Candidate Q&A

Cleveland Public School District

School Board Election 2021

Our public education questionnaire was offered to school board candidates in the November 2 school board elections. Search for candidates’ questionnaire responses below.

Velma Hayes  •  Paulette K. Howze (WINNER) •  Tonya Short

Velma Hayes


Paulette K. Howze

1. What is your experience with the school district? (Did you or your children attend school in the district? Have you volunteered in or been employed by the district?) My children and I attended school in the Cleveland School District. My daughter is currently a 7th grade student at Cleveland Central Middle School. I was employed in the district for six (6) years as Gifted Education Teacher. While employed with the district, I served as Camp Director for the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame 1st – 6th grade Camp Invention for two (2) consecutive summers. I am currently a member of the Cleveland Central Middle School PTSO to assist with fundraising to help meet the needs of the school.
2. What is your previous community involvement? My daughter has been a member of Girl Scouts since Kindergarten and I previously served as Daisy Troop leader. My involvement with Girl Scouts has been ongoing. I am also a member of the Bolivar County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; we provide community service aligned with Educational Development, Political Awareness and Involvement, Economic Development, Physical and Mental Health, and International Awareness and Involvement. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I served as Vacation Bible School Coordinator at my church.
3. Why do you want to serve on your school board? Our stakeholders deserve to have a voice that will work to ensure that our children receive a quality and equitable education that allows them to grow into productive, contributing citizens in their communities. As School Board Member, I will use my knowledge of teaching and learning to help our district and community.
4. What are your goals for your district’s preschool program? I fully support early education/preschool programs. My goals for our district’s preschool program are to expand the number of classrooms available, provide quality instruction that focuses on the developmental and social/emotional needs, and to lay a solid and equitable foundation for all students.
5. Students from low income households often need additional resources to achieve academic success. What should the school district do to ensure that all students are successful? Additional resources are not always more money. Equity is providing additional instructional support for students that need it the most. That may mean more pay/incentives at certain schools. The district should provide additional teachers for pullout and tutoring. We could possibly provide home tutoring sponsored by the district. The district should analyze data to determine how to effectively use resources and assure access to technology and WiFi for all students.
6. Mississippi school districts are funded by a mix of federal, state, and local funds. The State contributes to local school districts through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). What role will you play in advocating for full funding of MAEP for your district? As a School Board Member, I would use my voice to advocate for full funding of MAEP. I will engage in conversations with local legislators regarding funding allocations, the need for additional funding, and the necessity of making education top priority. The accountability expectations have increased; therefore, we need adequate resources to enable us to provide quality education to ensure academic success.
7. Do you agree that tax dollars should be used for only public schools and not for non-public schools such as vouchers, private school tuition, and on-line schools? Why or why not? I agree that tax dollars should be used for public schools because the state requires that children are afforded a free quality education. However, I do understand that children may have needs that require smaller classroom settings. If the public school cannot provide the services that a child needs, the child should be afforded the opportunity to attend a school qualified to provide the services with accountability measures in place.
8. Mississippi is experiencing a severe teacher shortage. What strategies will you support to recruit and retain high quality educators? I will support partnerships between businesses and realtors for teacher incentives. Most teachers can not find reasonable housing in our area; this hurts schools. I will also support better marketing of our schools in an effort to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. I would support partnerships with teacher education programs in and out of state and support for the Teacher Academy in the Career and Technical Education Center. Additionally, I would support incentives for Teach for America teachers, that provide quality instruction, to remain after their three year commitment. I would encourage the district to focus on the climate and culture to attract and retain highly qualified educators.

Tonya Short


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