Virginia Beach School Board District 6: Candidates spotlight

·4 min read

Michael Callan

Age: 69

Occupation: Financial Advisor/Owner, First Landing Financial

Previous Office Held: None

Education: St. Leo College, B.A. Business Management, Princess Anne 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 of the pandemic on students?

Teachers cannot cure this problem alone without parental involvement, and actions that were taken by the majority of the School Board members, and their unwillingness to return children to the classroom sooner, was terribly counterproductive. Facts have shown that schools were kept closed far too long, and that politics dominated the decision-making process, which was ill-advised. Now, teachers and parents should form a partnership to help students catch up on what was missed, and that different grade levels should employ different strategies to achieve this objective. For example, strategies needed for a second grader will be different than that of an incoming high school student. Bottom line: the virtual learning experiment was a failure and the Board should already have a strategy in place in order to address this. This is a major reason why I decided to bring a new voice with management expertise to the Board.

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

I think there is too much divisiveness amongst the current members of the school board, which is causing us to lose sight of the primary mission of the school system: i.e., providing an excellent education for every student. That education should be well-rounded, and one that entails instruction in reading, writing, math, history, philosophy, literature, and the arts and sciences. Additionally, every student should have a safe learning environment where they’re taught the principles surrounding “how to think” and not “what to think”. The current trend seems to be focusing less on learning the key subjects needed to be prepared for either college, or a career, and instead seems to be focusing more on sexuality and political agendas, which only proves to be a disservice to our students. In contrast to this perspective, I’ll bring a focus on academics to our schools again, and celebrate and applaud excellent academic performance.

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Sharon Felton

Age: 68

Occupation: Retired University Library Associate

Previous Office Held: Current Virginia Beach School Board Member

Education: Old Dominion University, B.S in History

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 of the pandemic on students?

We all have experienced the impact of the pandemic, and its disruption to the daily operation and functioning of public schools. I believe that the schools and school boards should take action like we did and continue to do in Virginia Beach to keep students engaged with the learning process by implementing extending learning opportunities for students, such as providing mobile devices for at home learning opportunities; partnering with local technology companies to provide access to internet; summer school sessions that are open to all students; and encouraging students to take classes for enrichment and extra credit opportunities for the upcoming year. In Virginia Beach, we were innovative in our approach to meeting the education needs of students and families.

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

I am, and will continue to be, a fierce advocate for livable wages for our educators and support staff. I believe that if we intend to attract, recruit, and retain the best minds in academia to help shape the young minds of our region, we need to start increasing teacher compensation. This can be addressed by continuing to bring awareness to the state, local, and federal governments to provide competitive salaries; providing support to staff who are pursuing a teaching license; expanding partnerships with local universities/colleges to increase the educator pipeline; exploring remote work opportunities for staff; seeking additional funding to increase the tuition reimbursement program; and continuing to apply for grants that support recruitment and retention efforts.