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Did you know that 28% of students are of color in Catawba County, yet a person of color doesn't serve to the Board of Education?
I am the legacy of a single mother who taught me to be both resilient and empathetic. As a pastor and a community organizer, I have become notably compassionate and a pretty great listener. Being a young hispanic and black man raised in the south has granted me the ability not only to understand the struggle of minorities but also to analyze situations through multiple lenses. Having lived in NYC, I developed a grit to work towards a specific goal. Still, as a fifth-generation Catawba County native and a recent byproduct of our school system, I am fully aware of what it is to be a good neighbor and advocate for all of our constituents. My experiences have fully prepared me for this role.
Our campaign has identified several pillars for progress that we have entitled the 'Improving Connections' agenda for Catawba County Schools. First and foremost, on everyone's minds is the coronavirus pandemic. How do we keep school buildings open in a safe manner? Are we to address the trauma that many have experienced as a result? Cases like that of 12-year old Hayden Hunstable, show us that we must begin to prioritize mental health. We must invest in the total health of our students and teachers. We must also prepare more thoroughly for educating virtually. Though we have a 1:1 student to device ratio, many of our students are not in wifi-accessible areas. We must make absolutely certain that if our students must learn virtually, they have access to their studies. Likewise, virtual learning for our ESL students must be fully addressed. Lastly, as generations begin to relate differently to culture, gender, race, sexuality, and more we must show them that we are truly listening.
I have the privilege of working for a non-profit organization that focuses on the retention of teachers! For this reason, I have an inside look for what teachers are looking for and what keeps them in specific districts. Our district has nurtured an environment that has produced many educators that have returned to teach in the schools they once attended. Still, having spoken to many who are not from Catawba County and having lived elsewhere for a period of time, teachers are certainly concerned about the lack of diversity and about the delayed access to modern conveniences and perspectives. CCS must be sure that they are fully engaged with the perspectives of today's young educators.
We need to offer and require a Cultural Studies course. CCS has said that they have a focus on preparing their students for whatever the future holds. To truly do this we must show a clear investment in making sure that our students are as cultured as possible. Catawba County is named after a tribe of Native Americans known as the Catawba Indian Nation. Elementary schools used to spend a day with the tribe but no longer do so. This history and culture should be taught. I also believe that it would be extremely beneficial for a Cultural Studies course to be a graduation prerequisite. This could include Women's Studies, Black History, World Religions, LGBTQ Studies, Theology, or Sociology.
I personally believe that the caliber of our public education in our primary schools is supreme. Though we are uniquely positioned between Charlotte and Asheville, being in a rural area affords us more space for clubs and specialized programs that need room to work well. For instance, Bandys has a full livestock farm that is run by FFA. While Maiden has a full auto-mechanic shop that is run by a specialized department to educate the students. Still, unlike many other rural districts, Catawba County has tried to keep up with what is current in education and offers accelerated learning options like the HSSA program alongside Lenoir-Rhyne. Nonetheless, diversity is our largest challenge.
After working with different counties and having witnessed the lack of staff diversity in local schools, it has become culturally obvious; vote!
I will use my diversity to educate those culturally challenged about how differences should be embraced. We fall into the “creatures of habit” mentality and refuse to listen and understand change. I love to learn new things from different people. I believe degrees don’t make a person smart; it means you are tolerable enough to be consistent. While serving in the United States Army and Air Force I paid attention to behaviors. It is important to always remain open to everything and everyone. We learn better when everyone has a voice, and is able to express it through words. I choose to bridge the gap between cultures and serve with the district of Catawba.
Matt Stover, “We believe that the most effective educational methods are those that empower teachers to do their best work - to engage students and inspire them to learn while giving them the tools necessary to take charge of their own education. We are proud to support a myriad of innovative programs and encourage the continued evolution of our classrooms.” Although I have been in this county for two years, I see partnerships Catawba builds with local colleges to ensure students have choices. I am proud of that! The principle at Maiden is responsive (Hefner) and I love this. When I walk into the office near the counselors there is information to read and get informed. Thus far, engaging teachers and students has been and continues to be Catawba Counties focus.
Empowering the future is another model Catawba lives by, they are holding parents and students accountable for their own education.
Some studies express women have more choices in the workforce. Many teachers expressed the pay rate in North Carolina that’s not as attractive compared to neighboring states.
Some teachers care about school ratings. “It’s difficult for a school system to recruit teachers into schools if they’re listed as D or F,” and feel good about coming to work and being productive. School violence has become an issue for some teachers. Teachers express their jobs are more about administrative work than teaching. It’s filled with paperwork, testing, stressful expectations which has minimally nothing to do with teaching.
