Why am I running for School Board?
In South Carolina, we rank 23rd in school funding, and 49th in school outcomes. In Beaufort County, we continue to have failing results, and failing leadership. What motivated me to run for this seat is my passion for helping children and families, and my passion for effective leadership. Having lived in this community, working as a child and family therapist, I have come to know many of the challenges and opportunities that our children, parents, and teachers face. I am passionate about helping children succeed, and have found that some barriers to academic success are the unaddressed mental health needs of our students, a lack of social-emotional support from within the school system, and a lack of faith from students and their families in our school system and leadership. As the former Director of Clinical Services for Coastal Empire Community Mental Health Center, I brought mental health counselors back into Beaufort County schools, and I’ve helped coordinate behavioral health services for students with other private agencies throughout the County. I have helped students and their families overcome these barriers and have successfully advocated on their behalf. In doing so, I have first-hand experience of what needs to change and what can be improved. I believe my unique skill set will help to address some of the barriers to close the achievement gap, improve school climate and morale, and restore public trust in the School Board and School District.
Here is how I would address the inequity with regards to school funding:
In order to ensure that every student receives an adequate education, the Board must develop education funding policies that reflect the true cost of closing the achievement gap among poor or disadvantaged students. The cost of educating a child with a disability, who is learning English as a second language, and/or who comes from a low-income household is much greater and requires more resources than the cost of educating students without those challenges. Board funding policies should rely upon research findings, some of which indicate it could cost 2-3 times more for these students to achieve the same academic results as their non-disadvantaged counterparts. How monies are allocated is also significant with some research indicating that monies are most importantly spent on instruction and support for students, smaller class sizes, more instruction time, and higher teacher pay. The district should also be aggressively pursuing grants and other sources of funding.
Here is how I would recommend we close the achievement gap that currently exists in our schools:
Increase school funding, since school funding and student performance are strongly related for low-income students. Funds should be targeted to educational strategies that are evidence-based. Another suggestion would be to put the best and most qualified teachers who have a proven success rate of helping students learn in those schools that aren’t meeting the standards. Student outcomes are related to teacher quality, which includes things such as experience, certification status, salary level, education level, and ability. Students should be assessed at the beginning of the year, and put on a plan to meet catch-up growth and annual growth. The Board should create policy for schools to design a plan for their students that will guarantee annual growth and catch-up growth if students are behind. Other improvement strategies would include increase early childhood education programs, reduce class-size, provide teachers with special training for at-risk students, allow more time for instruction or small group instruction, after school enrichment programs, and school improvement teams.
Here is how I would address "discipline" problems in the schools:
The School Board should set clear policies and procedures for disciplinary problems and ensure that the policies are being followed. Disciplinary practices should be based on evidence-based approaches and there should be consistency throughout each school and the district as a whole as to the approach used. Students should be exposed to multiple models of social and moral problem-solving, responsible behavior, and be provided opportunities to apply these skills in a social emotional learning curriculum. Teachers should be trained in positive approaches that are most effective. Disciplinary actions therefore should take place within the student-teacher relationship. For students with chronic discipline problems, early referrals to mental health services should be made, and the principal must provide back up and support to the teacher. The Board should be the final resort to address appeals made from parents, students or staff on decisions made by the Superintendent.
Should we harden the schools or not??
I believe safety of the students and others within the school is the highest priority. A safe school environment is mandatory to successful teaching and learning. We need to have policies in place to ensure the security of our buildings. I would want to survey the teachers, students, parents, and the school community for input on how they would most feel safe, especially with regards to having teachers or other staff armed. I would support the continued use of SROs and CROs. I don’t think private citizens should come in with concealed weapons. I would never support a policy that would require teachers to get trained to carry guns as I do not believe this is their role. I would ensure safety of students by advancing policy regarding preventative approaches that improve school climate, address social/emotional heath, and identifies and addresses internal behavioral issues that increase school dangers. This could include early mental health screenings, mental health awareness training for staff and students, implementing a social emotional learning curriculum, additional counseling services, and monitoring social media. I would also strengthen policy regarding the reporting of and responding to potential threats.