Education is the great equalizer that can heal the divisions in our country.
I have been an educator in Brunswick County for 30 years. In that time, I have worn many hats that have provided me access to the different elements that comprise an educational system. As a teacher I learned patience, communication, and the ability to listen without judgment. These are the very qualities most needed as school board members. I believe that as board members, we must listen to our constituency, not with condescension, but with patience and an open mind. While I might not agree with their opinion, they deserve to be heard, and I have the ability to do that. In addition, I have a great love of education and the people who make education possible. I know how hard teachers work. I understand the low pay of the non-certified staff members because I have seen this first hand. I can speak on behalf of students, parents, and the school administration, teachers, and staff because I have experience with them all.
I think there are two important responsibilities of a school board member. First, I believe they must create a budget that allows the students to receive the best education possible. To that end, they must communicate the financial needs to the county commissioners in a partnership to maintain the best school system possible. Doing this not only helps students, it helps the economy of the county as the reputations of the schools is one area all potential employers research when considering an area for future business ventures.
I also think it is the responsibility of a school board member to petition the General Assembly when it considers cutting per student expenditures. A school system cannot run with high expectations without funding.
In addition, I believe it is the job to uphold the rules set by the board. If a rule is unenforceable, it should not be passed. If it is passed, the board should stand behind their ruling. For example, if the school board feels it must have an attendance policy, that policy, once passed, must be followed. It is a matter of equality. Each student should be treated the same way under the rulings set forth by the board.
One of the most critical state funding needs for our county are salaries to provide teacher assistants in every K-3 classroom. Teachers are asked to share assistants now, and the assistants are not being able to fulfill their purpose. With an assistant in each classroom, students who need remediation are more likely to receive it and there will be fewer class disruptions with the presence of two adults to handle discipline matters. Seeking financial aid from the county commissioners in order to fulfill this need is not possible. This needs to come from the General Assembly who cut the funding originally. I will work with our local representatives to change this in the law and the budget.
In addition I believe that Head Start Programs must be expanded. A student who begins school at a disadvantage economically or socially, rarely is able to catch up with their peers. We owe it to our county and our students to advocate for state funding in order for this program to grow in our county.
Finally, I believe we need a program in place to address issues with bullying. When a bullying situation occurs, both parties should be counseled in a program that extends over time. Research shows that instances of bullying affect both the bullied and the bully not only for that moment but throughout their life. Counselors or psychologists should be retained to help with this issue.
I don't know if it is fair to assess teacher satisfaction at this moment. Most teachers are working harder than they ever have just to keep up. As a whole, our teachers are satisfied with their work in the schools. They need a livable salary that follows a pay scale that allows for a raise every year. Most teachers work an additional job to sustain their households, but that is out of their control. We need to have more spent per student to avoid teachers having to buy classroom supplies out of pocket. These are the things that often drive people out of the classroom. Brunswick County one year had a two day PD that everyone in the county attended. It was taught by different teachers from our county. Several different classes were offered at a time. Teachers got to choose what would help them the most. It was the best Professional Development I ever attended. I learned so much and instead of the instructor being gone that afternoon, I could keep in contact with them and ask questions when I needed to. Teachers volunteered to be presenters. It could be offered without a massive amount of financial commitment. When we are looking to find funds for everything, this seems a great way to offer PD to teachers: a great opportunity for a little payout.
Neither important nor unimportant
I believe that Head Start Programs are not only vital must be expanded. A student who begins school at a disadvantage economically or socially, rarely is able to catch up with their peers. Research has proven that students who had Pre-K instruction were more likely to be on grade level with their peers starting school. Without that instruction, students could enter with a deficient in learning that could not be breached throughout their education. This could be a great equalizer in education for our county helping to close the achievement gap that exists. We owe it to our county and our students to advocate for state funding in order for this program to grow in our county.
Recruiting qualified teachers can be hard when different counties are paying different supplements to salary. I learned recently that Orange County in NC pays an average supplement over $8,000 a year. Brunswick county does pay a supplement, but it doesn't come close to that. Why wouldn't someone teach where they could make more money. It is hard for Brunswick County to compete for teachers from UNC-W, which is our obvious feeder university, when New Hanover County offers monetary benefits that Brunswick County doesn't
To retain qualified teachers, we must also look at compensation. Teachers no longer receive extra pay for a Master's Degree. They do receive extra pay for National Board Certification. If we want qualified teachers in the classroom, we must give them a monetary reason to keep learning new techniques in teaching.
