Article originally appeared on smithfieldtimes.com
- Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for School Board?
I am running for the position of School Board in District 2. I would like to work together with the community to create safer schools and prioritize the need for mental health programs and resources for students and staff. Teachers want to feel valued and supported; therefore, I will address teacher shortages, competitive pay, recruitment efforts, and teacher retention. It is critical to provide support to all school personnel to effectively provide quality education to “ALL STUDENTS.” I bring over 20 years of experience in public education. I will positively fight for students, parents, and teachers to fulfill the promise of public education. I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a retired Law Enforcement Officer. I hold an associate degree in criminology from the University of Maine, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University and a master’s degree in educational management from Regent University.
- What should be the School Board’s top priority right now?
• Creating Safer Schools
• Obtaining appropriate funding and ensuring fiscal responsibility is demonstrated in the division.
• Addressing the need for greater investment in mental health programs, and resources for students and educators
• Focusing on reducing teacher and staff shortages
- Has a March policy change that now prohibits educators from teaching students about “systemic racism” had a positive or negative impact on Isle of Wight County Schools? What changes, if any, would you make to the policy?
It is important to teach honesty in education. We cannot change, nor should we attempt to avoid our country’s history. We must find age-appropriate ways to tell hard truths about our past and present in order to prepare our kids for a better future. By working with parents, educators, and the community, we can ensure that our schools have the resources to meet every child’s needs. With well-trained and supported teachers, parental engagement, and a sound curriculum, we can continue to shape the future.
- What more can Isle of Wight County Schools do to attract and retain quality teachers?
Teacher and support staff shortages greatly impact the school division. Virginia school divisions receive less K–12 funding per student than the 50-state average. NEA Rankings and Estimates report finds that Virginia is falling further behind the national teacher salary average. This year’s estimated average teacher pay is $62,104, $6,365 below the estimated national average. As a result, more qualified teachers are leaving the profession. Solving educator shortages requires long-term strategies that address both recruitment and retention. The pay gap between teachers and similar professions averaged 23.5 percent in 2021 and was more than 30 percent in Virginia.
These strategies can assist with staffing shortages:
• Make pay and benefits competitive
• Improve working conditions • Respect educators as professionals
• Work with colleges and universities with educator preparation programs
• Teacher Apprenticeship programs • Teacher-to-teacher mentorship programs
• Board of Supervisors to increase school funding back to pre-pandemic funding
- Should Isle of Wight County Schools adopt the new transgender student model policies Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration released earlier this year? Why or why not?
Title IX ensures the protection of all students, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Public education provides opportunities to all students no matter what they look like, where they come from, or how they express their genders. Education policies should be fair and inclusive, not discriminatory.
- What more can be done at the school division level to keep students safe from shootings?
Ensuring schools are safe for students, and all school personnel, is the responsibility of the entire Isle of Wight community. Everyone, including
law enforcement, school staff, mental health practitioners, government officials, and parents has to work together to make sure our schools are safe. Investing in people, processes, programs and technology should be a top priority. School safety initiatives should regularly be reviewed to make sure they are adapted to our ever-changing society.
Here are a few examples of some initiatives that will assist in providing a safer school environment:
• School Security Officers (SSOs) in addition to the School Resource Officers
• Improve access control/ visitor management.
• Surveillance Systems
• Training for staff and students
• Threat Assessment Teams
• Updated School Crisis, Emergency Management, and Medical Emergency Response Plans
• Digital Mapping of Schools
• Social Emotional Learning
• Mental Health Services
• Shared communications between agencies
- Should sitting School Board members endorse political candidates? Why or why not?
Some would say school board members should remain impartial to maintain the integrity of their role in overseeing education policies. Others believe that they have the right to express their personal political views as individuals. It’s important for school board members to consider the potential impact of their endorsements on perceptions of their impartiality and the effectiveness of governing. I am running for school board and will support any candidate that supports public education.
- Are board members doing enough to keep track of Isle of Wight County Schools’ budget and spending? What, if anything, more can be done?
School Board members typically play a role in overseeing the budget and spending of a school division but can’t be solely responsible. This process has to involve collaboration with the Board of Supervisors, division administrators, and financial experts within the division. School Board members must work as a team to ensure that there is responsible financial management and ensure that the division hires the best-qualified personnel within the financial and budget departments.
- Should Isle of Wight County Schools continue its membership in the Virginia School Boards Association? Why or why not?
Yes, the Virginia School Board Association’s mission is the Virginia School Boards Association, a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards, that promotes excellence in public education through leadership, advocacy, and services. Many have been elected to school boards. This organization has provided training, guidance, and support to school divisions across the state of Virginia. It provides governance training, policy services, and some legal services.