Chesapeake School Board: Candidates spotlight

·21 min read

Shirley Auguste

Age: 51

Occupation: Educator/Small Business Owner

Previous Office Held: Currently appointed member of the Transportation Toll Facility Advisory Committee

Education: Deep Creek High School; Piedmont Virginia Community College, A.S. Science; Virginia Commonwealth University, B.S; Regent University, M.A. in Management (double major - Human Resources: Organizational Change and Human Development), M. A. in Practical Theology, and Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Doctoral of Education from Capella University in Curriculum and Instruction with Distinction

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

The School Board’s responsibility is to support the superintendent to ensure that the schools get the support and funding needed to educate all of the students. The pandemic caused an unexpected wave of achievement gap. As a result, the best way to support the superintendent and the school system to counteract the lingering effects of the pandemic is to provide additional reading/writing and mathematics instructional support during the school day. Providing afterschool academic tutoring should be option for those having additional challenges. All of the additional academic support would require additional staffing and smaller class sizes. As a school board member, I would listen to what is currently being done or planned; provide feedback from my years of education experience, as needed; and support the allocation of funding to get all of this done.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

A pressing issue that the school board should address is the safety of our children and staff. Safety should be addressed by talking to Engineers and finding ways to stop intruders or those who would want to enter the school to do harm. The dangers are not in the schools, but from the outside.

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Blaizen B. Bloom

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Old Dominion University, Junior in Ocean and Earth Sciences

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

Without a supportive learning environment and quality teachers, our children will continue to fail in school. To that end, we must ensure that our students and educators have access to effective, wide-spread mental health resources. In the wake of post-lockdown recovery we must also revamp our discipline system to focus on proactive interventions by teaching conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques.

In addition to improving the work environment of our teachers, we must hire additional teacher assistants to help tackle growing class sizes. Until we can recruit additional educators through partnerships with local universities, we must work to support our current educators. This includes raising current pay and benefits to compete with other less-stressful career paths with similar education requirements, in addition to developing an induction program for first-time educators to help them ease into the teaching environment.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

My next priority is supporting Mental Health. This will include hiring additional support staff to have a 250:1 ratio of students to Guidance Counselors & Social Workers, and a 700:1 ratio for school psychologists.

Additionally, we need to provide annual screenings for mental illness starting at age 12 as is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If diagnosed, our professionals would work with families to address the condition including the development of effective IEPs & 504s, therapy, and connecting our families to community resources as needed to support the student.

Finally, we must expand our existing health curriculum to include educating the stigma out of mental illness. This program would be based on the “Eliminating the Stigma of Difference” curriculum shown to be widely effective in Texas at enabling students to identify and seek help for symptoms of mental illness they may be experiencing.

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Amanda Grace Dean

Age: 34

Occupation: Associate Partner at a Management Consulting firm, specializing in Supply Chain Digital Transformations

Previous Office Held: None

Education: George Mason University, B.S. with a double major in Marketing and Information Systems & Operations Management; George Mason University, MBA, with a concentration in Project Management

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

In order to counteract the lingering effects of the pandemic on students’ school boards will need to focus on removing political agendas from the classroom and creating an environment where students can get back to an academics first mindset. During the pandemic students were going to school with the burdens of the world on their backs and it started to create an anxiety driven system with no real focus on the education itself. The past couple of years have been filled with high degrees of ambiguity, constant change, and an immense amount of conflict. In order to ensure we can get back to the basics in our schools, and create an effective learning environment, school boards will need to set the example for how to effectively communicate, engage, and resolve conflict at the top. Our goal should be to ensure our students can become productive members of society and a strong academic foundation is where we begin!

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

School funding with a focus on budget allocation - The City of Chesapeake has allocated almost 50% of their operating budget to the school system, and therefore we need to get creative on how it is allocated. We need to start looking at the long-term growth trajectory of these schools and make sure we are investing now to protect the future. We need to ensure that we are exhausting the different funding avenues that we have available to us and creating strategic plans for how to sustain that level of fiscal responsibility from a year over year perspective. Taking a step back and looking at where we are today, and where we want to be 10, 15 years from now, should drive us towards a set of capabilities we aim to achieve within the school system. The sequencing of those capabilities, based on incremental value realization, should then drive the year over year allocation of funding. School funding and the overall budget is an area that has so much opportunity for growth, and the results will have a lasting impact on all students in the district.