One new idea I think should be implemented in K-12 education should be more creative Science opportunities. I am passionate about Marine, Astronomy, and Geology. I believe a child should be introduced to a variety of choices at an early age. Less institutionalization and more creativity. let’s build small planetariums and give children a change from the normal sit still and have someone talk for 45 minutes. We all learn differently, teachers should have more flexibility to nurture creativity. The world is changing and we need to get out of our comfort zones and quotas. Let’s give our children a learning experience that excites.
Positive leadership from principles.
Effective and timely communication about the concerns surrounding COVD-19.
The willingness to maintain safety and security within Catawba schools.
The challenges would be teacher diversity.
Space and Oceanography studies.
Increased police presence in local schools, instead of peacekeepers. More counselors who are trained in substance abuse and human services.
The children enrolled in our Catawba County School System are the future of Catawba County. I believe every student should receive a solid education.
I served as a police officer 2004 thru 2015 in the Great State of North Carolina. During my career, I've encountered numerous people from all different walks of life. My training and career experiences developed my personal characteristics in becoming a strong leader. As the former Chief of Police of the Town of Catawba, I do have experience in budget preparation, grant funding, local government administration, investigations, and community outreach. In 2015, I obtained my Bachelor's degree in Applied Science (Criminology) from SNHU and My Advanced Law Enforcement Certification from North Carolina Department of Justice. I’ve also serve as the PTO President for Webb Murray Elementary.
As a former law enforcement officer, I understand the risks/ threats facing our schools nationwide. If elected, I will advocate for Catawba County Sheriff’s Office to place a school resource officer in every Catawba County School. School resource officers establish relationships with students on a positive level and can become positive role models. The school resource officer program has increased, throughout our county, but it needs to be active in each school. I also believe the DARE program should return to each Catawba County Elementary School since our hospitals in 2018 received 118 opioid overdoses and in 2019 EMS responded to 592 calls for overdose cases (2019 Catawba County Health Assessment).
Teachers salaries in North Carolina are substantially lower compared to the national average. Increased wages and dynamic leadership from the school board and superintendent who should aid in supplying resources should in return receive merit. Principals and Vice Principals are the direct leaders of each school and should be held accountable for successfully operating their designated locality. Principals should be creative in developing a safe, inviting environment for all staff members. If elected, I will be very active in the Catawba County Schools by visiting often to interact and follow up with school administration, teachers, staff, and students.
I believe we should implement an ethics class to teach young students about integrity, honesty, morals and other valuable life lessons. I also believe politics should stay out of the classroom and schools. Political agendas should not be forced upon students or discussed unless the discussion is indeed part of the classroom curriculum.
Those of you who know me know that I love Catawba County. I would say our school district hires great teachers who care about their students. As the PTO President of Webb Murray Elementary School, I’ve interacted with many new parents who were excited about our faculty and facility. Our dynamic teachers prove why we have the best teachers in Catawba County. I would also advise parents that I myself have three wonderful children who are being educated in a Catawba County School. If you’re like me you want the best for your kids! You picked a great place to live because here in Catawba County we believe in Making. Living. Better!
Kids are our future. It’s important that we stand up for all children.
From listening to parents, kids & teachers. I can stand up for them . Pass the word on for what they want and stand for. I have worked in many elementary schools in Catawba County and I see first hand what teachers, students and parents deal with. I want to be their voice.
Of course it’s getting kids back in school safely. I myself don’t know the best answer but I do know their are many kids he will fall so far behind that they will not be able to catch up. We have to find someway that we can get them back in school and keep everyone safe at the same time
We need to listen to them and support them. They need to know that they matter and that they are doing a great job. Most schools have lost their PTO so teacher are losing support everyday we need to be that support.
I think they need to add a living class. Teach kids how to write checks & balance checkbook. Teach them how to plant gardens, sew a button, and use measuring cups and spoons so they can cook. Kids graduating can’t even make change without a calculator. Teach them how to wash cloths and iron them. Kids need some basic training on how to survive on their own.
We have the best teachers who give lots of their own time & money to teach our kids.
Lunches are prepared fresh every day and we are constantly improving their menus to make it healthier.
Our before/after school program is great for keeping kids safe and constantly learning them new things.
Our schools need the support of the community. It takes a village to raise our kids.
I have had a career of service to students and families in Catawba County. Our most precious resource deserves the best school system possible.
