My thirty plus years of experience in public education, first as a mathematics and science teacher, then as media specialist, test coordinator, technology trainer, instructional technology consultant, and media supervisor testify to my broad base of knowledge and leadership abilities. I have a proven record in developing effective programs by implementing Best Practice Strategies. I am eager to use my creative management skills to promote strong relationships among board members, educational staff and parents. I maintain high work standards and believe that can I make a significant difference in the success of Pender County Schools.
An effective school board plays an important role in setting educational policies, managing financial affairs, making personnel decisions, and providing for adequate school facilities. All of these decisions must be guided by one question: What is in the best interest of the students we serve? These decisions can not and should not be made based on political whims or in a vacuum. They should always be made through factual data and through thoughtful consideration. This process must include opportunities for stakeholders to communicate with one another and to work together to ensure that all schools are successful.
Pender County has many funding needs. Among them are providing a livable wage for all staff, fixing and replacing roofs damaged by past hurricanes and mitigating mold and other environmental issues in schools. Increasing support staff such as K-3 teacher assistants, literacy coaches, after-school tutors, nurses, and social workers is of great importance. However, the most critical need facing our schools today is how to reopen and keep our children and staff safe during this COVID-19 pandemic. Reopening will require additional funding for masks, cleaning materials, and increased staffing to keep students physically distanced. Presently, our transportation system is over burdened with an increase in population. We will need to expand our number of buses and staffing to drive and maintain the equipment. Expanding rural broadband through programs such as Lifeline and purchasing hotspots and hardware for blended classrooms will be essential. Addressing all of these issues will be difficult because we will need to invest more in our schools over the coming months and years. It will take a combined effort from the Governor to our local commissioners and the Board of Education to work together to strengthen our schools. I will work diligently to build relationships and to make sure that our priority is always safe schools.
Having taught in a classroom and later as an administrator I understand the need for developing strong relationships with staff members. Currently, many teachers do not know who their board members are and have never had the opportunity to be heard. I will increase opportunities for teachers to be heard by visiting schools on a regular basis, by creating school-based committees to promote teacher satisfaction, create an online system where teachers can provide solutions to issues and to keep an open door policy to all staff.
An enormous amount of funding is spent on professional development. Often the sessions are spent sitting around tables, listening to someone speak about something that is not relevant to the individual classroom. Teachers and school-based staff need to be more involved in designing professional development plans. County leaders need to work with staff to accommodate their plans and to allocate annual stipends to assist with purchasing classroom supplies. When people have a stake in the plan they are more likely to take what they have learned back to the classroom.
The main issues with recruiting and retaining qualified teachers are pay and teacher satisfaction. To offset pay discrepancies at a local level we can offer annual stipends for educators to assist with purchasing classroom supplies, we can work to increase local supplements so they are competitive with surrounding counties, we can provide a daily dedicated planning time and duty-free lunch time for all teachers, we can ensure that teachers have time to teach and engage students in relevant instructional projects and we can provide educational staff with free daycare and after-school care. On a state level we need to advocate for restoring Advanced Degree Pay and Longevity pay, reduce heath plan premiums and out of pocket costs, implement Due Process Rights for Educators and eliminate pay for performance based on test scores.
Education is an essential element in eradicating poverty. Studies of preschoolers often find greater improvement in learning at the end of the Pre-K year for economically disadvantaged children and dual language learners. The investment that we make in Pre-K today will provide opportunities to close the achievement gap, will increase graduation rates and ultimately will create productive citizens. Students who are given the advantage of attending a Pre-K program develop emotional, academic and social skills that they may otherwise lack when entering kindergarten.
The key to building a robust business community in Pender County is to create an economic development plan that maximizes the community’s strengths and minimizes its weaknesses. Pender County has seen a huge housing boom at the same time our leaders have neglected to plan for the increased population by expanding utilities, building new schools, investing in rural broadband and building additional roadways. As we go forward I believe the following steps are needed to improve the economic stability of our county.