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?) I am a 1980 graduate of Vancleave High School and four of my six children have graduated from Vancleave; two of my children are still in school. I taught third grade and fourth grade for 9 years at Vancleave Elementary before becoming the assistant principal. I served four years as the assistant principal and 12 years as the principal of Vancleave Lower Elementary.
2. What is your previous community involvement? When my older children were involved in community league sports, I was the treasurer for the youth baseball league. I also played the piano and taught Sunday School for many years.
3. Why do you want to serve on your school board? Our district attempted a bond. I along with two other ladies began a campaign to let the community know the facts of the bond which proved the district knowingly went against what the people of the community wanted. During this time and after the bond was defeated, some of the members of the community asked me to consider running. Since I have extensive knowledge in education and understand what is best for students and what teachers need, I decided to run. I want to run to make sure our board listens to parents and stakeholders.
4. What are your goals for your district’s preschool program? We are blessed with great private preschool programs. Our communities have not indicated a need for public preschool.
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? Our district attempted to consolidate Vancleave Lower and Vancleave Upper which would have made a school of over 1200 students. Extensive research has been conducted proving that large elementary schools are not in the best interest of students from low income households or those who have specific needs. This was one of the major reasons that I did not support the bond and fought hard to get the information out to the public. The state requires interventions be taught to students who are not performing at or above grade level. I support this decision and know that schools must provide this intervention in addition to the regularly scheduled math and reading instruction. This intervention must be research based and must be monitored weekly. The district must ensure that schools are providing this intervention and the time needed for the intervention. I think that school start and end schedules should be conducive to learning. When students begin class too early, they have limited time at night with their family and limited evening time for other activities. I believe and research supports that time engaged with families is important to language development and the development of social skills. Our elementary students currently load some buses as early as 5:45 which means they are awake as early as 5:15 or 5:30. This is too early to begin the school day. The above is just a small list of things that I believe the district must do to provide opportunities of success 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? The funding program for schools has not met the needs of schools for many years. I will attend meetings, review budgets, and work with the other board members to ensure our school receives full funding from the state.
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? This is a tough question and I’m not sure I have a definitive answer. On one hand I believe if public schools are successful with students, then the money should remain at the public school. However, I could see the need for school choice if the schools were not successful. In this case, the money should follow the child.
8. Mississippi is experiencing a severe teacher shortage. What strategies will you support to recruit and retain high quality educators? If we want to retain high quality educators, districts need to pay teachers a competitive salary, provide safe and clean schools, and give teachers the time they need to do their job. Unfortunately, the state sets the base salary for teachers and most districts do not have the funds to increase the pay to the point of being competitive. Most elementary teachers receive between 30 minutes and 50 minutes of planning time daily. This is not enough time to plan lessons, grade papers, attend to meetings for TST, and attend IEP meetings. High school teachers receive 90 minutes a day for planning. Elementary teachers need a comparable time.