Guest blogger Latasha Myers is an intern at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund who spearheaded our efforts with the School Board coalition this summer. She worked with coalition partners to make the public aware of the Duval County School Board Elections and inform the community about the candidates that are running.
Tuesday evening, the Duval County School Board Elections coalition held a forum for the candidates running for the District 7 Duval County School Board seat. The candidates - Melody Bolduc, Stacie Dern, Lori Hershey, Greg Tison, Barbara Toscano, and John Turner – answered tough questions about their priorities for Duval County Public Schools.
One of the questions of the night asked the candidates what they would do to work towards long-term solutions to address student growth in District 7, which is growing faster than almost any other in Duval County.
Hershey said there needs to be a hard look at building more schools. She mentioned charter schools that have a proven track record to address the issue of growth. Hershey also said that "choice for the sake of choice is wrong, but choice that is strong to move education forward will be an option to look at to help alleviate the growth."
Tison noted that many parents want school choice, and building new schools costs a lot in upfront investment.
Toscano highlighted that many schools in the county are at only 40 and 50 percent enrollment, and there needs to be a conversation about revamping and utilizing those under-enrolled schools.
Turner said that the district has a problem with mobile trailer classrooms, commonly called “portables.” District 7 has about 20% of students attending class in mobile classrooms, he said. He emphasized home developers in the area needing to provide their fair share to help address overcrowded schools in the area.
Bolduc says that there needs to be a conversation about priority placement regarding magnet schools in the county. "It is going to come down to having some hard conversations of saying 'the schools' overcrowded,' so if you're outside of the area that the school is zoned for, you're not going to be able to attend."
Dern said that there is an opportunity for magnet programs to bring students from all over. Offering choice magnet programs will help fund programs and build on to older schools, she noted.
This is only one of many questions candidates answered throughout the night. Other questions from the audience ranged everywhere from budgeting concerns, to gender assignment in bathrooms. To hear more from your candidates, the full forum is available online: Part 1 and Part 2.
Polls are open for early voting starting August 15, and the election day is August 30. To view District 7 candidate bios and find out more information about the election, continue to check back at SchoolBoard2016.org.