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Buncombe County Schools Board of Education At-Large

The Buncombe County Board of Education is the local governing body of the County Public School System. There are seven members of the Board of Education who are elected to serve four-year terms. One candidate is elected from each of the six districts and one at-large. Candidates are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Voters in each district vote for candidates from all districts and for the at-large candidate. The 7-member school board has 5 primary responsibilities: 1. Employ the superintendent 2. Establish policy 3. Determine annual operating and capital budgets 4. Approve student assignment boundaries 5. Oversee the management of the school district’s major systems, including budget and finance, curriculum and instruction, personnel and auxiliary services

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    Amanda Simpkins

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    Mark Watman

Biographical Information

What experience and qualities do you feel you bring to this office? (YouTube link or text, or both)

What do you think is the most important responsibility of a school board member?

What are the critical state funding needs for this county’s schools and how would you address those needs?

How would you assess teacher satisfaction in the county and how would you promote professional development?

Pre-Kindergarten is: [Importance Scale]

Please explain your choice.

What are the issues in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers?

Age (optional) 39
Contact Phone (828) 713-4342
Position/philosophy statement Former Buncombe County Schools Teacher Current Buncombe County Schools mom of two 1999 Graduate of Buncombe County Schools
I have served and advocated for the educational and emotional needs of our county for 9 years as a mathematics teacher at Erwin High School and one year at Erwin Middle School. As a former Buncombe County Schools educator, I know first hand how the schools function on a micro and macro level. I think it is critical to have people on the board that are not only vested in the success of our county but know how schools function on a deep level. I am a lifelong multi-generational Buncombe County resident who truly has a pulse on the ins and outs in our county. I also spent more than 15 years in our community coaching more than 300 young ladies in both volleyball and basketball at Erwin and for Biltmore Volleyball Academy. As a parent of two Buncombe County students, I also can see things from a parent perspective and bring a multi-faceted viewpoint to many of the important decisions the board makes each year. Now, as a member of the Business Community, my running for school board allows me to continue working with and championing for our Buncombe County students.
The most important responsibility of a school board member is advocating for and building relationships with those that they serve. We must be receptive and responsive to all vested parties including students, teachers, staff, parents and our wider community. It is critical that we listen to all input from all sides and use that information as well as all the facts prior to making any decision. I also feel board members have an incredible responsibility to take ownership of the community they represent. We must find ways to get involved in the schools, build relationships with staff, administrators and students. It is also important that we build community support for our schools in various ways.
As a former educator I saw first hand how the continued reduction in funding of our schools and various programs impacts our students. Teachers are continually asked to more with less. I can't tell you the amount of money I spent on school supplies and getting my classroom ready each school year. We must continually advocate for more funding for our schools and for teachers to be paid better. In my ten years teaching, I always had a second job and often times even a third job. The cost of living in Buncombe County made it impossible for me, as a single mother at the time, to adequately provide for my family. Education is a critical component to the success of our community, state, and nation in general. The truth is that many of our best and brightest young teachers are leaving our area to go teach an hour west or an hour south and make substantially more as an educator and have a lower cost of living. We must be actively trying to find ways to not only recruit high quality teachers but also get them to stay. The good news is, we live in one of the most beautiful places in our country which makes this an appealing place to work, but our teachers need to be able to live and support their families if they have one. Our state must make education a priority on its budget once again. We must get our community on board and show them just how important our educational system is and how much of a difference it can make in our students lives.
Currently teacher satisfaction is at an all time low. This is an unfortunate result of covid and everyones job having to change. When you are a seasoned teacher, you have most of your lesson plans down pat and your job becomes easier year after year (until curriculum is forced to change, yet again). Now, everyone is forced to SUBSTANTIALLY change the way they are providing their instruction. Some students are learning on a full time remote platform, some are moving to hybrid next week. This makes things challenging for educators and planning. The good news is teachers are resilient and want what is best for their students. They are doing the best they can in these challenging times and working harder than they ever have.
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Pre-Kindergarten gives many students the head start that they very much need to be prepared for Kindergarten. It allows them a transition time to learn how to interact with their peers, teachers and others outside their home environment. It introduces them to a learning environment that many haven't experience before. They have the opportunity to grow and thrive in an educational environment and to learn skills that will help them with the future.
