Alachua County Advocates PTA distributed a questionnaire to all of our local, state and national political candidates to find out their stance on issues important to our school community. Select the links below to learn more about the candidates in each race.
Additional information about how each race works is included within the sections below. Responses are included exactly as they were received; no editing was done. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Find your precinct, or view a sample ballot here.
School Board Candidates
All Alachua County School Board seats are non-partisan and county-wide. This means that all voters will select one candidate from each of the districts (1, 3 and 5), regardless of the district in which you live. The School Board election takes place during the primary elections on August 28. A candidate needs 51% of the votes at that time in order to be elected. If a candidate does not receive the votes needed, a run-off will take place during the general election on November 6.
Tina Certain, District 1
|April Griffin, District 1|
Judy McNeil, District 3
|Gunnar Paulson, District 3||April Tisher, District 3|
Rob Hyatt, District 5
|Paul Wolfe, District 5|
1. School Facilities
Local families have expressed a concern regarding the state of the facilities at their public schools. Would you support a ½ cent sales tax increase to support school facilities improvements across all schools? Why or why not? If not, how do you recommend facilities improvements be funded?
2. School Capacities
What are your ideas for zoning and programming to address current capacity inefficiencies (i.e. over-/under-crowding of schools)? Where would you look for additional funding/resources/partnerships to implement your ideas?
3. Children’s Trust
Do you support the Children’s Trust ballot initiative, which would create a coalition to coordinate early learning and after school programs? Why or why not?
I believe it deserve a place on the ballot to let the citizens decide. A referendum gives citizens a vote on an important question. According to Commission Chairman the Children Trust would act the same as the already established Children’s Services Advisory Board but it would be an independent entity. My strategic thoughts: based on my budget and based on the school board’s present and impending budget.
What do I value and can reasonably support with my salary/budget?
Pay the ½ sales tax for school facilities and improvement (?) (a regressive tax)
Pay for the present and future safety of our children (?) The Board does not know if the Safe School funds will be available next year. The board used all the funds this year and also took money out of the General Funds which pays for teachers’ salaries and students’ resources.
Pay for 12 years property tax of 1 mill for Children Trust – (?) (a regressive tax)
Pay my ever increasing GRU bill (?)
Pay for groceries, gas and health care (?)
Citizens must go out and VOTE, it is too important a decision to trust someone else vote, to decide what you value and what you will have to pay.
4. State School Grading System
State law under HB7069 passed in 2016 placed Hawthorne Middle-High School under special scrutiny and a high-stakes school year judged primarily on student test scores and prior year graduation rates for the 2017-2018 school year. Terwilliger Elementary will undergo this in the 2018-2019 school year. Do you believe the school grading system is an accurate measurement of school quality?
The current school grading system with all of its difficulties and challenges is the system we have until the Florida legislature votes and changes it. I am not a fan of high stakes testing but I do believe that assessments are needed to evaluate the learning needs and proficiencies of students. My favorite kinds of assessments are portfolio and student led assessments!
If a student is not progressing, an assessment should identify their weaknesses so that we can help them.
I do not believe that the school grading system is an accurate measurement of school quality and have advocated this since being elected. I believe that people with questions should actually go and visit a school before determining whether that school is “good” or not. Each year the bar is moved, blurred, and bargained by our state Board of Education and Legislature. Our teachers, students, and administrators work very hard to see that all students are successful. A single day’s test results and a single evaluation of teaching and learning is not a good indicator of what actually goes on in our schools.
Yes and no, because it is a standardized test so there is validity to the results. No, because standardized test only tests high analytical thinking like math and language. But high practical and creative thinking is not measure which is how most student from diverse background learn and excel. Resources must be available to address the inequities. All stakeholders must take responsibility to help student make academic gains.
No, I don’t believe it is an accurate measurement of school quality, but we have to deal with what is in place. I believe in accountability, but there is more to learning than one test given at a certain time of year. We also have had a moving target since school grades first were used 20 years ago. First we had FCAT and when our state was showing tremendous gains we changed to FCAT 2. A moving target is hard to hit. Then 4 or 5 years ago we changed to Florida Standards (AKA-Common Core) and became the first state to change to this new way of testing and learning. I also feel the stigma and anxiety it puts on students to perform well can have lasting affects on our children’s mental health.
I think that any school that has been failing for that long is a huge disservice to the students who are attending. It should not have to come down to one high-stakes school year. I am not a fan of high stakes tests or school grades and would like to see a reduction of the pressure we put upon the backs of students. However, I realize we must have some way to measure the success of our schools. The school grade system is not perfect, but it is what we have for the time being. With that being said I think the school grade only tells a part of the story and that a lot of good schools aren’t reflected by their grade.
No. Each year the measurements and goals change. The State (Legislature, BOE, DOE) appears to dislike dishing out too many A’s. The grading system is punitive rather than prescriptive. However this is the system in place so it is imperative that we get the highest grades possible for each school. One of the worst ways to try to raise grades is to teach to the test. Schools should be places of joy and discovery which includes a full, well-rounded curriculum. If we make that happen grades will rise.
I had an opportunity to teach for a day at Terwilliger Elementary through Junior Achievement in my Senior Year. During this time, I saw what wonderful staff and students were there on campus, and it saddens me to see them have to go through this high-stakes testing and advancement analysis. I do not feel that school grades are an accurate reflection of school quality, and I would like to see the school board working with our state legislature representatives in order to change the way that schools are graded. Instead, we have soured the relationship we did have with the state, making negotiation and compromise virtually impossible under current leadership. I feel that having a new leader present would give the local board an opportunity to advance the needs of local schools at the state level.
5. High Stakes Testing
Local parents have expressed frustration with the amount of tests their students take and the way the tests are used for high stakes decisions such as class placement and program enrollment. How would you address these frustrations? Are there any changes that could be made by the school district to address this?
I understand the frustration. The current FSA test is the assessment we have until the Florida legislature votes and changes it. There are individual options for parents who do not want to participate in testing. Lobbying the local legislative delegation and statewide for change is an option.
I understand the frustration and have asked that we work to cut the number of tests required by our district. Some of the assessments are used to monitor progress during the year so that the teacher can adjust instruction to help the students achieve the goals needed to move to the next grade. I have worked with Senator Garcia and others to influence our Legislators to decrease the number of tests required and will continue to advocate for this at the state level. I also have advocated computerized tests be replaced with paper tests and we have had some success with this
I will be transparent with all stakeholder and give the reasoning for the test. FSA and EOC are the only state mandated test. Some students struggle taking the EOC on the computers and so the question is do they know the content or are they underperforming because of the medium used? Many variables can affect test results. Evaluating a student’s acceptance into a program must consider factor other than test scores. Career Tech Education programs usually emphasize creativity and practical skills not evaluated on tests. Do not give the AIMS test. The scope and sequence should allow time for students to enjoy the content. Give teachers flexibility to cover the scope and sequence without the pressure of AIMS testing.
The amount of tests and they way they have been taken has been a problem for a number of years. In 2014 this problem really came to a head in our district and statewide when a frustrated teacher named Susan Bowles at Chiles elementary refused to give the computerized Fair test to her kindergarten students. Her reasons were they were not age appropriate and there wasn’t enough time to give the test. She refused to give this state mandated test not knowing if she would be fired. I along with another board member publicly promised our support at a board meeting and in the press assuring her we would support her in her battle. The state eventually backed down and allowed the test going back to being paper taken. This courageous action by one teacher has led to a continuous upheaval resulting in the Florida Legislature devoting much time to over testing of our students in the 2018 legislative session. Our district is also looking at unnecessary tests to eliminate so much class time being taken away by testing.
