What are your priorities for the district in the coming year? Why and how did you select these issues?
It has been my interest and work as a Substitute Teacher in the local Public Schools, coupled with my years of experience as an Educator and the input I received from many of the some 1200 individuals I met while obtaining my signed Candidate Petitions that have generated the following priorities. I also believe that the basic tenet of an Educator is to help students of all ages to learn to think with both their mind and their “heart”, and realize that whatever decisions they make throughout their life affects not just them but others as well. Although I believe that these priorities I list are very important issues in helping to continue meeting and strengthening the Public Schools and the educational needs of the students, serious issues such as the COVID-19 infestation in our community can cause needed adjustments to any list of priorities. With that understanding, my initial priority list to help strengthen a healthy teaching/learning environment is:
…There needs to be a reduction in the seriously overcrowded classes of 40 or more students, and a reduction in educational interruptions. The latter may include the need to have students place their cell phones in their lockers when there is no educational need for them, readjust lunch breaks that cause students to need to move from their class after the first 12 minutes, go to lunch, and then return to that class to complete it; etc.
…More assistants are needed to help our teachers of students with disabilities, as well as those who have in their classes a number of international students or students where English is not their native language.
…Classes such as Civics need to be returned to the curriculum to help strengthen the learning of the foundation of our country, as well as reintroducing classes taught at all schools that teach everyday living skills.
…We need to strengthen the focus on career development at all levels and at all schools. This would necessitate and make available to all students at all schools (including those with special needs) an expanded variety of current community needed professional and trade elective classes, programs, training, and apprenticeships. To best assist in this expansion, I would propose an increased outreach to area postsecondary institutions and businesses to partner in this process. The benefit that they and our communities will obtain from having more qualified employees could also lead to more financial support for the Duval Public Schools.
School board members are elected to represent not only the interests of the schools located in their district, but also the school system as a whole. In the past, this has at times led to conflict among board members. What is your philosophy on this issue? What would you do to keep cohesiveness and communication among school board members?
Conflict among individuals and ideas happens everywhere, and as a longtime Educator, I know it definitely happens in the field of education. I would use the same process I have found to be the most successful in attempting to positively resolve arising conflicts. First, it is important to patiently hear all sides of a conflict. I also realize through my experience of both success and failures as an individual who has been a needed change agent at times, that unless it’s a an emergency situation, conflicts occur more readily if one acts too quickly or without the input and support from involved others on an important matter. I also have learned in conflict resolution how trying to assess a concern from another colleague’s perspective can sometimes be made easier for that individual if I invite the person or persons to have a snack, coke, etc. with me I a more relaxed atmosphere. I also strongly support the idea of developing teamwork with those I work with, and the reason I use in my page headings: “Together Everyone Accomplishes More”.
What would you do to improve communication and strengthen your relationships between the schools, parents and community members, especially when a new program or policy is introduced?
One of my favorite minors that I selected in my doctoral program was Group Counseling. Whatever the focus and challenges of the individuals in the various groups I was helping, I began to realize that you can communicate best if you follow the premise that you have had some similar experiences in life with most individuals you meet. Keeping this premise in mind would be very helpful when you develop a team of individuals representing schools (employees, and if appropriate, students), parents, and community members to discuss and work on school and educational issues. I have found this especially true if the issue deals with a proposed new program or policy `which arouses in most of us that anxiety associated with that frightening word “change”. I am not stating that matters of change are easy to resolve, but it helps to develop teams where each member no matter from what group feels appreciated, respected for their input, and on a “similar” experience in life footing as mentioned above.
In addition to voting for school board members, members of our community will also vote on a half-penny sales tax referendum to fund an extensive capital facilities plan in November. Do you support the referendum and capital plan, and how do you plan to engage with it as a school board candidate and member?As both a member of this Duval community and as an Educator, I strongly support the sales tax referendum to fund an extensive capital facilities plan in November.
I am saddened that it has taken so long this year to have this finally be part of the upcoming elections. As a current Substitute Teacher these past two years, I witnessed and experienced the difficulties arising from teaching in these old school structures including the space issues causing overcrowded classrooms, the lunchtime space challenges necessitating class interruptions, and even helping in one school where the entire HVAC and electrical system failed throughout the morning hours of class.