Then, there is an intangible factor. We must recruit administrators who are able to motivate their staffs. Many qualified teachers feel disrespected or unappreciated. An administrator who is a skilled leader knows that teachers need to know they are important at their school. That respect from administration can trickle down into the classroom showing teachers how to positively influence their students.
Our county has done a great job mentoring Beginning Teachers. That program is a huge factor in recruiting and retaining young teachers.
A Voice for the Community, Students and Staff.
I am a life-long resident of Brunswick County and attended Public Schools, Kindergarten through High School, graduating in 1995. I completed post secondary education at Brunswick Community College. I have immediate family who are presently enrolled in Brunswick County Schools and this has afforded me the ability to gain first-hand knowledge of the workings inside the schools. There is rarely a day that goes by when I don't talk with students and staff. I also have extensive prior experience in the Public Service sector, having served the citizens of Brunswick County for nearly thirty years as a Firefighter/EMT-Paramedic (both volunteer and career), and have taught Emergency Services Education at BCC for many years as well. I have served on various Board and Committees through the years, all of which have allowed me to meet and interact with a very wide and diverse population group across Brunswick County. Through my public service experience I have been given the unique privilege of interacting with citizens during very challenging times in their lives and have always ensured that I treated each and every person with the utmost respect and compassion, which is something that was instilled in me by both quality education and a strong family support system throughout my life. Therefore exercising good common sense, along with strong morals and ethics, is something I believe in deeply and will take with me to the School Board if elected.
The most important responsibility of a School Board Member is to have good morals and ethics and put politics to the side when making important decisions about our children and their schools. It is also vitally important to have an understanding of where we have been as a School System and where we are presently in order to keep moving forward. School Board members must always remain informed and interact with the community, the students, and the staff in order to make well balanced and informed decisions. Also, Board members must communicate with each other and be cohesive in order to establish public respect. It is these decisions and actions of the Board that set the tone for education in a County School System, so it is important that Board Members realize that they are ultimately held accountable to the public whom they serve. I strongly believe that Board actions must be TRANSPARENT (not behind closed doors) and carried out with the citizens’ best interests in mind because the success of our children depends on it. I want to enable and ensure bright futures for our up and coming generations.
Critical funding needs include appropriate infrastructure, staffing, and curriculum materials, to name a few. The School Board must have well established short and long term goals in order to sustain the School System. School Board members must understand how the funding mechanisms work at both the Federal and State levels and be prepared to rally our Federal and State elected officials to ensure they are doing their elected jobs in advocating for the funding needed to operate the local School System. School Board Members cannot sit idle, assuming that the leaders in Raleigh and Washington are looking after the best interest of Brunswick County, we must take action. We must go to them (knock on doors, call them out, be proactive) and hold these leaders accountable for the needs of the School System.
I would assess teacher satisfaction by several different mechanisms. First, I would want to hear from teachers directly and would seek open dialogue with them, in a way that does not place our teachers in a situation where they feel afraid to speak for fear of the Administration retaliating against them. Secondly, satisfaction would be measured by our overall recruitment and retention statistics. Finally, close attention would be paid to the teacher, student and administrative interaction(s), coupled with their performance evaluations. It takes a lot to understand satisfaction among educational staff, and we cannot just rely on what the Superintendent or Administrative officials are telling the School Board; Board Members must get out and see things for themselves. With regard to promoting professional development, there must be an incentive for teachers to continue striving toward professional excellence. Why would teachers "just do it" if there is no incentive to do so? To that extent, a program should be developed to reward and compensate teachers for enhancing their abilities to serve our children. Professional development must be steadily encouraged, even with certain minimum expectations, with regard to continuing professional development.
Neither important nor unimportant
Times are changing and doing so rapidly. Children must get an early start in order to remain successful going through the grade levels. The School Board should encourage early childhood education so that we are giving children the best possible opportunity to succeed in life. Learning ALWAYS starts EARLY.
Predominately, the main issue is and has always been compensation and overall job satisfaction. Several questions have to be asked in order to determine the ability of the School System to recruit and retain. First, is the compensation competitive based on the economic picture of our community? Is the compensation consistent with our neighboring counties? Is the benefit package being offered attractive? What about merit pay and longevity compensation? Are the School Administrators treating teachers well? All of the preceding questions are issues affecting recruitment and retention. The School System must make working in Brunswick County attractive to teachers; we must give them a reason to want to be here. These are just a few parts of the equation in developing an effective recruitment and retention program.