I have three children currently attending our public schools. I have been through the testing cycles for gifted, middle and high school magnets as well as all the yearly state and county required testing. I have the same frustrations. I am at home with students who are worried about their performance and how it will affect their teachers and schools. Some of these tests cannot be controlled at a county level. Some can and I would certainly support a reduction of testing wherever possible!
I am in favor of the elimination of any high-stakes test not required by the State. The District is given some flexibility but still have to meet evaluative standards. Some testing is in place to meet State-mandated requirements for teacher assessment. The District should do the bare minimum of testing required by DOE. Three years ago there was some movement on this issue in Tallahassee when parents demanded change. Parents must reignite those efforts. I stand with them.
The majority of testing that students face in Alachua County is mandated by the state, such as the FSA amongst others. But tests such as the AIMS tests are county mandated, and occur more frequently than State testing. One of my first goals, if elected, will be to move toward eliminating these AIMS tests, which I did have to take throughout my years at Buchholz high school, and begin working with the state to lower testing frequency.
6. Student Achievement/Equity
Please comment on how the school district has approached closing achievement gaps in all areas and addressing inequity among students. How would you propose the community continue to address these issues?
I have read a list of “programs” the district says it’s doing but their effectiveness is suspect. An organization I am a member of suggested the district create Equity as a priority and focal point. I am proud we brought that to Gainesville. Our vision is that equity would become a School Board priority, not a talking point. Closing the achievement gap is not the job of one person, the scope has to be top to bottom, District wide – a priority of everyone.
Many programs have been instituted to address closing the achievement gaps in all areas. 3rd grade English Language Arts class sizes were reduced in our highest needs schools. We began a pilot of universal screening for gifted in second grade and will continue roll this out. Identifying and recruiting potential Advanced Placements students is beginning in middle school to promote diversity in these classes. We have also begun a partnership with the College Board to work with schools on increased participation as well as diversity in AP classes. The AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination at Westwood, Mebane, Gainesville High and Santa Fe High next year), Algebra Nation, AP Capstone program at Eastside High, and Graduation Coaches at Gainesville, Buchholz and Eastside High Schools have been added to support our students.We instituted the Office of Educational and Equity Outreach at the beginning of the last school year and named Valerie Freeman as the Director A comprehensive Equity Plan will be rolled out this coming school year under the Office of Educational Equity and Outreach.These are just some of the programs implemented under the direction of Superintendent Clarke and the current board.
According to the district’s strategic plan costly reading programs have been purchased but have not produced academic gains. Part of the strategic goals are: decreasing out of school suspensions by10%. Increasing African American enrollment in CTE programs. Screening African Americans for gifted. Presently, I do not have data to support these goals were met. The key to learning, is excellent teachers. Investing in outstanding teachers that have high expectations of their students and love their students, will produce academic gains. Address inequities by providing professional development in cultural awareness. Replicate the Community Partnership School eg. Howard Bishop Middle School. Engaging local business, churches and community members will change the social and educational school climate. The board’s continued partnership with Catholic charities, our local chapter of United Way, University of Florida and Santa Fe College. Administrators can encourage project-based assignments and partner east and westside schools. Teacher can use technology to collaborate. The reading program Each One Teach One encourages parent volunteers.
Our district has been addressing the issue of raising the scores of our lowest 25 percentile students especially at our lowest performing schools since I have been on the board. In 2016 the issue of the gap between African-American students and White students along with the issue of equity among our students came under more scrutiny when the United Church of Gainesville hosted a community workshop. At a board meeting in April and one in May the superintendent was asked to look into our board joining in this discussion. In the July board meeting Ms Hollinger (Interim Supt) was asked to look into how we could address this problem. This led to the formation of an equity department in our district. A final workshop for the equity plan will be held on August 14. This will lead to our final equity plan being finalized. This final plan has involved teachers, community members, administrators, outside speakers, consultants and school board members the last 1½ years.
Again, I look to the community school model for guidelines. Bishop had made great strides in disproportionate discipline and reduction of out of school suspensions. Mr. Gamble once said it was the change in mindset that makes the difference. I agree. District wide looking at and focusing on the lowest quartile has been the method. I think that the hiring of the Equity Director and the equity plan set to be released are great additions in addressing the issues. Addressing social issues by placing more social workers in our schools, having a focus on mental health and offering more after school programs to support all of our students and their families are all viable solutions to addressing inequity.
The District has taken the very real achievement gap seriously. No stone will be left unturned in seeking remedies and seeking them quickly. We must continue and accelerate efforts to raise achievement for our lower-quartile students throughout the county and to provide more help to the schools most in need. The final fifteen years of my career were spent at a high-needs school. During that time I worked with wonderful children and families and with some of the best teachers available. In 2009 I was named Alachua County’s Teacher of the Year. I know the both the challenge and the promise of doing the most we can for ALL students. We have raised graduation rates, initiated an Office of Equity and Outreach, partnered with the Children’s Home Society and provided wrap-around services for a growing number of families. The community and the Board must insist on high standards. If everyone’s focus is on what is best for children, regardless of differences over approach we will succeed. No, our task is far from completed and the work continues.
The achievement gap is primarily based in testing differences, and students from a low income household are less likely to perform well on standardized tests than students from middle or high income households. I feel that encouraging and directing tutor groups as well as giving teachers more liberty to teach to students rather than teach to tests will be a step in the right direction toward closing the achievement gap.
7. School Safety
What programs do you recommend to address parent concerns regarding school safety?
A school safety officer position has been created and a professional hired. He is a trained professional and will put forth a plan for the District overall and each school.
ALICE training is going to be done at every school and center in the district. Staff has been trained and now we will begin doing age appropriate trainings with our students. We have implemented the School Climate Transformation Project, the Sanford Harmony program, restorative justice and other programs designed to improve school culture and reduce disciplinary issues. 15 school staff members (in addition to the 16 trained in 2017-2018) have been trained to serve as Registered Behavior Technicians. We are continuing staff training in crisis intervention, trauma sensitivity and other issues. All of these programs will help students learn to deal with their stress and improve the climate of our schools. We will also have a School Resource Officer in every school and have hired a School Security Chief to coordinate safety assessments and trainings at all of our schools. The safety of our students is a top priority and we will work diligently to find funding and resources to make our schools as secure as possible.
Senate Bill 7026 (Chapter 2018-3, Laws of Florida) comprehensively addresses school safety, in part, through a Mental Health Assistance Allocation and district implementation plans. Funds for this allocation are to be allocated each year in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or other law, with each school district receiving a minimum of $100,000 and the remaining balance to be distributed to school districts proportionately based on their total unweighted fulltime equivalent student enrollment. Before receiving funds, school districts are required to annually develop and submit a plan outlining the local program and planned expenditures to their district school boards for approval. Plans approved by district school boards are due to the Commissioner of Education by August 1 of each fiscal year. The district must include the plans approved by the governing body of each charter school in the district with its submission. ACPS project 2018 2019 allocation is $748,625 (School board meeting addendum July 17, 2018) . Note: Since this meeting all funds were used for the school safety officers’ contracts and no funds are available for the other part of the mandate which include school hardening and mental health counselors.
The first program is our system of care. It provides for social workers who will be able to identify problems with our students. Once a problem is identified the system of care can be used send the student to the proper outside agency for help. There is the training program (ALICE) that will be administered at the beginning of the school year to all students and employees in case of an active shooter. We also are doing a safety assessment at each one of our schools to see where we need to make improvements to protect our schools. Of course our School Resource Officer program is at the center of our safety plan. We will have at least 1 SRO in each school site.
Safety is my number one concern. I am personally dropping off my children every day to different campuses. I am totally in favor of having dedicated SRO’s on all of our campuses; this was a priority of mine before the law was passed. I also think mental health falls under the school safety heading and as a part of ACTIVATE I think we can do more to address that issue. Marion County School Board adopted a text a tip program which allows the anonymous reporting of anything of concern to be followed up on by professionals. The hardening of our campuses is also a must.