As a former Board Chair of a Charter School taught through the Arts that was the first to be developed in another State, I understand the value to a community of certain Charter Schools. However, I am concerned that some 40 or more such schools have been given money that the Duval Public Schools needed for their Schools. I hope that this procedure does not negatively impact the amount of money needed to fully pursue the Public Schools capital facilities plan. As a School Board Candidate, I will continue to promote the need for this tax referendum and encourage people to vote for it. As a member of the School Board, I would continue to work with local and state representatives from both Parties regarding the need for resources to improve our Public Schools and their programs for students as well as consider better support and pay for our Public School teachers and employees.
Over the last few years, the Legislature has had a big impact on local public education. What are your top issues at the state level, and how would you work with legislators in Tallahassee to represent the needs of our students?
Being involved in community programs in Jacksonville and being a recent representative at a state-wide political gathering coupled with my former involvement with Governors and Senators from several states as an Education Administrator, College Board Chair, and President at several Colleges, I understand the need to be in close contact with State Legislatures in Tallahassee. I am very pleased that this School Board Position is Nonpartisan, since I want to make strong contact with both parties on better supporting our Duval and Florida’s Public Schools and Programs.
When I believe the mistaken issue of appointing School Board members rather than electing them came up both in Tallahassee as well as in the Duval City Council leadership, I immediately made contact with several politicians, visited Mike Hogan’s Office, joined in a radio conversation with a Councilmember, etc. concerning this matter. The concern for needed money for the Public Schools, a stronger salary commitment for our teachers and staff, the concern that the drive for more support for Charter Schools may seriously impact the needs of our Public Schools , and of course the issue during this continuing COVID-19 infestation of “lets open up everything” vs. initiating a more clear and strong plan regarding testing, tracking, and spacing to protect the health of our students, teachers, and school employees which I strongly support are some of my immediate Legislative and local concerns that I would pursue as a School Board member.
Duval County, like districts across the country, has a teacher recruitment and retention problem. How do you think our district can address this shortage?
Having been a Substitute Teacher over the past two years in a number of the Duval Public Schools, I have really applauded the dedication of many of the administrators, teachers and school employees I have met. I have also come to know how in comparison with other states, their low pay is really becoming more difficult for them. I also think the crowded classrooms and other concerns I have listed works on their desire to continue teaching. Besides my Substitute work at the Duval Public Schools, I have had the opportunity to occasionally substitute at Bolles High School. There is no question that many Duval families nor mine could afford attending such a private school. However, I have noted that their classroom space, their shorter class times, their starting classes at 8:15, and their activity schedule with teachers and students working together on projects is something I also think should be reviewed by the School Board. Possibly instituting such changes could result in instituting a more positive environment for all concerned, and possibly be another factor to help better retain more teachers. I would also strongly recommend to all Teachers to become an ACTIVE member of Duval Teachers United. The supportive sister and brotherhood of such organizations really helps individuals to further their feeling of being part of a group which may also help a number of individuals to consider remaining in the sometimes strenuous position of teaching. (Although I am currently not an active member, I still carry my American Federation of Teachers membership card.)
As Duval County has made great progress in education, there are still students who are falling behind. How would you keep a focus on addressing inequities in student performance and supporting schools in low-income neighborhoods?
I have sadly noted in Jacksonville and other cities where I have lived and worked, inequities regarding poverty, dedicated but overworked parents, struggling students where joining gangs and making some needed money is more important than attending school. It’s a real difficult challenge to come up with a solid “this will work” answer. There are two suggestions that I have experienced that might add some help. I have seen the reduction in school drop outs where a variety of elective trade training and apprenticeship programs were made available to all students at all schools. To be in these elective programs, students must also continue to successfully work on and complete their required courses, but those that do will receive when they graduate from their High School an additional certificate of completion from this program. I have also experienced how after school programs, not just for elementary level students but also made available for middle and high school students was an effective way to build positive activities and strengthen learning opportunities for students in impoverished areas of cities. Again poverty doesn’t disappear, but a feeling of positive excitement, involvement, self-worth, and learning is made available more like it is in less impoverished areas of a city. Some interested students from that community could even be employed in assisting with these programs.