Sharon Harris – Whaleyville Borough (School Board)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Name: Sharon Harris

Age: 61

Profession: I am self-employed, the owner of Classy Tuxedo Rentals, and a recently retired Army Reserve military intelligence warrant officer four instructor, Fort Bragg, N.C.


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Education: I am a graduate of Rutgers University, N.J.

What are your qualifications for this seat? I have served on the Suffolk School Board since 2000. Because I believe education is important, I have attended the Virginia School Board Academy, which is a series of conferences designed to educate school board members. As a result, I have twice won the Merit Award, the highest award presented by the organization. Currently, I am still enrolled. In addition, I have been elected secretary of the National School Board/tidewater chapter for 2003-2004.

Why should people vote for you on May 4? People should vote for me because I’m not running against anyone… I am just running for the children. I have continued to be a business partner with two schools. I have served as a Career Day speaker, judged numerous science fair projects; mentored; tutored; and performed self-esteem puppet shows with my puppet, Leroy. I am a Kiwanis advisor to the Lakeland High School Key Club, which is a service organization that improves the quality of life for community citizens. In addition, I am a 4-H leader and 4-H camp counselor.

Suffolk Public Schools has traditionally had trouble recruiting teachers. What would you recommend that Suffolk do to attract and keep top-notch teachers? I feel the major problem recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers is low salaries. Pay increases have been approved this year. I must say that the Suffolk City Council has made education a top priority. Give incentives such as signing bonuses, merit pay for teachers of more difficult subject matter, decrease extra duties such as lunch and bus duties.

It’s also important to seek incentives from small and big business. Creating a pleasant working environment is also important.

The nation recently observed the 5th anniversary of multiple school shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School. How safe are students in Suffolk today? Does more need to be done to strengthen school safety?

We strive to make our schools safe. We have resource officer at the high schools where they are needed most. I would like to see some of these officers placed at the middle school level. We offer information to students on anger management, bullying, stress management, sexual harassment and other antisocial behavior. Diversity classes should be mandatory.

Suffolk is one of the fastest growing school divisions in the state today. What steps do you believe the school system needs to take in order to keep up with the rapid growth?

We have built two new schools and in the process of a third to help handle this problem. We have also hired additional qualified teachers to handle the load.

The City Council has recently expressed a strong desire to see more neighborhood schools in Suffolk’s future. But during a recently joint meeting between council and the School Board, Dr. Milton Liverman indicated that neighborhood schools would not be the most economically feasible way to grow schools. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Because many people are fleeing to suburban settings and leaving behind neighborhoods with fewer school-aged children, pouring money into neighborhood schools is not economically feasible.

— Compiled by Allison T. Williams