Payson Unified School District board candidate Richard Meyer decided when he got out of college that he was going to retire at 55. And he did.
Though Meyer is one of those types that can never really retire — he still works as an accountant — he says that living within his means allowed him freedom. He travels when he likes, visits his grandchildren as he likes, and generally enjoys the independence that accompanies wise financial decisions.
That same advice applies to school districts, Meyer said. The lesson of the new millennium: Live within one’s means.
“I’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions and I anticipate we’re up for a lot of tough decisions next year,” Meyer said. He believes in deciding funding priorities through collaboration before sanding excess off budgets.
He also believes in fundamental academic changes.
He wants classes like study hall to vanish because he says they offer no academic value. He proposes a ban on soda and candy, saying that science shows the sugary foods abet student distraction. He wants a fence and a closed campus, saying that the district should protect students from outside distractions and bad influences.
To enforce a closed campus, Meyer suggests recruiting voluntary police officers and using penalties. Teachers should not be tasked with enforcement duties, Meyer said.
“I think teachers are overburdened with non-teacher duties.”
He also believes in closing campus for what he said are the right reasons — reasons like improving student performance and not subsidizing a food company. The district now runs a food services deficit.
Meyer’s experience with Payson schools is more than cerebral. He taught business at Payson High School for five years, and English for one year. He now serves as the Payson coordinator for the Arizona Academic Scholars Program, which targets average students.
A big believer in excellence, Meyer also devotes himself to helping average students.
“There is nothing wrong with being a hard-working, C student.”
Meyer was a C student, but went on to work for big companies like General Instrument and small cities like Mesa. “Obviously, you don’t have to have the high GPA to make it.”
Meyer philosophizes that laws — like the mandated, standardized Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards test — set minimum expectations. Although not every student passes AIMS, Meyer says that if elementary education was revamped to reflect higher expectations — forbidding calculators for instance — then older students would surpass those low, minimum standards.
He also promotes incentives. Privileges like driving to school and leaving campus during lunch could be offered in return for good grades and good behavior.
Meyer opposes making students pay to park on campus. He says that the students who drive to school should not be responsible for paying to protect the entire campus.
The high school is collecting a $50 per year parking fee, and is saving for security cameras and a parking lot attendant. That money should come from the regular budget, Meyer said.
In regards to the agriculture program, Meyer says finding a teacher whose dedication matches that of the current teacher, Wendell Stevens, is unlikely. Agriculture teachers are increasingly difficult to find, Meyer said. And while vocational training is important, Meyer said programs have died for lack of a teacher before. He cited the computer-aided design program as an example.
But in the end, Meyer said education’s most important task is to develop students so they can compete in today’s global economy.