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2020 Limestone County Board of Education District 4

2020 Limestone County Board of Education District 4

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  • Candidate picture

    Rita Sanders Jackson
    (Dem)

  • Belinda Maples
    (Rep)

Biographical Information

What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education?

What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our country?

Besides attending a school board meeting, what can or will you do as a BoE member to hear parent concerns?

With one or two meetings a month, all school boards are limited in what they can do. How does/should the board decide what’s most important?

What is your philosophy on special education? What do you think is the greatest challenge in your school district regarding special education?

The Primary work of a local board of education is to advocate for the district that board member represents / serves, by making wise, informed decisions as a group. Teamwork is essential, but solving issues is just as important. Being willing to seek professional training, being a good steward of the resources, funding, and budget, while not being a yes-person, but a logical, pensive decision-maker and maintaining the integrity of information to which the board is entrusted all make up the duties of an elected representative.
Perhaps, utmost in the minds of everyone (not only in education) presently would be the paramount safety of children, teachers, and administrators given the pandemic; keeping everyone healthy during this first semester back after the Spring closing certainly has been a challenge. Our administrators, board members, and teachers face uncertainty and impractical expectations in uncharted territory that carries from this state throughout the country. Mental health issues that students face, school security both in the brick-and-mortar building and the virtual schools, and substance abuse, as well as expanding technology to rural areas to keep the lines of communication open between home and school—these are challenges that I contemplate. Cybersecurity in expanding virtual capabilities and maintaining the structure of broadband also will be concerns.
My plans include being available to return emails, calls, or texts to anyone who has an issue or concern. To address parental, teacher, student, or administrator concerns, being visible and easily accessible after the election is paramount to serving constituents. Having town hall meetings at the schools served in conjunction with PTO meetings, having email dedicated JUST to the service area, and being readily available to discuss issues are ways to meet the needs of those who will help elect me as their representative. One concern is that district reps have in the past, not been available or never bothered to return phone calls (experience speaking here); therefore, this is very important to me to take calls and emails, and meet when convenient for parents who have issues.
Board members having a good working relationship with the superintendent, principals, and central office staff should keep communication open and help board members glean what to discuss among themselves as a team to find issues that are important. Teachers are in the classroom, so they know what is important in each school. After teaching since 1994, I feel that I shall look at problems from many perspectives (English / Spanish teacher, librarian, counselor, as well as from the perspective of a parent of 4 grown children and 10 grandkids.) Granting classroom instructional support and conserving the budget for projects that deserve the most attention are key to keeping the process and communication open.
My philosophy regarding all students, including students who have special needs, is that any student can learn given the right opportunities. Keeping children with special needs motivated to become literate, and raising the math and reading scores in the State of AL will mean providing a plethora of learning strategies and finding HOW the children learn, modeling metacognition to help children see HOW we as adults process, and finding whether children are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. In AL we no longer need to be last in progress; we need to find what works, such as addressing dyslexia and using the correct tools to get through to those with special needs. The new autism certification that will be offered at University of AL is going to be beneficial. When I first began working on my Master's at UNA, I took nine graduate hours in Special Education; then, when I became a guidance counselor, I found those graduate classes to be very beneficial in helping my students.
The board serves as an advocate for the students, teachers, support staff and administration. It's role is to encourage good academic performance, acknowledge the excellent educators, promote fiscal responsibility, collaborate and compromise with others to move the school district forward.
The current challenges are complex and must be met with undaunting courage. I am concerned about poor educator morale, burnout, high turnover and subsequent teacher shortage in rural communities. I am concerned about our low math and English proficiency but encouraged by the high graduation rate. I want to offer students access to emotional support as well as academic and career guidance. I want to find creative solutions that are flexible and easily modified to met everybody's individual needs.
I will be available to hear parent concerns at PTO meetings, dedicate email address for these issues and organize meetings quarterly to open communication between the board and the constituents that I represent.
Every successful organization has a mission statement to guide them and refocus their efforts to address what is important.
Special education involves those with emotional issues, medical disabilities and intellectual impairments. The greatest challenge is incorporating these students with others, and the degree of inclusion in normal classroom activities.