Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 15, 2021
The Suffolk News-Herald sent the same slate of questions to Sleepy Hole Borough School Board candidates Heather Howell and Ebony Wright, who are running in a special election to fill an unexpired term. You can see the questions and their answers here. Q&As with candidates for other elections will run in upcoming editions, so keep an eye on the paper and on suffolknewsherald.com.
Why are you running for School Board, and what makes you qualified for the position?
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I am running to be a voice for parents and community stakeholders in decision-making and the development and implementation of policies that affect our children. My experience in creating and managing large budgets and resources will be a great asset to the board. I have over 20 years of legal, management and leadership experience, to include governance and policy development, an MBA from St. Leo University and a post-master’s certificate in Management from Harvard Business School. I also add value as a parent who has had children in Suffolk Public Schools, K-12, in all three schools in our Borough.
What would be your top three priorities if elected, and why?
My top priorities are navigating through the COVID related policies and getting our students back on track for academic excellence. VDOE recently reported declines in math, reading and science assessments. I want to implement and/or revise policies to help us to overcome some of the pandemic challenges. I also want to ensure our teachers are adequately supported. I will work to increase funding for classrooms, raise teacher and support staff pay, and ensure all teachers have adequate planning time and support from administrators. Lastly, I want to change the current culture and relationship between the School Board and stakeholders.
What do you believe should be the top priorities for capital projects in the school division?
(1) Preserve current facilities by mitigating major repairs/systems that are failing or inefficient, and testing and treatment of potentially harmful substances. (2) Several schools require additions or replacement. While my desire is to address them all now, it isn’t practical. Northern Shores and Nansemond River both need improvements/additional space to accommodate our growing population. JFK is deteriorating and we need another middle school. (3) Complete the Operations Facility to centralize operations and provide adequate space for operations and storage, freeing up other facilities like Driver Elementary which is a huge issue for residents.
What are your views on the level of transparency by the School Board and school division?
I think the School Board most certainly must improve in its level of transparency. I’m a firm believer that governance and transparency go hand in hand. When making decisions and setting policy, parents and community stakeholders should be a part of the process. I would like to see the School Board foster a more welcoming environment for stakeholders. Effective communication leads to trust and strong partnerships and parents should feel like partners.
What are your views on how the school division has managed the COVID-19 pandemic, and how should it manage it going forward now that students are back in school five days per week?
The pandemic was unprecedented and school boards as well as corporations and federal agencies across the country were forced to make tough decisions on very complex issues with information that changed almost daily. All things considered, I believe the school board made the safety of our children a priority. Going forward, I would like to see more collaboration and better communication with the parents in the decision-making process. I also believe our quarantine policies need to be firmed up as it pertains to safety.