The Board has hired a Director of Safety and Security to lead these efforts. We have contracts in place to cover each school with a sworn, highly-qualified law officer. Some steps that we have already taken are not public because of security. We must be at full speed for a safety analysis at every campus. A portion of the ½ cent sales tax will address “hardening” of facilities. An anonymous tip system could be instituted. In addition to campuses a thorough analysis of safety issues on school busses must be part of the mix.
One program I would not recommend is authorizing the arming of teachers and administrators on school campuses. Rather, I would support and push for increased mental health programs on campuses, a hardening of our schools against outside threats, and increasing our response capabilities with trauma kits in every school so that, in the event that the inthinkable occurs, we are ready and able to respond to it more effectively.
8. Children’s Mental Health
In what ways would you seek to improve children’s mental health issues within our public schools?
The System of Care is touted as being effective, but only serves a few schools. If this program is effective, finding funding to expand it would make sense.
Some of the programs I listed in question 7 will address children’s mental health. I would like to see the Community School concept that we have implemented at Howard Bishop Middle spread across the district. This program brings the services that students, families and staff need to be successful directly to the school and community. Mental Health professionals, dental, vision, health, etc. are all located within easy access to the students and community. I would like to see mental health counselors embedded in each school. I would also like to see more professional development for our teachers and staff on mental health issues, how to recognize students at risk and where to get the help they need. I believe our Guidance Department does a good job but they are spread thin and required to do more than guidance. We have added clerical positions at the elementary schools to help “free up” our guidance counselors to work with students.
Senate Bill 7026 addresses this and Florida Statute 381.0056 requires each local Department of Health to jointly develop a School Health Services Plan that outlines the provisions and responsibilities to provide mandated health services in all public schools. The local school health services plan shall describe employing or contracting for all health-related staff and the supervision of all school health services personnel, regardless of the funding source. (School board meeting addendum July 17, 2018). Since we used all the funding for school safety officer the guidance counselor will probably have a higher work load or the local system of care will provide the services.
This question is tied closely to the previous question in that we will use the system of care. In addition to the social workers provided by the system of care we will be adding more out of the general budget. We are also putting testing coordinators in some of our schools to free up the counselors to counsel our students.
As I mentioned before, adding more social workers into our schools that can help identify needs such as hunger, unsafe home environments etc. will help. Having on site therapist such as Bishop does is an amazing benefit. The ACTIVATE program is looking to coordinate with PALS to implement mental health programs into more of our schools ( I think middle schools should definitely be a target for this) and the text a tip program is something I would really like to see here in Alachua County. Mindfulness training and mentors are also something I would like to see increased.
This also applies to Question 7. We are working toward training 100% of teachers and administrators on mental health issues. It is everyone’s job to look after and look for the most vulnerable. We are hiring clerical aides to free Certified Guidance Counselors to be free to work with children at all times rather than be burdened with administering tests. There can be no stigma associated with mental health. Every child must receive the care and support they need.
One program I would like to see implemented would be the increasing of counselor presence on campus without tying a great deal of paperwork to them. These counselors are not secretaries nor assistants, and their job is to help students when faced with situations they may not know how to solve on their own. I would also like to see a decrease in stress for students through reducing testing.
9. PTA/Community Involvement
How can the School Board work with PTA and other similar organizations to increase community involvement in local public schools?
Increasing community involvement could be pursued by having meetings, outreach activities in the neighborhood/community in a neutral location like a city building/community center, church or park. Having meetings and events at different times/days to accommodate people that work during the school day, after 6pm weekdays and providing food, meeting on Saturday, or home visits by a liaison as has been done in the past.
The Alachua County Council of PTA’s is a wonderful partner. I had been asking how to get it back since being elected. The missing part had been parents willing to do the hard work to bring it back. Having the school board chair serve on the executive board of ACCPTA, has added to our partnership. ACCPTA is a strong advocate for our schools and the community will listen and get involved because parents are asking, not the district and not school board members. I have asked that this year for Open Houses we have a flier “Welcome to the School Year” and have the school board members’ pictures and contact info listed as well as the Superintendent and her Administration. I am hoping that this can help the parents put a name and face together and be a resource to help communication. I also believe that board members should visit schools and attend programs and after school activities. I have made it a priority and goal to visit every school each year. I encourage parents and community members to be an active part of making a difference in the lives of students and the schools they attend.
These organizations must follow the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Guidance on Sharing Information with Community-Based Organization.
The School Board has worked well with many other organizations in addition to the PTA. There is the Education Foundation, District Advisory Council, Citizen’s for Strong Schools, Juvenile Justice Council, Alachua County Retired Education Association, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Our community is very supportive. The PTA along with the League of Women Voters did a tremendous job getting the word out and informing the public about the For Profit charter school out of Ft Lauderdale. Because of their effort this charter decided to remove their application. We passed the one mill with the help of Citizen’s for Strong Schools and implemented the System of Care that originated with an idea from the Juvenile Justice Council. The PTA can and will continue to be a very effective organization to help us reach out and involve the community
The school system cannot achieve the success of every student alone. Having involvement from the community and in every students’ home is absolutely essential. Hosting community wide training and events and boosting individual school wide PTA membership is key. When students see their own parents being involved and taking pride in their schools and education they are more likely to succeed. I look to organizations like Faith Mission that have their youth participate in school campus clean ups with their parents.
First show by example. Every Board Member should be also be a member of PTA. I served on the ACCPTA Executive Committee for one year and continue to give full support. As a former band director I realize the immense value of having parents involved in their child’s education. I will talk to civic organizations, business groups and community members about what can be accomplished by pulling together in the same direction.
The school board can work with school PTAs and other school-oriented organizations through attending their meetings and actively engaging with members. Something another candidate likes to tout is visiting every school once every year, and I feel that we need to have more involvement from our board members in SAC meetings as well as PTA meetings.
County Commission Candidates
All County Commission seats are county-wide. This means that all voters will select one candidate from each of the districts, regardless of the district in which you live. District 2 is the only district that has candidates running for the 2018 election. The County Commission election takes place during the primary elections on August 28. A candidate needs 51% of the votes at that time in order to be elected. If a candidate does not receive the votes needed, a run-off will take place during the general election on November 6.
|Scott Costello||Ward Scott|
|Randy Wells||Marihelen Wheeler|
1. Local School Scrutiny
State law under HB7069 passed in 2016 placed Hawthorne Middle-High School under special scrutiny and a high-stakes school year judged primarily on student test scores and prior year graduation rates for the 2017-2018 school year. Terwilliger Elementary will undergo this in the 2018-2019 school year. What role does the county commission play in this process?
The County Commission’s primary role in this process is to act as advocates for the community to our Tallahassee delegation. The Commission may also place such items on the ballot as necessary to establish public support or to generate revenue. Florida State Statute Title XI Chapter 125.01 lays out the powers and responsibilities of a county government, as augmented by the home Charter of Alachua County. As your County Commissioner I will work within the bounds of my authority and be a voice for an education system that focuses on learning rather than testing, that rewards success rather than punishing failure, and that promotes new ideas rather than remaining trapped in failed ones. So long as we know that our current approach is not serving every student well, I will not be afraid to try a different approach, learn from the attempt, and expand or correct as necessary.