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Malia Huddle

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired School Counselor, Oscar Smith High School; Current substitute teacher for Chesapeake Public Schools and ACCESS College Foundation

Previous Office Held: Chesapeake Commission for Substance Abuse, Past President of Chesapeake Education Association

Education: B.A. Old Dominion University; M.S. Ed. Old Dominion University

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

“Learning loss” due to the pandemic appears to be an issue for students across the globe. I believe that parents and schools will need to work together to help students regain the ground lost during the pandemic. Research seems to indicate that elementary students are regaining ground faster. Early indications are that they may catch up within three years while older students may take up to five years. School boards have access to American Rescue Plan funds that can be used for reducing class size, providing reading support, and offering targeted tutoring and enrichment programs to help students regain lost ground. Early research seems to indicate that these types of programs are working for students. Special attention should be focused on disadvantaged students and students of color as research indicates that they have experienced greater learning loss than their white peers. Community colleges and four year colleges may also need to provide similar support for students during the next few years as students impacted by covid enter their institutions.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers and educational support staff remains a pressing issue for schools across the country. We were experiencing a teacher shortage before covid. The pandemic exacerbated the problem. I believe school boards will need to consider a range of strategies to meet this challenge. Addressing school climate issues, enhancing salary and benefits. strengthening new teacher mentoring programs, and truly valuing teacher experience and education all have a role to play in recruiting and retaining education professionals.

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Michael K. “Mike” Lamonea

Age: 49

Occupation: Director at Juniper Networks; Retired Special Agent/Executive from the Department of Homeland Security

Previous Office Held: None

Education: B.S. University of Scranton

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

As a father of four children in Chesapeake Public Schools, I have directly witnessed the impacts of learning loss and believe that collaboration between schools, parents, and communities is vital to student success. In the near term, we must establish programs to enhance tutoring, at-home software availability, before and after school programs, and other educational support to counteract these effects. We must also continue to pursue additional teachers and smaller class sizes to create more effective learning environments; allowing Teacher Assistants and mentors/tutors to work one-on-one with individuals that require extra assistance. In addition, we must support the expansion of the Chesapeake Career Center. College isn’t for everyone and it’s not the only path to a successful future. Whether career-ready, Armed Forces ready, or college ready, we must enable students to pursue their passions and provide them with the tools to succeed.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

School safety is a top priority. As a recently retired Special Agent/Executive from the Department of Homeland Security, I have spent most of my life protecting children and others who are vulnerable from violence and exploitation. I have also held several volunteer leadership positions throughout our region in advocacy and defense of our citizens and was recently appointed by Governor Youngkin as the Chair of Virginia’s Human Trafficking Commission. My position has three main elements: 1) Infrastructure Security - safeguarding facilities, securing computer networks, and ensuring a reliable transportation system that is safe for both students and bus drivers; 2) Physical Safety - a system free from violence, drugs, and other illicit activities with appropriate educational opportunities on safety topics for students, parents, and staff; and 3) Emotional Safety - addressing the ongoing mental health crisis with resources to identify and support those in need of assistance.

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Bradley Moore

Age: 40

Occupation: Legal Assistant/Paralegal

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Tidewater Community College, A.S. Social Sciences; Old Dominion University, B.A. History, Children’s Rights minor

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

While some people would argue that this “learning loss” was directly caused by the pandemic, I believe the past few years only worsened existing gaps in student progress and achievement. Rather than pointing fingers, shifting blame, or even worse, ignoring these achievement gaps altogether (now more like fissures due to the pandemic), school boards can and should use this opportunity to first acknowledge, then learn from where they have fallen short in meeting the needs of students, their employees, and communities, even prior to the pandemic. It is also an opportunity for school boards to reevaluate how student achievement is measured, whether those systems and metrics (e.g. standardized testing scores) truly reflect the efficacy of particular modes of education (e.g. in-person, virtual, hybrid), and formulate strategies to improve upon district-level shortcomings. The only pathway forward, in my view, requires collaboration. Everyone needs to work together to address issues like these.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

As the parent of two Chesapeake Public Schools students and an advocate for Children’s Rights, I think one of the most important areas the school board should focus on is making sure that every Chesapeake Public Schools student feels seen and heard. We can achieve this goal by including students in the discourse when discussing major policy decisions, as these same decisions impact their day-to-day experiences in our schoolhouses. I would like to see at least one representative from the student body appointed by to school board to engage with and advise them regularly. Even more ideal would be a group of representatives, at least one from each high school, forming an advisory committee for the board to consult with. Such relationships would be mutually beneficial in that the board would receive invaluable feedback and students would gain firsthand experience working with their local government.