I have served 31 of my 36 years as an educator in Catawba County Schools as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal. My past five years have been spent working in private education in the Hickory area. My two daughters received excellent educations in Catawba County Schools, one which that prepared them to be successful in their respective careers. These varied perspectives have given me experience and insight that will equip me well to represent the students, parents and citizens of Catawba County as a member of their board of education. We are blessed to have a very good school system in Catawba County but I would like to help move our system from "good to great"'
2020 has presented challenges yet unseen by our educational leaders, however, there are three priorities that must be adequately addressed to make Catawba County Schools a truly great system. First we must make sure that every student and educator is able to learn and work in an environment that is safe and orderly. That means physically safe schools where everyone has a sense of security as they enter our schools bu it also means an emotionally safe space where all feel free to learn and work without intimidation or harassment. Next we must recruit, nurture and retain the highest quality educators possible who reflect the makeup of our community. Toward that end I would work to make Catawba County Schools is a district of destination to which the best teacher are drawn because of the excellence we create. Finally I would work to make sure that the resources of our district are equitably distributed to all of the schools in our county system.
The past decade, particularly in North Carolina, have seen a decline in students entering teacher education programs. There are some in our state leadership who have actively worked to undermine the public educators in our state. This puts an increased burden on the local systems to inspire and grow our own brightest and best to prepare and become educators. I was privileged to, on numerous occasions, to travel to colleges and universities and recruit teachers for the district so I have seen the process up close and personally. A priority must be placed upon finding excellent minority educators so all our students have someone who looks like them in every school in our district.
The 2020 situation around COVID-19 has placed a spotlight upon online teaching and learning. Although many students have been instructed via this method over the early years of this century most were not. Suddenly last spring all teachers and students were immersed in a teaching and learning platform with which many were unfamiliar. While face to face instruction can never be replaced as the best method of instruction there are students for whom online learning can help make their educational experience more individualized and effective. Training for staff and students on how to effectively teach and learn in this "brave new world" is an absolute must for all of our schools.
Catawba County Schools is a very good school system for a variety of reasons. First we have extremely dedicated and creative educators working in Catawba County Schools who consistently go far above expectations to serve the students with whom they work. Next I would applaud our leaders of the past and present who sought to maintain smaller high schools and feeder districts than many districts which, in my opinion, has allowed our schools to retain a true sense of family and community. Finally we have invested in new schools in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve and not keep outdated facilities in service any longer than necessary, this giving our students the best resource possible.
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Those involved with education should always base decisions on the best interests of students.
With 30 years of experience as an educator in different roles and with different school systems, I have acquired a wealth of knowledge and skills which I will bring to the school board. No one person has the answers to all of the issues public schools are faced with. However, by working together as a team, all involved in education can develop effective strategies to help meet the needs of our students now and in the future. I will be a school board member who values working as a team where each member brings their unique knowledge and skills together to serve the best interests of students.
I will list three that I believe are top priorities.
Safety of students and staff members is always the top priority in education. Catawba County Schools has a long history of ensuring our schools are safe places to work and learn. The current plan to re-open schools not only focuses on student and staff safety, it allows for an alternative option for those who still aren't comfortable returning for face to face instruction.
Ensuring that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in life is also crucial. Again Catawba County Schools has a strong track record in this area. Graduation rates have increased over the years and the K-64 initiative in partnership with CVCC has helped to focus on the importance of lifelong learning.
Aligning closely with the previous two priorities, I see developing good moral character in students as a top priority. Character education is well established in our schools and should continue to be emphasized.
Obviously teacher salaries are the main issue discussed when dealing with recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Higher salaries would help but that alone will not solve the issue. We need to be "growing" our own teachers by encouraging our students to consider a career in education and giving them opportunities to experience certain aspects of that career while in high school. We also need to work with colleges and universities to attract education majors to Catawba County Schools. Finally we need to ensure that we are retaining our current effective teachers by providing them with the support necessary to perform their jobs and show them the appropriate level of appreciation.
I always try to find something positive in a situation. Covid-19 has been devastating to schools as we knew them. However, it has forced us to look for alternatives to face to face instruction. That has opened up new possibilities for online learning for students in K-12 education. While online learning is not ideal for every student, there are some students who would thrive in this environment. Even after schools are able to fully re-open, I think we need to consider keeping an online option for these students. This option might also be used to help recruit some home schools students to return to public schools online.
The schools are safe places for students to learn. The schools are staffed with caring adults who want to help students be successful. Students have a wide range of opportunities to be involved in both academically and in extra-curricular activities.
The top challenge for all schools right now is re-opening safely during Covid-19. However, Catawba County Schools has a well developed plan for this with options for those who are comfortable returning yet.