The risk of losing Hawthorne or Terwilliger was significant. The efforts of Mayor Surrency and his team in Hawthorne did an amazing job. There is little a county commission can do regarding state mandates or requirements, however there are some ancillary ways to make a difference. An example would be the current proposed Children’s Services Trust on the referendum. If this passes, there will be an increase from $1.25 milllion to almost $7 million dollars that will help with programs such as mentoring, after school and a more thorough way of expanding existing programs. Had these programs been in place previously, there is a good chance that neither school would have been in jeopardy.In addition, we have a serious issue in our community with children’s hunger. This impacts kids ability to learn and in some cases, have kept them out of school. Attendance and distraction both impact the ability to learn. Through community support and the county’s CAPP program, funding is given to make sure kids have the nourishment and availability of food.
Alachua County’s mission is to provide responsive service to citizens and responsible stewardship of county resources for current and future generations”. While this mission statement doesn’t specifically address education, there are many ways in which county government can be supportive of the School Board’s mission generally, and of the current issues affecting the Terwilliger and Hawthorne and communities specifically. Improving the lives of our citizens through economic development is important to the improvement of a community’s educational level. Families who have jobs, a roof over their heads, food on the table, and transportation are stable and their children are ready to learn. Additionally, the County Commission already supports programs, such as SWAG, that help families. Early childhood is the most important time in brain development, and the more we can get families to take advantage of programs already available to them, the better.
I see it as critical for the county commission to be a strong advocate for cooperation among all local partners to support our public schools. The county commission has a strong interest in the success of public schools in every part of the county–but especially those schools undergoing special scrutiny. In turn, our schools struggle with the same issues that affect nearby families and neighborhoods.
The county commission can establish the expectation–through adoption of budgets and setting of policy–that all county agencies support public school programs and facilities. Specific opportunities exist for shared funding of school grounds and parks, and co-location of services that help both schools and the surrounding communities. The county commission can also lead by example, and support staff volunteering and mentoring in our schools–especially schools undergoing extra scrutiny or challenges.
I have been a strong defender of our public schools, particularly our schools that are community schools such as Hawthorne and Waldo. I see the responsibility of the County Commission as one of support for the health and wellbeing of community schools as a means of supporting the life of the municipality. Likewise, neighbourhood schools help to keep neighborhoods vibrant and interactive. I would support the use of CRA resources as a way for the county to offer assistance in supporting local schools and keeping areas from decline. As in Hawthorne, the community citizens have been activated and as a former teacher and advocate for public education, I will keep the County Commission focused on the importance of community and neigborhood schools.
2. School Capacity
What role does the county commission have in determining school placement and capacity – new schools, closures, and capacity changes? How have school grading system impacted this? How do school closures affect local businesses and the community as a whole?
There is no doubt that school closures impact local communities negatively. The further that children must travel to their school, the less parent involvement is available and the lower the quality of the education our children receive. I have not had an opportunity to fully explore the interaction between the School Board and the County Commission, but I will make time to talk to our school board members before the election. I can say that as your County Commissioner, I will advocate programs that empower parents to have more say in their child’s education.
School placement and capacity are unfortunately issues that the school board decides on., however the county works closely with zoning and planning. With every new development proposed, the school board presents a report to the county commission regarding availability of spots and teachers. With concurrency and based on the existing plan, it would take a change in school board policies to give the county commission the ability to reject zoning applications based on school concurrency. My role would be to work closely with the Superintendent and her board so that we have an open dialogue and work as closely together as possible towards smart solutions. Clearly, school closures are detrimental to the community. To morale, to business, to economic impact. We need to work together to do everything we can to provide the highest quality of education in all schools and focus on growth and opportunity.
County government needs to continually link development and school capacity to ensure that our county is adequately served with schools. The school grading system is affecting school numbers, as we have seen recently with the number of students leaving Terwilliger. When all schools are effective, we can then keep all schools at or below capacity, instead of having some very under-enrolled schools and some very over-enrolled schools. Having effective schools all over the county will also save us from having to close schools that are very important to our communities.
The County Comprehensive Plan, the land development code, and school concurrency provide specific voices for the county commission in placement and capacity. However, the school board is a ultimately responsible for both capital and operating budgets. The best way the county commission can help is by identifying shared use and funding of buildings and grounds.
Every family and neighborhood depend on quality public schools for their well-being. Closures of schools (such as in Waldo) hit hardest areas those areas that are already struggling with multiple issues. Here again, the county commission should be a strong advocate for cooperation so that schools are not alone in addressing community decline.
Our state government is doing all it can to force local governments to take more fiscal responsibility for the operation of its schools. Charter Schools have received equal footing to the public meaning more funding away from our public schools.This puts more pressure on local city and county leaders to address unfunded mandates with more responsibility for decision making particularly as it comes to raising money to address the needs of children. As municipalities expand, more input must come from the schools boards as they access help from local governments. Florida’s population continues to grow and developers must partner with the community by working within the boundaries of our County’s. Comprehensive Plan. The controversial grading system used by the state for teachers and school administrators has drastically changed the way students choose their schools and shifts student populations away from closer neighborhood schools. School closings can result of this shift endangering Communities and the civic pride that is built around their schools. I have been vocal in my support for keeping schools in their communities . When schools are unsuccessful it will be difficult to attract the businesses Florida seeks. Our legislators have failed to see the connection and so it must fall to local leadership to keep that focus.
3. School Facilities/Equity
What role does the County Commission have in working with the School Board to make Alachua’s public schools equitable and exceptional in facilities and programs for all Alachua families and communities?
It is a bedrock principle of our republic that government should treat all citizens equally and fairly. As your County Commissioner, you can be confident that I will work towards a government in which every person in Alachua County can be confident will treat them equitably. I will be a voice for more options in education, options that empower parents to have a say in their child’s future and education.
This comes back to parts of the previous questions I believe. The school board’s budget is mostly a state decision.
Voters have some say in taxes and fees that could be implemented to supplement the budget. I do believe county commissioners should make themselves readily available to work closely with the school board and the superintendent as often as possible, but it is important to respect their job and work with them instead of trying to intercede where it is not appropriate. Equitable schools and exceptional facilities and programs should be a priority for all, regardless of their role. We have a gross inequity that needs to be adjusted. Our role as a commission (or specifically as individually elected commissioners) is to be available to work with the school board as the opportunity arises and the school board requests. This starts with building positive, open relationships.
All government agencies need to be held accountable for monies being spent wisely and in the areas where they are needed most. A great concern in Alachua County is the small tax base, which affects the support given to schools
I believe the best role for the County Commission is to support the School Board in 1) creating high quality and innovative programs in every low enrollment school; and 2) providing improved access to high quality programs for children who are struggling–including mentoring, afterschool, and summer. County staff and the County Commission should help the schools seek Federal, state, local, or private grants for innovative programs. I strongly support both the school facilities sales tax and children’s trust, precisely because they provide resources for this.
The Comprehensive Plan of Alachua County lays out the role that the Commission plays in making sure that the work force is properly educated and addresses poverty through providing educational opportunities. I was most excited to see this as I have been questioned as to how my experience as a teacher would be used on the Commission. I am determined to call the Commissions’ attention and responsibility to work with the School Board whenever needed. If this includes funding to help supplement our school board’s budget to maintain buildings, there are avenues through which this can be done. Transportation for after school programs can be addressed by aligning the school board to our public transportation system. We must learn to interface agencies whenever possible. The county has a vested interest in educating our workforce.
4. Teacher Shortage
Our school district is the 3rd largest employer in the county. How concerned are you about teacher shortages? How can you work with our current school district personnel and CTE programs to enhance their efforts to attract and retain quality teachers?
While Alachua County has moved up the ranks in terms of teacher pay, we still sit towards the bottom of the middle compared to other counties in Florida. It is a shame that despite the presence of a world class university with a teach college, we have trouble attracting and retaining talent. As your County Commissioner, I will work to make Alachua County a more attractive place to live and work for everyone, by working on policies that will reduce the cost of living here. I will work to find innovative solutions to spending issues, like partnering with business and activist groups to provide services to free up tax dollars for other areas. I am a proponent of career and technical education and I think we best serve our students by providing a number of tracks for furture success.
