I believe in children. My passion is to provide experiences for each unique child to create, imagine and learn in welcoming, safe spaces.
I believe the most important responsibility of a school board member is to ensure an effective and extraordinary education in a safe learning environment for every student. Our greatest resources are our children, and, while budgeting and policy development are among necessary responsibilities, the classroom is the frontline in education. Retaining highly-qualified teachers in safe and well-equipped classrooms is my priority. My skills and experience as a career classroom teacher in Dare County Schools help me in every decision I make as the current chair of the Dare County Board of Education. I spent over 30 years as a classroom teacher, and I take the time now to visit Dare County classrooms to talk with teachers and students so I can make the right decisions for them. My knowledge of curriculum, classroom needs and the operation of schools is essential and beneficial in ensuring an effective education for all students.
The current challenges for Dare County Schools are the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions surrounding the virus. Since March of 2020, in collaboration with our educators, I have focused on ways to continue a high-quality education for all students. So many local decisions are dependent on state mandates, but Dare County Schools is moving forward with options which will protect our students and educators while providing effective academic instruction in partnership with families. I want our students back in school, and the goal, while challenging, is to return to an in-person learning environment as quickly and safely as possible.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our budget has been stretched thin by the requirements to provide face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies when our students and teachers are back in our buildings. Nonetheless, I am committed to ensuring that teachers always have the resources and tools they need to do their jobs well. It is my obligation to establish good relationships with our funding partners and to keep our school needs at the forefront in budget negotiations.
Preparing our students to face both challenges and opportunities in today's global society should remain one of our top priorities. As your school board member, I will continue to advocate for all students and educators.
Having worked side-by-side with many Dare County teachers, having taught many Dare County teachers, and having been in Dare County classrooms on a regular basis, I can say Dare County has extraordinary educators. Dare County Schools is a prime district which attracts qualified applicants, but recruitment is still a priority. Affordable housing is an essential recruitment tool in Dare County, and Dare County Schools, in partnership with the Dare Education Foundation, offers teacher housing in Kill Devil Hills and Hatteras. I realize the need to expand our teacher housing program, and I am pursuing options for additional teacher housing units to built in the future.
Retaining our outstanding educators is vital. Supplying our teachers with the resources they need, providing safe work environments, valuing teachers' opinions, and showing them respect are ways in which I hope to retain teachers. I have been an advocate for increasing the local teacher supplement for years, and I will continue to seek higher compensation for those who shape our future.
My philosophy is that board members should make ethical decisions that are in the best interest of the students, staff, and community of Dare County.
It is the responsibility of a school board member to work with the community, staff, and administration to ensure that the Board of Education goals are met and that every student succeeds in life; whether this means going to college, learning a special trade or going straight into the workforce. I have over 30 years of experience working in public service, including 8 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves. During my 17 years as the Technology Director for Dare County Schools (DCS), I worked with teachers and administrators to implement instructional technology. Working for DCS provided me with the unique opportunity to understand the needs of the school system at all levels. I was the lead IT project manager when four new schools were built and five others were extensively renovated. I have experience obtaining grants and negotiating leases with extremely favorable terms, which saved thousands of dollars annually. I secured over $3.7 million in funding for communication and infrastructure equipment for DCS. In 2018, I secured $294,000 in funding to upgrade the Wi-Fi equipment in all Elementary Schools and replace the 20 year old wiring in First Flight Middle School. I recently completed the requirements to become a Certified Government Chief Information Officer (CGCIO) through the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill. I believe my variety of skills and years of experience will keep Dare County Schools moving forward with positive momentum toward the future.
The most challenging issue for Dare County Schools right now is COVID-19 and successful operations of remote learning. While I was the Technology Director for DCS, I worked with the administration of each of the schools to design and deploy the first ever “One to One” program for the district. In this environment, we need staff that can help the teachers implement the flipped classroom strategy. A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning focused on student engagement and active learning. This gives the instructor a better opportunity to deal with mixed levels of understanding, student difficulties, and differentiated learning preferences during class time.
Another important issue is developing leadership skills for students. The U.S. Coast Guard offers a Junior Leadership Program that is similar to ROTC. The goal of the Junior Leadership Program program is to “educate high school students on leadership, citizenship, nautical science, close order drill and general military knowledge” (Coast Guard website). Only two school districts in the country offer this program. Dare County is a coastal community with a lot of rich Coast Guard history. I would like to work with the Coast Guard and the DCS community to implement this program in our schools.
Teachers are truly the pulse of the education system. According to the Public School Forum of North Carolina, the DCS district has been a top 5 district since 2014. This is a direct result of our outstanding teachers providing a high level of education to our students. Over the past three years, this district has seen a 25% increase in employee resignations and high performing teachers moving to other districts. I would like to explore the option to allow board members to review exit interview notes to help determine the causes of this trend. I also want to offer employees an option to discuss general issues, ideas and suggestions in periodic closed Board of Education sessions. I hope to foster an environment where employees can freely speak to members of the board without any concern of repercussions. I have spent over 30 years working in the public sector and DCS was the first place I worked that did not offer agency matching on employee 401k accounts. As a board member, I would push for up to 3% agency matching as a tool for long term retention. I think it would also be beneficial for DCS to provide some type of financial management program to help employees get out of debt, follow a budget and plan to save for retirement. Employees who have fewer money issues are less stressed, which leads to higher productivity, higher teacher morale and retention.