As a Magnet Coordinator, I have had the privilege of working with and meeting many parents at the elementary and middle school level. During these meetings, a priority voiced by parents is the hope that their children will be in a safe environment where student discipline is applied consistently and uniformly throughout the school. To those parents I say, I am running as your ally. As your School Board representative, I will dedicate myself to strengthening our Student Code of Conduct, ensuring a safe and secure learning environment, while at the same time promoting the emotional support systems in place to offer students in difficult circumstances the help they need to be successful.
Our students deserve to be taught by highly trained and well qualified teachers. The good news is that Duval County Public Schools employ many such effective educators. The challenge is that large numbers of teachers leave the profession within their first five years and Duval County, like many districts across the state, consistently battles to overcome teacher shortages. I was a new teacher once, and I have worked with many new teachers brimming with great ideas for increasing our new teacher retention rate. One example includes making a front-end investment in our teachers-in-training by letting them begin their careers by observing and being coached by highly effective veterans. Whether that means a week, a month, or a semester, the effort spent putting new teachers though “pads and helmets” training with real kids having real issues will pay dividends in the long run. As your representative on the School Board, I will bring ideas like this to the table and will be focused from day one on improving the mechanisms that attract and keep a new generation of educators and ensuring that our students enter an environment that maximizes their opportunity to succeed.
Mental Health Services
Our administrators and faculty need help responding to the mental health issues they face on a regular basis. My plan for improvement starts with: a) training teachers to recognize the differences between mental health and behavioral issues; and b) increasing the number of certified mental health counselors available to work with our students, teachers, and administrators. When we make it easier for our front line professionals to identify students in need of mental health services and are able to provide access to the help our families may need, we promote a healthy school community and an enhanced learning environment for everyone.
Building our Faith Based and Community Partnerships
Faith Based and Community partners play a vital role in supporting the culture and climate of a school. In many Duval County public schools, including in District Six, these partnerships have encouraged teachers, administrators, and students by providing valuable resources that otherwise would be unavailable. The District should take the lead in promoting these relationships, so that our schools are empowered to pursue the multitude of faith based and community partnerships that are willing to engage. What I know from experience is that the people of Duval County are excited when their local schools thrive and many want to be involved in offering help and support. We can do a better job at the District level to encourage our schools to build these relationships; relationships that strengthen not only our schools but the communities that surround them.