The budget and personnel are governed by the state. I am deeply concerned about the shortages and the pay as any concerned resident would be. Our number one focus as a community should be the next generation. The best opportunity for their success is to have the best teachers, the best programs and the best facilities anywhere. What I can do as an individual is build relationships with the school board members and the superintendent to discuss ideas and opportunities as they request. Good ideas can come from many different places. As a commissioner, I can work hard to make sure that we create an environment where quality of life issues are added bonuses that are attractive to potential teachers to consider Alachua County. We cannot directly impact salaries, but we can focus on quality of life issues. We also can work to create economic opportunities in areas that are ripe for growth where there are shortages. As businesses and families move to the areas, the tax base increases (and diversifies) and the opportunity for new schools or improvements to schools in those areas become more likely.
The teacher shortage should be of great concern to everyone. As a former educator myself, I am concerned about the direction K-12 education has taken. Teachers are leaving the profession because the legislature has interfered in areas that should be left to school boards, schools, and individual teachers. Again, economic development leads to improved quality of life, which is important in attracting and retaining teachers.
I believe we attract excellent teachers; our greater challenge is retaining them. I would advocate community partnerships to provide curriculum and fieldtrip support to teachers and classrooms. Over the last two years, Friends of Little Orange Creek Nature Park obtained private funding to provide 800 4th graders from public schools in eastern Alachua County a free field trip to the park. I worked with the teachers and principal at Williams Elementary to have them included—and saw the incredible boost of enthusiasm this gave to teachers & students alike.
I would also look for ways to show teachers we are all in this together. Alachua County and the City of Gainesville both operate internal training and education programs for staff—all premised on the value of lifelong learning. Perhaps we could find ways to open these programs to teachers.
Teachers dedicated to impacting children–and especially issues of social equity and racial justice. I am a proponent of both the sales tax for improved facilities and the children’s trust. Support from parents and community, as expressed by passage of one or both would be a strong vote of confidence and a morale boost for our teachers.
I am very concerned about teacher shortages and know that much of this can be attributed to what state legislators have done to gut public funding and to attack teacher retirement and tenure. I still substitute and volunteer knowing full well the stress of teaching, trying to spell teachers who struggle daily. Currently, our society is producing more disfunctional families resulting in children who bring trauma issues to school that interfere with the learning process. The job of educating children has become so extraordinarily complicated that recruiting is difficult. Increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, making affordable housing available to teachers and working families and increasing transportation options makes it easier to keep teachers here working in a healthier and happier economic community. Children that are well fed and cared for are better able to learn and participate in the classroom and give our teachers the sense that they are successful in their chosen profession.
5. PTA/Community Involvement
How can the PTA assist you in your work at improving communications with families and improving our public schools?
The single best indicator for success in parental involvement in their child’s education. As parents and teachers who have donated the time to work on improving education, your insights in how to increase engagement and bridge the gap is essential. Another thing the PTA can do for the county is to have a presence at County Commission meetings. I am sure the PTA is deeply involved in school board meetings, but there are decisions that impact our schools and education in Alachua County at the Commission as well, and frequently we may not know what those impacts are without citizen engagement.
This might be my favorite question. The PTA has so much value as it represents parents who care. No matter how good the teachers, the facilities and the programs are, it starts at home with parents. One big way the PTA can help is encouraging every resident to vote for the CST. Parents need to be actively involved in their kids lives and commissioners, school board members, volunteers, parents and administrators need to be working together and communicating regularly to address all issues early and find solutions to our problems.As far as helping me specifically, I believe the best commissioner is one who is approachable and accessible. When elected, I hope to set up community meetings monthly so that parents and teachers can make sure their voices are heard and their concerns are shared. The PTA could be a driving force in helping to set these meetings up at schools and be the facilitator so that we maximize attendance. Every person was born with one mouth and two ears. I hope to maximize that and listen to the community far more than I speak so that I can truly hear their concerns and find solutions with their input to make a difference.
I believe the PTA has a very important role in encouraging families to become more involved in their children’s education. Getting families involved in school activities can only lead to higher achieving students.
My wife Ondine and I are big believers in PTA, and have been active PTA members throughout our children’s education. Anything the county-wide PTA can do to share best practices among schools’ PTAs would be helpful. Our community also has an innovative culture of storytelling, podcasts, and fun activities, and I would welcome ideas from PTA of how we can better tap into that for the benefit of our kids and our schools.
The PTA is crucial in making sure that our successes are as well documented as our failures. It is my goal to join the Commission to keep the focus on the needs of all our children and to provide the opportunities outlined by our Comprehensive Plan. We continue to be a divided community because of the inequities we have documented in student success rates. We must keep our attitudes positive and moving forward. The PTA is the best vehicle to revive our hopes for the education our children and renew our faith in public education because this organisation presents itself as neutral and parent committed.
State Senate and House of Representatives
All of Alachua County lies within State Senate District 8.
No responses were received from the following candidates: Charles Goston (independent), Keith Perry (republican).
Alachua County is divided into three House districts: 10, 20 and 21. The race for District 20 has concluded, as there was only one candidate. Residents will vote for either district 10 or 21, depending on their area of residence. Click here to find your district.
No responses were received from the following candidates: State House District 10 – Chuck Brannon (Republican), Merrillee Malwitz Jipson (NPA), Marc Vann (Republican); State House District 21 – Chuck Clemons (Republican)
1. Privatization of Public Schools
The Florida legislature has passed a number of laws in recent years that allocate a significant amount of funding to charter schools and private school vouchers. Do you feel that’s the best use of tax payer dollars? Why or why not?
I do not feel that this is the best use of taxpayer dollars. We need to make sure that every child in Florida has access to the best possible public education. This can only be done by ensuring that our schools, students, and teachers have the resources that they need to succeed, and not by diverting resources elsewhere.
I know that it is not the best use of taxpayer dollars. Taxpayer funds should be restored to our public schools. I generally disagree with using taxpayer money to send children to private, for-profit schools, though there is a place for certain charter schools. I have always thought that if we do fully fund our public schools, we wouldn’t have the need for charters. We should allow schools and teachers to experiment, like many charters do, with different research-based teaching and learning methods. Some of the research that I do at my day job is related to the science of teaching and learning and how to best present information to students for retention and achievement. Our public schools will be improved if those at the state level gave our schools the encouragement to follow best practices.
No. It should all go to public schools. Close discrimination.
Yes. I Pastor a congregation in Lake City, Florida, in which I incorporated a Private School, Greater Heights Academy: Day Care Center and K-12 School with a purpose of aiding families in the community and surrounding areas. The funds receive does not go far enough to effectively staff and educate children without significant contributions and/or decreased expenditures. I support school choice especially with the parental feedback for wanting their children to be educated.
I do not think this is a wise use of taxpayer money. While I think that charter schools and
vouchers can be a part of a healthy public education system, the current system has only served
to siphon away nearly $1 billion dollars from Florida public schools, with little measurable
benefit to students. In areas where the local school district is not meeting the needs of
particular students, charter schools and/or vouchers can be a useful option, but this option
should be the exception, not the rule. As a state representative, I plan to focus on using taxpayer
money to give public schools the resources they need, and reducing/limiting the amount of
taxpayer money being transferred to private or charter schools.
I oppose using money raised from taxes meant to be directed to public schools being reallocated
for private or for-profit charter schools. Voucher programs drain already sparse funding for the few
resources available to public school educators and public school students. The best use of taxpayer
dollars is fully funding public schools, properly paying educators, and responsibly investing in new
infrastructure and supplies for student use.
