Newport News School Board South District: Candidates spotlight

·4 min read

Terri L. Best

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired public school administrator

Previous office held, if any: Newport News School Board since 2018; vice chair of school board since August 2022

Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology, Hampton Institute; Master of Science in Educational Counseling & Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration, Old Dominion University; Doctorate in Educational Management, Hampton 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 of the pandemic?

School boards must do more than simply reopen schools. Boards must be knowledgeable on how ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief ) funds from the American Rescue Plan are being used for learning loss using evidence-based interventions. Boards must be well versed in adequate assessment because it is key and allows for targeting instruction. In addition, school boards must understand the impact of how mental health challenges, social and emotional well-being, if not addressed, results in lost instructional time. School boards must assure funding is used for teachers, counselors, academic recovery, mental health and safety measures such as improved ventilation. When ESSER funding is no longer available, school boards must be proactive to ensure schools continue to have adequate funding for teacher training and development that best meets students’ needs. School boards should also be open to new ways to educate students and take advantage of the opportunity to reimagine education systems.

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

School safety continues to be a pressing issue. School personnel should feel priority has been given to allow them to perform their jobs in the most up-to-date, healthy and secure environment possible. Parents must feel confident that logical thought, sound reasoning and consideration have been given to provide a secure environment for their children. Most importantly students thrive best when they feel safe, but in the least restrictive environment possible. Constant consideration must be in the mind of school board members when implementing policy to encompass the needs of all stakeholders including partnerships with public safety entities. School board members must be attentive to the particular needs of their communities, willing to listen to concerns and prepared to act on what is applicable to ensure schools are proactive regarding safety.

___

Marlon Pendergraft Sr.

Age: 37

Occupation: Fire Lieutenant

Previous office held, if any: none.

Education: High school graduate with some college

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 of the pandemic?

There has been a significant learning loss for our students. We must get back to the basics and focus on educating our children. Education and safety should be the priority. We need to value our staff and provide a work environment that is positive and safe. We must listen and stay connected. Our school system has the most vacancies in the area, and it’s hard to provide a proper education when there are so many missing pieces.

We must get back to being a unified community and working as a team. It takes a village to raise our children. We need to renovate Huntington Middle School and not relocate it. The legacy of this school is important to our community. The students were relocated when the school was closed due to maintenance issues which have caused schools to be overcrowded.

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

Mental health has been a significant issue in our schools and nation. We need to address the trauma that our children have experienced. We must also include our staff members because they are overworked and underappreciated. We first need to identify that a problem exists and connect families with the necessary resources like school counselors, psychologists, community resources and mentoring programs. Next, we can fight to make mental health awareness a part of our health curriculum. Intervention is key to preventing depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

Everett Eaton, 262-902-7896, everett.eaton@virginiamedia.com