research indicates retainment greatly increases the likelihood a student will not graduate.
Steinberg: No. If the system to teach reading in the first and second grades is failing, then we need to find a working solution. Failure is not an option.
Tierney: Yes, but only as a last resort. I support aggressive, earlier intervention. It worked for me after failing kindergarten. After intensive summer reading, I entered first grade at an above-average reading level.
2. What percentage, if any, of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on student test scores and why?
Burch: Almost none. Heavily tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores creates an incentive for them to “teach to the test,” causing classes to become about memorization instead of learning.
Peercy: No more than 25 percent. The American Statistical Association research analysis (supported by American Education Research Association) of the value-added model part of the teacher evaluation concludes the percentage should be no more than 1-14 percent.
Steinberg: The teachers have been evaluated since public schools were instituted. What we are doing now is not working, and we need to look at what had worked the best in the past.
Tierney: Evaluations should not be based on standardized tests, which can never reflect the reality of an individual teacher’s classroom. I support evaluations customized for each school, with input from teaching peers, parents, and the principal.
3. Should APS be divided into more than one district? Why or why not?
Burch: No. Dividing APS into multiple districts reduces its ability to help struggling schools and would increase administrative costs.
Peercy: No – this would create significant inequity in education and capital debt, and increase administrative cost. Some divided districts would have to max out capital mill levy/tax and still would not meet their assumed capital debt.
Steinberg: With budget shortfalls looming for the next few years, I cannot see the value in wasting time on that idea.
Tierney: The idea deserves serious consideration. Greater local control by parents, teachers, and principals could be the result. However, I would not advocate a hasty breakup resulting in the proliferation of several inefficient bureaucracies.
4. Do you agree with state competency exams for a student to graduate? Why or why not?
Burch: Yes. At least some degree of reading, writing, and critical thinking ability should be expected of all high-school graduates.
Peercy: Not as such exams are being used. Exams have not been shown to be reliable and valid for use per state statute. Local district alternate demonstration of competency after one exam failure should be allowed.
Steinberg: There always has to be a standard of competency in education at a level that proves the student can be employable.
Tierney: They should be used temporarily and not be the only graduation standard. My concern is that the content and standards of such exams can become politicized. Intervention must occur much earlier in a child’s education.
5. Do you agree with Common Core? Why or why not?
Burch: Yes. While Common Core is not perfect and we should always try to improve curricula, it gives a solid foundation and allows students and their families to move across the country without falling behind.
Peercy: Indications are that Common Core may not survive, but it is useful to have educational standards if those standards are reliable and valid for intended use. Common Core needs to have an improvement feedback mechanism.
Steinberg: No. Many states that instituted Common Core have since repealed it. It is too costly and has not produced its promised results. I also oppose all the data mining of students/parents that goes out of state.
Tierney: No! The Common Core curriculum destroys the ability of teachers to have autonomy in their classrooms. Furthermore, as is evident from assignments, it is a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum designed to politically indoctrinate children.
6. Should APS try to work more closely with the New Mexico Public Education Department? Why or why not?
Burch: APS should work closely with the NMPED to try to reduce the reliance on standardized testing and fix faulty evaluation methods for schools and teachers.
Peercy: Yes. APS does work closely with the NMPED on most topics but more collaboration is needed. Through constructive discussions about differences, improvement in educational policies and implementations can be achieved. Both sides must be collaborative.
Steinberg: No. The PED should be a help and an asset for each local school board, not a dictator. Torrance and Bernalillo counties are world’s apart, and their school boards face very different problems.
Tierney: Yes! Collaboration is always beneficial. APS would be well served by seeking a better relationship with the New Mexico Public Education Department.
7. Do you believe APS should have the ability to move teachers to different schools to meet APS needs? Why or why not?
Burch: No. While APS may request or incentivize teachers to move between schools, giving teachers autonomy and choice will help the teacher retention issues APS has.
Peercy: I support the current process. APS can already move teachers to meet needs, but it requires collaboration with district/school administration and the teacher to ensure the move is an appropriate fit for all stakeholders.
Steinberg: If a situation needed immediate attention, yes. I am not in favor of moving teachers because of management problems. Also the teacher must teach what they are certified to teach.
Tierney: Any district must have ultimate authority to move its employees as needed. However, teachers, being an integral part of a school community, should be contractually afforded measures of protection against frequent, during-the-school-year, or punitive moves.
8. Do you support the APS directive allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities? Why or why not?
Burch: Absolutely. Transgender students are all too often the victim of bullying and harassment, and need both the backing of the administration and teachers and the right to be treated as their gender to succeed.
Peercy: Yes, because the New Mexico Human Rights Act (Statute Chapter 28, Article 1) identifies gender identity as a protected class/category. APS procedural directive codifies nondiscrimination processes that ensure safety/privacy for all students, accommodation plans, and staff training.
Steinberg: No. I believe this is a safety issue.
Tierney: No! The directive is a disgusting violation of every child’s safety; it indicates that the current board, as led by my opponent, Mr. Peercy, is devoid of a basic understanding of human nature.
9. If elected, what would be your top priorities?
Burch: My first priorities would be to improve student engagement with modern teaching methods, support community schools, and work to end the overuse of standardized testing.
Peercy: Implementation of the Academic Master Plan: early learning, experiential-based curriculum, socio-emotional learning for education excellence; expanded community schools to build educational capacity with communities; art and music every year in K-5.
Steinberg: My top priorities would be the APS budget; clearing a path to allow teachers being able to do their jobs in a manner for which they were educated; and achieving better graduation rates.
Tierney: Keep the boys out of the girls’ bathroom!; end Common Core!; independent audit of APS finances; restore public trust in the board. Design board meetings that welcome parent and citizen discussion.
10. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy hearing?
11. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state? If so, explain.