2. Per Student Funding
Local taxpayers have expressed a strong desire for increased funding for public schools to support such things as facilities improvements, teacher salary increases, and additional resources to meet the needs of every student. Do you support an increase in the base allocation of public school per student funding? Why or why not?
I do support a base allocation in the base student allocation, I also believe that such allocations should not be tied into programs such as the arming of teachers. We need to increase teacher pay, improve our infrastructure, and provide vital services like wraparound services, that starts with increasing funding.
I absolutely support an increase in the base allocation of public school per student funding. We must fully fund our schools. When I was a teacher at Howard Bishop Middle Schools I remember entire classrooms were shut off because they had fallen into disrepair and had mold growing on the walls. Unfortunately, not much has changed because the state is funneling money into for-profit charters. As we increase the base allocation, I would oppose efforts to attach strings to it so that it can be only spent in certain ways. Administrators, teachers, and parents know the needs of our schools the best and should be provided the resources to meet those needs.
Yes. Education in FL has suffered hard in the last decade. Need revenue from morethan just ad valorum to do it.
Increasing allocations is situational. Funding at schools are predicated on the decisions at the school district level along with school board members. Some districts seem to operate efficiently and are fiscally sound. Increasing funds does not always make programs reliable or building projects done sooner rather than later. Therefore, district development should be soundly strategies for development in all areas.
Yes, I support an increase in the base allocation of per student funding. It is clear that there is a
need for additional funding for things like facilities improvements, teacher salary increased, and
resources to meet student needs, and that voters support this increased funding.
I support an increase in funding per student through meaningful investments in programs and resources
that directly improve the quality of education. This includes funding new technology as well as ensuring
funding for arts programs. The goal of the Florida k-12 education system should be to produce well
rounded students prepared for their next steps in their career. Additionally it is time that our schools
reinvest in vocational programs in existing schools the way in which magnet programs are tied to
existing schools. All of these initiatives require funding which we can source through properly allocating
funds to education spending as the Florida Legislature in addition to increasing per student funding
across the board.
3. Facilities Funding
Years ago, the amount of Capital Outlay Funding the state provides to districts that can be used for new buildings and facilities improvements was capped at 1.5 mils. Would you vote to increase this back to 2.0, as it was in pre-recession years? Why or why not?
Yes I would. The millage decrease was meant to be a temporary relief following the recession and has not been restored in the following years. This is irresponsible and now our students and communities are facing the harsh realities of inadequate funding. We need to bring the cap back to its pre-recession level.
In Alachua County I sit on the School Planning Advisory Committee and I see first hand that the struggles I dealt with have not gone away. Facility problems can plague a whole school, distracting teachers from teaching and students from learning. We must do better. I will fight for additional state funds for this purpose.
No. Only property owners pay for the increase (ad valorum). Most property owners I know do not have children. Why should they be the only ones to bear the burden?
Increase funding is situational. Currently, there were decisions made to engaged into a trade, which has increased the cost of materials within the United States as well as the uncertainty of national leadership changes. Although our economy is thriving, it is wise to stay any increased funding in building and facilities improvements until a future date.
I currently work as a civil engineer in the facilities management field at the University of Florida
and in that capacity I have seen the toll of deferred maintenance. Raising the milage for Capital
Outlay to 2.0 is a good start, but may not be sufficient to relieve the backlog of deferred
maintenance on our facilities. I support raising the milage to at least 2.0 mils, but ideally it
should be set to a rate that enables districts to responsibly maintain and re-capitalize their
facilities, whether that is 1.75 or 2.5 mils.
I would vote to increase this back to 2.0 mils to fund the construction of new buildings and to ensure
that our facilities are not outdated. With Florida schools getting a D- on the 2016 American Society of
Civil Engineers Report Card, we need to reinvest in our schools. Currently the average age of our schools
is 29 years, the $2 Billion in lottery funds allocated in 1997 has dwindled and been directed away from
educational infrastructure, and only 42% of our schools are designated hurricane shelters, which
suggests that the remaining 58% do not meet structural standards to weather hurricanes. We can do
better and we need to do better.
4. School Closures/Local Decision-Making
State law under HB7069 passed in 2016 placed 90 schools within our state under special scrutiny and risk of closure in the 2017-2018 school year. Do you see any need to change this law and the impact on local school districts and the wider community? Do you think the state of Florida should make school closure and capacity decisions?
There are very few parts of 7069 that should remain law (mandatory recess being one of those). I believe that we should not be using school closures as a stick to push for change in our schools. Instead we need to be giving them the resources that they need to improve such as wraparound services. I think that school closure and capacity decisions should be made at the school board level.
I am all for recess and recreational learning. However, I would not have supported HB 7069 and will actively work to repeal it. Our schools have been struggling to fund repairs as it is and this bill just makes it more difficult while giving a taxpayer funded handout to private, for-profit, out-of-state, so called education companies. We should have legislation that supports our public schools AND provides children with the best learning environment possible.
We need to change HB7069. The State does not know, nor care about, the needs + resources available to the local district and should not be allowed to make closure and capacity decisions
Florida State should have the right to act in capacity and I see no need in changing HB7069.
In my view HB 7069 had more provisions in it that hurt public education than provisions that
helped public education. I think a wholesale repeal of HB 7069 would be more productive than
trying to fix what is wrong with it. I also believe questions of closure and capacity should be left
up to local school districts, not the State.
Rather than working to close schools that underperform the state should support schools so that they
do not fail the communities they serve. Through their actions the Florida Legislature has displayed a
negligence towards public education bordering on abuse through penalizing schools for
underperformance rather than identifying strategies and targets to revitalize these schools. Funding new
charter schools will not solve the problems of our underfunded, under-supported public k-12
institutions. I would repeal and replace HB7069 which has been poisoned into a corporate welfare
spending bill through the guise of Florida Education. Additionally, I believe that the state of Florida
should make school closure and capacity decisions, but through a system that is includes a participatory
approach from municipal government, school board, and community members.
5. High Stakes Testing
Many local parents have expressed frustration with the amount of state-mandated tests their students take, and the way the tests are used to determine high stakes decisions such as teacher evaluations, student retention and school closures. How would you address this frustration? What are your views on state assessments?
We need to reduce testing. I believe that the current system of high stakes testing has a negative effect on the academic performance and mental health of our students, particularly minority children. I believe that assessments should be developed in conjunction with individual school boards and local teachers based on the unique challenges that exist in each district.
My research and educational background has informed me of testing and what works and doesn’t work. Standardized test scores are flawed at best and invalid at worst. A teacher’s livelihood should not be determined based on how a student performed on one day of the school year. I will fight to end high stakes testing and move toward a holistic approach to evaluating schools, teachers, and students that isn’t dependent on the conditions of a single day or single test.
Stop most of the testing. Standardized Tests do not measure all the things or ways a student learns. Tests do not measure resources available to a school.
I will support measures to reduce the need for state mandated tests. Mandated test can be challenging to students, teachers, and schools. It appears that many people on different levels want to understand problems that persists with educational delays in students and schools. Then chart appropriate course(s) towards correcting these delays. There are students that graduate with certificate of completion, which prevent them from important career opportunities. I developed many young people from different educational systems around the United States and there’s one fact I learned. Young adults learn in different ways and different times, but when they understand it, they grasp it, and take off educationally. Education will happen, but it must be given time and test will not necessarily be an accurate instrument of gauging understanding of a subject.
As a parent with two children in public schools, I too am frustrated with the amount of
state-mandated testing. Student progress should be measured, and teachers and local school
boards should be held accountable for helping students succeed. That being said, the current
climate of high-stakes testing has been deeply counter-productive. Any mechanisms for
measuring student success for accountability purposes should meet the following principles:
1. Any measurement should be based in sound, current, and peer-reviewed research.
2. Metrics for accountability should be developed at the local level.
3. Measures of student success should be developed with meaningful input from teachers
and their unions.
