Chesapeake School Board special election: Candidates spotlight

·4 min read

Brenda Johnson

Age: 74

Occupation: Retired Revlon Representative

Previous Office Held: Chesapeake School Board 2004-2012

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?

After school programs to afford students with problems the opportunity to catch up on their studies. Will require additional funding for teachers to work extra hours and bus transportation.

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

Hiring enough personnel such as teachers, teachers aids, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and maintenance workers. Chronic shortages plague all areas and nationwide school districts. We must look not only at pay but also benefits and work schedules.

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Jeremy Rodden

Age: 40

Occupation: Author/Educator

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Holy Family University, M.A. Education, La Salle University, B.A. Religion/English Writing

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 all students have suffered some level of learning loss, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an existing and well-known (yet not well-addressed) problem with educational equity. Students who were already in at-risk categories have suffered a larger level of “learning loss” than their peers. Existing inequities in our schools were exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic and now there is an even wider equity gap according to research (PACE, Standford University). Further, while we work on “catching up” on learning (which is in itself a fallacy, but I digress) we need to focus more specifically on the social-emotional learning loss. Our children, especially those in the Middle School range, lost years of social development and need even more help recovering the developmental losses than they do academic ones. Mental health and guidance services need to be severely ramped up in our schools.

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

One of the key components of my campaign has been focusing on the communication breakdowns between the School Board, school officials, and parents. If we have learned nothing else from the struggles faced by parents and educators during the pandemic, it is that we need more transparency and open lines of communication across all channels. When School Board members make policy decisions without adequate input from parents, educators, administrators, and community leaders, the children are the one that suffer the most. We need to incorporate all levels of the citizenry in policy discussions and seek feedback and advice from experts in whatever subject we are discussing. School Board Members, just like every other elected official, are in a position to serve, not dictate. We need to remember that.

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Dana Cormier

Age: 54

Occupation: Longshoreman

Previous Office Held: None

Education: Great Bridge High School

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 nothing that can be done about the learning loss for students that occurred during the pandemic. Going forward, we need to learn from our mistakes and, depending on the severity of the next pandemic, children should remain in school.

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

The harassment of bus drivers, staff and teachers in the work place. I would investigate all incidents, determine who the guilty person is and hold them accountable through disciplinary measures.

Editor’s Note: Dana Cormier did not provide a photo.

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Norman Pool

Age: 63

Occupation: Chief Executive Officer

Previous Office Held: None

Education: B.S. Business Administration Healthcare Management, M.A. Executive 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?

I believe there are several things the school board can do to counteract the lingering effects of the pandemic on our students.

  • Assure student to teacher ratios are not excessive

  • Give students access to effective mental health care when needed

  • Provide necessary funding to administer programs that run effectively for students, teachers, and staff

  • Take time to listen to students, teachers, and parents to make sure we are providing exceptional services to all students.

  • Provide remedial services for students who need additional assistance.

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

Every student in our schools has dreams and aspirations of what they would like to become when they are older. College is not the answer for every student. I would like to see an expansion of vocational schools in order to provide our students greater options. If we can offer a broader venue to provide jobs and careers for our students, it will make them more successful in the future.