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Kim Scott

Age: 38

Occupation: Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, OB/GYN

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Tidewater Community College, Applied Science of Diagnostic Medical Sonography; Bon Secours School of Medical Imaging, Radiologic Technology; John Tyler Community College, Arts and Sciences for Transfer

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

Ensure that 5-day in person learning is ALWAYS an option.

Trust parents to make the best decisions for their child’s health in regards to masks/vaccines.

Renew strong academic standards and eliminate distractions from those who would try to impose social/cultural agendas rather than focusing on preparing our children for successful careers in their chosen fields.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

A natural byproduct of high parental involvement is: Stronger Kids, Stronger Schools, Stronger Communities, Stronger Nation. I am passionate about building and maintaining a strong partnership between school and home with healthy boundaries. Many parents and educators recognize that the boundaries between school and home have been blurred over the years by political agendas. It is time to restore those boundaries and renew a HEALTHY partnership between school and home. These boundaries protect the hearts and minds of our children as well as the relationship between educator, child, and parent. This will be a top priority for me as member of the Chesapeake School Board.

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Brittany Walker

Age: 32

Occupation: Current Partner Program Manager. Former Chesapeake Public Schools Teacher and Assistant Principal

Previous Office Held: None

Education: University of Kentucky, Bachelor’s Degree Elementary Education; Old Dominion University, Master’s Degree Educational Leadership; Old Dominion, Ph.D., Educational Leadership; Harvard University, Certificate in School Management and Leadership

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

First, we should ensure our schools have the resources and staffing they need to address the achievement gap that is present as a result of the response to the pandemic. It should be a priority of the school board to also ensure the resources are being utilized in the most efficient manner to have the highest impact on student achievement. Our decisions should be data driven and resources should be available and allocated appropriately as a result of the data analysis. Mental health resources and opportunities for children to learn/practice social skills should also be prioritized as these foundational life skills are critical for academic success.

Second, I believe strong partnerships with our families and community will contribute to addressing this learning loss. It is my desire for Chesapeake parents to know they are a valuable partner in their child’s education and together we can achieve greatness for all students.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

As a former Chesapeake teacher and assistant principal, teacher/staff recruitment and retention in the midst of a national teacher shortage crisis is something I am extremely passionate about. The reason I prioritize this issue is because I believe teacher/staff hiring is the number one action school leaders take that has the most direct impact on students. With my experience, I have a strong track record of always practicing student centered decision making and I strongly believe we must achieve this goal of recruiting and retaining the best talent to find the greatest success for our students. I am committed to supporting our educators by: 1) providing our educators with a positive work environment where they are valued, 2) building strong family/community partnerships to support our schools, and 3) advocating for continued competitive pay/benefits.

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Jennifer Economy

Age: 50

Occupation: Private investigator

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

There is now state and federal money being allocated to school districts to help deal with the learning loss that many students experienced because of the pandemic. School board members need to ensure that the money is being properly spent on adequate resources to improve student outcomes in education. School board members must get involved with their communities, their educators, their students, and their parents to find out what those needs are in order to prioritize the funding. Board members must also examine past decisions and determine if those decisions harmed students. If so, they should never vote in support for such measures again.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

Our Special Education Department has been failing families for years in our district with little accountability. Each Division is required to have a local advisory committee for special education (SEAC). School Boards are responsible for appointing members to the committee, reviewing reports, responding to recommendations, and appointing a school board representative to act as a liaison to local SEAC and attend SEAC meetings. I would like to be that representative in order ensure resources are being identified, plans are being implemented properly, and the needs of students with disabilities are being met.