4. Student success measures must take into account social and emotional development,
not only simply a quantitative measure such as a test score.
5. Any measure used for accountability purposes should be used by districts and
administrators to help identify and focus additional resources for teachers to help every
student succeed, not as a tool to harass, intimidate, or threaten teachers.
I support entirely ending high-stakes testing for Florida students. Rather than forcing our students to
cram for tests and forcing our teachers to teach to a test, we should empower our students to learn
skills necessary for success in the classroom and in the adult world after the classroom. Georgia ended
high stakes testing and invested in reintroducing vocational and career technical pathways as
alternatives to a collegiate pathway for students. This change facilitated a transformation in Georgia
schools and students. These tests are not accurate measurements of students’ potential, success, or
learning over the course of their academic careers and are poor metrics to grade schools by. Schools
should foster and measure academic growth in students to demonstrate their ability to educate the next
6. School Safety
In what ways could the Florida legislature better support school safety and funding?
We need to ensure that resources for school hardening and school resource officers are available to our districts. We also need to significantly increase our funding for mental health programs statewide. School funding should never be tied to a school districts decision to arm teachers.
We must take a broad look at the issue of violence in our society. As we have with one shooting after another, gun violence is a problem for our communities and our schools. We need common sense gun safety legislation that would, at a minimum, mandate universal background checks with stronger red flag policies. I do not believe in putting guns in the hands of teachers or any other school personnel other than a sworn law enforcement officer; this would make our schools more dangerous rather than less dangerous. There are other ways to increase security at our schools such as designated points of entry, staffed during hours when students are arriving, keyless locks, and/or closed circuit security cameras. However, I would caution against turning our schools into miniature prisons. We must find a balance.
Stop screwing around with the funding. Put rocks in all halls + class room, security cannot be everywhere at once. Legalize marijuana, use the money for perimeter cameras; hi-tech security, body rear cameras on LEO’s.
In March 2018, Governor Rick Scott today signed SB 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act and the legislation made momentous reforms to make schools safer, in attempts to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill and dangerous individuals.
The Florida legislature can better support school safety in a number of ways, including:
1. Oppose the arming of non-law-enforcement personnel on school properties.
2. Provide sufficient Capital Outlay funding to make physical security upgrades, if needed.
This is not to say that the State should encourage the “hardening” of our schools to
make them prison-like, but some facilities can be made safer through physical
3. Provide dedicated funding for school resource officers that does not detract from the
budgets of local school districts or local law enforcement agencies. School resource
officers should be specially trained, with continuing training on the differences between
law enforcement and physical security in schools and law enforcement in the broader
community so as to not contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Content for item The guardian program to put guns in schools is a terrible idea that I will work to dismantle, and turning
schools into fortresses is not the solution to keeping our students safe. Instead, working to ensure that
firearms do not end up in the wrong hands should be the first step the legislature takes to protect our
schools. The legislature can ban assault weapons, close existing loopholes, create a domestic violence
registry which must be checked before firearm purchases (due to the strong correlation between
domestic violence and gun violence), and integrate our background check system with other states The
legislature can ensure that each classroom has kits to ensure students do not bleed to death before they
can receive medical attention in the unfortunate event of a shooting. Additionally, an integrated
statewide system for ensuring that red flags for potential school shooters do not go unchecked will
prevent shootings before they can happen.
7. Children’s Mental Health
In what ways could the Florida legislature better support mental health programs in schools?
We need to expand Medicaid to allow for more federal funding to come in and assist with Florida’s woefully underfunded mental health programs. We should also readdress the state’s bullying policies to ensure that it reflects current social media use and discrimination towards LGBTQ youth. I would also support suicide prevention programs in our school districts similar to what Broward County enacted through a State appropriation in 2017.
It is the right step that the legislature increased funding for mental health counselors in the MSDHS Public Safety Act. But it should not take a school shooting in Florida for this to happen. We need to take a proactive and preventative approach instead of a reactive approach. The legislature can further increase funding for these supportive counselors. But what is desperately needed is a healthcare system in which a child, regardless of income, is able to have full access to health care needs.
Florida’s entire mental health system needs an overhaul. More counselors and facilities (ones that are not the county jail) are needed to improve access to help.
Provided more funding in treating mental health programs. Florida is last in this endeavor, so we need to make up difference.
The Florida legislature can better support mental health programs by mandating -and providing
funding for – schools be staffed with an appropriate number of mental health professionals, as
well as providing mental health training to teachers and school staff. This should include not
only mental health counselors, but also social workers.
Florida currently ranks 51st out of 52 American jurisdictions in per capita mental health spending.
Addressing the problem begins with fully funding the resources necessary in our schools and lasting
change requires emphasizing the importance of mental healthcare through curriculum. From mandating
that a standard for early childhood education be curriculum teaching our youngest students to connect
emotions they feel to the name of the emotion, to ensuring that in middle and high school classrooms
there are requirements that students learn about taking care of their mental health and resources
available to them. A constant educational emphasis on being a balanced student is crucial to changing
societal attitudes and elevating the importance of mental health. Additionally, at all levels of education
ensuring that students have access to certified professional mental health counseling if necessary is
another step the legislature needs to take.
8. Statewide Teacher Shortage
Florida is experiencing a widespread teacher shortage. How would you address this?
We need to start by increasing base funding to allow for better teacher pay and benefits. We want to be able to attract the very best teachers possible and provide for the incentives for them to stay.
RAISE TEACHER PAY! This isn’t the only solution, it’d be a great start. One of the main reasons I left teaching was because I couldn’t afford to pay my student loans on a teacher’s salary. And teachers often buy supplies out of their own pockets, work extra jobs, and aren’t guaranteed a position from one year to the next. Providing teachers enough funds to supply their classrooms along with increasing their benefits, including a continuing contract, would make teaching a much more attractive profession. This is not just the best way to increase the teaching workforce, it’s the right thing to do. It’s time our teachers were treated with respect and as the professionals they are.
Teacher shortage: better pay, better benefits, and job security. See responses to #5 and #6.
The overall educational system must improve. Teachers will stand in line for something that they want to be part of. Great education and terrific morale in students and staff.
I think the solution to the teacher shortage is two-fold.
1. The legislature should stop blaming teachers for whatever perceived ills there are in
public education, stop vilifying teachers’ unions, and return the profession of teaching
to the position of respect it once had in our society.
2. Pay teachers a better wage so they aren’t faced with the choices of taking second and
third jobs to provide for their families or leaving the teaching profession altogether for
better paying career paths.
We can begin to address this issue by paying teachers the higher wages they deserve first and foremost.
Beyond that, the legislature, through improving infrastructure and in-classroom resources, can empower
teachers with the tools they need to adequately prepare our students for their next steps in their
educational or career pathways. And by ending high-stakes, for-profit testing we can attract the most
dynamic educators from across the country to come to Florida where they can pursue their career in
educating the next generation rather than being bound to teaching to tests. The legislature can also
create a program to attract talented new educators by paying off educators’ college debt in exchange
for a guarantee of staying with Florida Public Schools for a requisite number of years.
9. Supporting Undocumented Students
Our current immigration policy has placed thousands of children, both natural US citizens and undocumented, in situations without parents or adequate guardianship. Would you propose any special consideration of support for these children and the school districts that are serving them? Why or why not?
One of the largest fears that immigrant families have when sending their children to school is that some how it will put them in a position where they will end up facing prosecution for their immigration status. We need o ensure that our schools are safe places for students to learn, and that parents can fully participate in their children’s school lives.