This is a multi-faceted problem that is now starting with the fact that fewer and fewer students are choosing to enter the profession. Enrollment is substantially down in many teaching programs across the state which is a large feeder for our teacher base. Our majority of our teachers are also younger than before. Our state did put a foot in the right direction with raising beginning teacher pay. Unfortunately, it is quite common that teachers don't get the "steps" they are promised and don't see raises for many years at a time. Recruiting and retaining qualified teachers is quite simple, pay them what they deserve. Bring back masters pay so that becoming a high qualified teacher is appealing once again. Bring back the Teaching Fellows program which brought NC so many amazing educators that stuck around.
Contact Phone (708) 780-0391
email address golfguy812@gmail.com
Position/philosophy statement The purpose of public education has changed and is more than just preparing students for college, the workplace and fulfilling their potentials.
I taught high school and college students over 33 years as well as being an extremely successful varsity coach of two sports. The high school where I taught Psychology, Health Education, PE and coached was a 3-time Dept. of Education Blue Ribbon school. I was an adjunct professor at a community college and taught Psychology, Sociology and Education courses. The curriculums of the courses I taught were designed and written by me to best meet the variety of learning styles and educational levels of the diverse student population of both schools. The past 4 years I have been working as a substitute teacher with the Buncombe County Schools. I have worked at every high, middle, intermediate and many elementary schools. My assignments have been completely cross-curricular; from Art to Math, Band, Choir and Strings to Animal Science, Robotics and Intensive Intervention. So, I have broad exposure to the schools, students, faculty, and staff which would translate well as a member of the Board of Education. Based on all my experience, as a member of the schoolboard, I will facilitate and collaborate discussions for policies and procedures that would keep Buncombe County Schools moving forward in a positive and successful direction.
There are actually 5 basic responsibilities for each school board member. They are all equally important and interdependent on each other. These include: Set the vision and goals for the county schools. Adopt policies that give the school board the direction to set priorities to achieve its goals. Adopt and oversee the annual budget. Evaluate and if need be, hire the superintendent. Ensure that the county’s schools are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of our various communities.
Our schools are primarily funded by the state legislature and somewhat by local county and state taxes. In order to receive our share of the tax dollars being spent on education, we need to be especially vigilant and proactive with our own local as well as other state legislators. Unfortunately NC is ranked 37th (2019) in funding schools ($9865 vs. $12,756/student nationally). We are ranked as one of the richer states and we have significant levels of poverty. I don’t foresee any significant changes in funding from the state. Therefore BCS needs to look for other additional sources of funding that would include grants, donations and investments by businesses and corporations for innovative and unique programs to relieve some of the financial burden.
My experience as a substitute teacher these past 4 years has shown me that many of the teaching staff have come back home to teach in or near the communities where they grew up. The schools are part of their home and family. This works in favor of the hiring process. However, salaries are on the low end of the spectrum low and this contributes to an annual staff turnover around 12%. I have had several assignments because a teacher had left before the school term had ended. This is disruptive for the classroom and for education continuity. To improve and increase staff morale, retention and professionalism, we have to find a way for teachers to become more creative and innovative in their classrooms. They need to be more personally involved in developing the curriculum they teach. There needs to be more of an incentive for more teachers to become National Board Certified, a gold standard accomplishment for teachers. We should also encourage our staff to strive to be presenters at state and national conferences because of their successful accomplishments in their classrooms. The BCS system could be the educational leaders in NC.
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Students who do not participate in Pre-K programs enter Kindergarten, in most cases, will already be experiencing the educational achievement gap. They are certainly capable enough to be in Kindergarten, but their classmates who had the pre-k experience are significantly ahead of them with milestone skills. Kindergarten is no longer a year of acclimating and socializing to get ready for first grade. It is an academic year and 5 year olds are expected to have specific knowledge and skills that are routinely taught in the for-pay preschools around the county. If we are to have all students entering Kindergarten hit the ground running, the BCS will need to provide funding and/or programs for those that cannot afford to pay for a pre-K program for their child. We cannot afford for our students to start school in a deficit.
When students look to choosing a career or vocation, income obviously is very important. Just as important, if not more so, is doing something you are good at and deeply enjoy. Unfortunately, in the Southern states, teacher pay has historically been much lower than in other parts of the country. When you truly enjoy what you’re doing in your career, that satisfaction can temper salary issues. The Board of Education needs to find ways to motivate, challenge, support and reinforce our teachers and staff to be educational experts and leaders. To be the best at what they do in and out of their classrooms and schools. Particularly with our unique location in the mountains, the BCS should be that school system education majors and teachers alike strive to live and work. To become part of something very special and unique. The BCS should be the place you want to start or finish your teaching career.