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Gayle Gilmore

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired Guidance Counselor

Previous Office Held: None

Education: B.M.E, Virginia Commonwealth University; MsEd, Old Dominion University

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

  1. School boards suggesting that new S.O.L standards be set to offset loss time and instruction.

  2. Provide parents with more available resources such as tutoring, extra instruction and remedial assistance.

  3. Explore the possibility of year-round school

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

Teacher shortages. Teachers are the heart of our schools. Shortages have become more prevalent over the years, especially during the pandemic. Besides making sure teachers are paid and receive raises, teachers must be respected as the professionals that they are to preserve their mental well-being as well. In this way, we will retain and attract the best qualified teachers.

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Jared Miller

Age: 36

Occupation: Currently an E-commerce clerk at Kroger; medically retired from the U.S. Army.

Previous Office Held: None

Education: certification in automotive technology, Army leadership certifications

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

I believe the very first thing we need to do is become fully staffed again through proper hiring incentives, competitive pay, and ongoing learning opportunities for teachers. We must also remove distractions from the classrooms such as politics and cellular devices. The students are there to learn. Politics and electronics distract from the learning process. Also empower parents to help from home by working with them to benefit the students.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

My other primary concern is hostile and unaccountable school administration. I would adjust the bylaws to increase transparency and accountability while allowing direct contact with the schoolboard through open door and anonymous reporting policies. Please see The Public School Pledge (chesapeakepledge.com) for more on that and other non-partisan topics I have committed to. I would also add, I am not affiliated with any party.

Editor’s note: Jared Miller did not provide The Virginian-Pilot a photo.

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Kimberly Alameda

Age: 45

Occupation: Patient Access Coordinator Team Lead

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Associate degree

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

The school closures and COVID restrictions should not have lasted as long as they did, but that was primarily the failure of our previous governor. Our school board, however, is still culpable in the loss of learning and damages that the restrictions have caused our students. To counteract the effect it has had on our kids, we need to ensure every teacher and every child have the resources they need to overcome these losses. Textbooks must be made available to every student who needs one. Not every student can learn and absorb solely from the Chromebook. Chromebook teaching and virtual learning have added to and compounded the damaging effects of COVID restrictions. I would also seek out and encourage parent volunteers in as many classrooms as we could get. Parent volunteers could take some tasks off the teachers and allow teachers to provide one-on-one assistance to students during class time.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

There are too many pressing issues to address here, special education and gender narratives being two of them, but one concern that most parents are outraged about is the pornographic books housed in our school libraries. Explicit, inappropriate, pornographic books should NOT be in our libraries, readily available for our young kids to access. This material is X-rated in both language and illustrations, depicting very graphic, sexually explicit scenes, violent scenes, scenes that are extremely degrading to women, etc. These are books that are only found in the adult section or mature audience section at book stores. None of these books are available to kids in the children’s section. So why does our administration think it is perfectly acceptable and appropriate for this material to be readily available for checkout by students in our school libraries? I will work tirelessly to ensure that explicit, inappropriate, pornographic books are removed immediately.

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John McCormick

Age: 37

Occupation: Attorney & Owner of McCormick Law & Consulting

Previous Office Held: Chesapeake Planning Commission

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Government & Criminal Justice, Liberty University, Juris Doctor, Regent University School of Law

The pandemic, and the response to it, appears to have caused what has been called “learning loss” for students in all grades since 2020. What can and should school boards do to counteract the lingering effects on students?

A multitude of factors have contributed to learning loss, including school closures, staffing shortages, and mental health challenges. The school board must take a sophisticated and calculated approach to solve these challenges. First, there must be a continued emphasis on in-person learning. In general, remote learning is not as effective or productive as learning within the classroom. Second, staffing shortages must be immediately addressed in all areas of the city. Attracting and retaining talented teachers and administrators are vital priorities. Third, the school board budget must be thoroughly evaluated to make funds available that will assist in providing mental health resources to our children. It is critical that the school board prioritize mental health resources and is willing to make difficult decisions to fully fund a solution.

Please name one other pressing issue that the school board should address. How would you address it?

The entire nation is facing a devastating labor shortage and recruiting crisis, particularly in skilled trades, public safety, and our military. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy. The school board must prioritize further development and expansion of career and technical education programs. There must be a culture within the school system that celebrates and encourages a variety of careers for our students. As a small-business attorney, I intend to work with local businesses to grow their partnership with Chesapeake Public Schools. It is essential that we nurture the next generation to pursue careers in skilled trades, public safety, and military service.