Children inhumanly separated from their families require many more resources than a child with an intact family. Trauma has an impact on a child’s learning and emotional development. The children in these situations need to be provided social workers and counselors who are concerned with their well being instead of ICE guards.
No. There are thousands of children without adequate guardianship; children that are not tied into the immigration issue. Cannot do for one what we am not willing to do for another.
Making provisions for these children are necessary and I will support legislation to aid these children and school districts.
Some children are separated from their parents – regardless of whether they are separated due
to immigration status or other circumstances like incarceration. These children need additional
support beyond what typical students might need, and I think public schools are uniquely
positioned to make the greatest impact on the lives of these children. I would support special
considerations to school districts that are serving these students.
When children are left without guardianship, it is the role of the state to step in and ensure that they
have and receive the resources they need to succeed academically so they can go on to become
independent adults through pursuing their education and/or careers after graduating high school. This
support should include scholarships, mentorship, and guidance at the very least as far as educational
support is concerned. Regardless of immigration status, regardless of background it is the responsibility
of the state to ensure that no one is getting left behind.
10. PTA/Community Involvement
How can the PTA assist you in your work at improving communications with families and improving our public schools?
I could use as much public support in this election as possible. My Republican opponent Keith Perry has taken numerous votes in favor of policies such as HB 7069 and HB 7055 which have been extremely detrimental to our schools, I want to make sure that parents are aware of this, and that I provide a much better alternative for the future of education in Florida.
In my campaign, I have held multiple teacher themed events designed to specifically reach out and discuss the concerns about our schools and public education system. When I have the honor to serve, tI would continue these teacher and school discussions. It’s important to me that we not just advocate for our teachers and schools during election years but every single year, every single month, and every single day. One of my top priorities as a State Senator will be to ensure that teachers, educators, support staff, students, and parents are heard in Tallahassee. As such, it’s important for the PTA to continue its advocacy role and continue fostering communication between those with boots on the ground and policy makers.
Don’t know. I have no children.
Feedback to legislators is necessary because it aids in the development of policy. Especially since, this feedback is coming from the front lines of our educational system. PTA should be present and involved in educational communities.
If elected to House District 21, the PTA can help me in my work in several ways.
1. Provide a means of communication between my office and families.
2. Keep me abreast of issues facing local schools.
3. Help me advocate with my fellow lawmakers on behalf of students, teachers, and
families on important education issues
Through constant input and through connecting families to the initiatives that the legislature is pursuing
in order to reinvest in our schools and our students, the PTA can help transform Florida schools for the
U.S. Senate and Congress
All of Florida falls under one representation for Senate. All of Alachua County falls under U.S. Congress District 3.
No responses were received from the following candidates: U.S. Senator: Rocky De La Fuente (republican), Howard Knepper (write-in), Michael Levinson (write-in), Bill Nelson (democrat), Rick Scott (republican), Charles Tolbert (write-in), David Weeks (write-in). U.S. Congress District 3: Judson Sapp (republican), Tom Wells (democrat), Ted Yoho (republican).
1. Family Engagement
The recently passed national education law (ESSA), directly ties funding to family engagement. How do you envision improving family and community engagement in all our schools under this laws? How will you work with PTA at the National, State, County, and Local levels to ensure better family and community engagement in all our schools?
Every Student Succeeds Act is the same repackaged, government over reaching ideology since 1965. It expands the federal government authority over the state. I don’t agree with standardized testing for our children. Every child develops and grows, differently. I will first propose legislation of eliminating ESSA and standardized testing, giving parents power and eliminating, lobbyist from education. Florida spends 19 million dollars a year on lobbyist. Those funds would be reinvested into our schools, providing the much needed resources of staff and student needs.
President Obama signed ESSA to replace NCLB in 2015. As a Member of the House of Representatives, I will make sure that states and districts should work to ensure that all students, including students from low-income families and students of color, have unbiased access to excellent educators.
ESSA provides grants to encourage meaningful engagement of parents and communities with schools. Collaborating with community based organizations and/or businesses that have a track record of improving family engagement will make a great impact on student outcomes. I will work with the national PTA to help facilitate these valuable connections through the safe and supportive school policy. This policy is in direct alignment with ESSA to help family engagement. ESSA can also provide funding for PTA trainers to help train the local community. Communities and schools are partners for a strong America.
2. Educator Professional Development
ESSA also changed the Title II funding model, which provides funds for the professional development of educators. What are your thoughts on Title II funding? How would you propose to assure teacher quality, professional development, and retention?
All teachers should be required to have continuing education, 10 hours per year in order to stay abreast of the changing technology. Eliminating teacher mandates would allow principals more power in the school system. Giving power back to the states, gives the power back to parents. Allowing teachers to be creative in the classroom and eliminating standardized testing would allow the expansion of creativity with teachers, parents and students.
I have heard that teachers are not getting paid enough. And that creates problem in retention of good teachers. Teachers’ salaries must be increased for retention of good teachers and the government must provide funding for continues professional development.
I know from experience that teachers need continuous professional development ESSA replaces the highly qualified teacher provision with new reforms. States may use Federal professional development funds to increase access to effective teachers for students from low income families and students of color. Paraprofessional and non-certified teachers are sometime highly effective teachers even though they are not qualified. These funds can help these non-qualified effective teachers to become highly qualified. Additionally, a reformed DOE can strive to work with outside agencies, organizations, and PTAs to provide the most comprehensive training for teachers to improve school effectiveness. The teach to lead program, a joint initiative aims to increase teacher effectiveness by providing more opportunities for teacher leadership. Teach to lead provides resources, facilitates stake holder consultations, and encourages professional collaboration. Title II improvement grants can be used among other things to improve teacher recruitment and retention and develop effective evaluation systems.
3. Supporting Undocumented Students
Our current immigration policy has placed thousands of children, both natural US citizens and undocumented, in situations without parents or adequate guardianship. Would you propose any special consideration of support for these children and the school districts that are serving them? Why or why not?
Currently, laws have been enforced, allowing homeless children to continue attending the school system they have been registered in. This can possibly be a huge expense on school budgets. All kids should be treated equal, the same amount of documentation that’s required for a US citizen to attend school, undocumented students. Open enrollment would be a great option to keep students with guardians and parents together.
Yes, I would propose special consideration to support these children and schools district. First of all children must be with their parents or guardians in order to have normal life and growth. Also all children require continues supervision, support and guidance in order to get proper education.
Yes. It starts with compassion. As a former educator in Miami, Florida; where many immigrants arrived on our shores at one time. We set up processing sites to carefully screen, evaluate, and place students in the appropriate settings. Teachers see their students every day so they have valuable insight into the lives and needs of their students. We must work with teachers to create individual plans that address the individual needs of every child. ESSA and Exceptional Student Education along with language support will be of great assistance to the schools and school districts.
4. PTA/Community Involvement
How can the PTA assist you in your work at improving communications with families and improving our public schools?
PTA is the best tool to bridge the gap between families and school. The government has taken over our schools, taking power from parents. Your votes will be your voice in this election. I am a write-in candidate, on the ballot in November. Our children are not required to write cursive anymore. In November, you will see Bill Nelson, Rick Scott and a blank line with a bubble. Fill in the bubble, write Jones on the line and cast your vote, for a past PTA president, who raised 70k for my kids school. Our job is to assist our educators, in educating the most important people in the country, our kids. #America’s kids 1st.
I am hoping that PTA would always keep me in the loop and keep me updated on any and all the issues related to school district.
Collaboration. I am a big believer in the power of collaboration and I know that if we work together we can create viable solutions to the problems that face our district. It is one of the goals of the federal government improving student achievement. One of my goals while running for office was to hold a listening round table with parents and teachers. I was not able to do so, but I plan told hold these intimately during my time in office.