Ed. note — The Independent News asked announced candidates for the Virginia Beach School Board Princess Anne District seat to answer an initial set of questions about issues. This appeared in print on Friday, May 25, during the edition distributed at this year’s Pungo Strawberry Festival. Responses to question have not been edited. The following responses appear in alphabetical order by author’s last name. We plan to do a more detailed set of questions closer to Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Paul F. Day
Neighborhood: West Neck Commons
Age on Election Day: 59
Occupation: Retired Police Officer
Phone number: (757) 717-3721
Social media: Facebook and Twitter.
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a retired Virginia Beach Police Officer, detective, school resource officer, and D.A.R.E officer who has also served as a substitute teacher and security officer in many of our elementary, middle and high schools throughout our great city. For twenty-seven years in our city as a police officer, I resolved conflicts and critical situations with our neighbors. I learned to value the diversity of our neighborhood residents. Despite their differences, we can meet the needs of all students while preserving their dignity. Consistency is important, but I will consider these varied norms when someone suggests a “one size fits all” school policy.
Following retirement, I was hired by VBCPS to work in our public school system – both in and outside of the classrooms. For ten years I observed classroom management and student behaviors. Once again, my training provided me with the skills to resolve conflicts before they escalated. At all levels, faculty, students, and parents have openly shared their praises and concerns about school policies and cultures with me. Having worked in different schools throughout the city, I see the need for clear expectations in both the schools and the overall school system.
I was proud to be held to high standards. I believe our students desire and deserve a structure that offers them that same opportunity. We can do this. I have already made that happen on individual and case-by-case levels. As a school board member, I, along with the members, can make this a city-wide reality.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it if elected? School discipline! I have seen students curse out teachers and threaten them with physical harm: without any ramifications. Technology can be a useful tool, but the use of cell phones and computers during class time has become a problem. Students text each other during class, watch movies and more, yet teachers feel powerless to enforce discipline. We need to support our teachers and staff.
A recent teacher survey in the fall of 2017 conducted by the Virginia Beach school division indicated that nearly one-third of students in Virginia Beach middle and high schools do not know the consequences of misbehavior. If boundaries are not set and consequences not given for breaking the rules, discipline problems will continue to worsen.
It is not the role of government to counsel students and teach them how to behave. That is the role of the parent. If the parent is notified of a student discipline problem and the behavior does not change, then ultimately the parent is the one responsible for the student’s actions, not the government. It is the role of the government to provide a safe learning environment for all students and to enforce the rules set forth by the School Board.
What are your three policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? School safety, student discipline, and grading policies. To focus on learning, students need to believe that strong and consistent procedures are in place to keep them safe. I am concerned that site-based management compromises our division’s discipline, safety, and grading policies. For instance, every VB school uses the effective Raptor System to check in visitors and volunteers, but safety protocol differs among schools. “Familiar faces” may even bypass the system? Where are the weak links? Your child’s school?
Police departments speak the same language. For lockdowns in our schools, there is no uniform code such as, um, “Lockdown!” What’s our code again?
We also need retired officers to supplement teacher’s and SRO’s many duties and consider using metal detectors beyond sporting events.
Students need a safe learning environment – both physically and emotionally – to enjoy and concentrate on the day’s learning activities. Discipline, as noted, provides a climate of safety when consistently enforced. A presence of retired law enforcement officers provides evidence of additional safety. Classroom and hallway disruptions are minimized, and structure can help defuse the threats that begin in a student’s mind.
Around the country – and here at the Beach – valedictorian and salutatorian awards are being threatened because our grading policies are a mess. Site-based management creates different grading policies among and within our schools. Teachers are burdened with conflicting edicts (often not put in writing): don’t give zeros or take off for late work, but maintain rigor. A student’s “A” may be another student’s “D,” and some believe charter schools provide an unfair advantage for high GPAs. The pressure for receiving high grades has shifted from the students to the teachers. Priorities and consistency are needed! Facebook posts do not change policies; come vote and make it a “DAY” to remember!
Neighborhood: Christopher Farms
Age on Election Day: 51
Occupation: School Board Member, Stay-at-home mom
Phone number: (757) 301-7988 (home) or (757) 619-3811 (cell)
Social media: Facebook (Kimberly O’Connor Melnyk)
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I proudly taught for Virginia Beach City Public Schools for 14 years. I have spent the last 4 years as the Princess Anne Representative on the School Board working collaboratively with division leadership, teachers, School Board colleagues, and community members. Because I do not work outside of the home, I have an abundance of time to dedicate to our community. I have visited all 86 of our schools and I understand the unique qualities that each school possesses. I have been a mentor at Green Run Elementary for 4 years, I serve on the Legislative Committee and the Governor’s School for the Arts Regional Board. Outside if the School Board I am on the Board of Directors for Virginia Musical Theatre, Board of Directors for The Republican Professionals Network and (along with my husband, George) a member of the Neptune Festival Court.
I also bring a business perspective to my role on the School Board. My husband and I own Premier Millwork and Lumber Company where we employee 55 skilled craftsmen and management personnel.I am also the mother of three, two of whom still attend VBCPS.
What to you is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it if elected? While I believe there are many issues facing schools, our number one priority should be school safety. I am proud of the efforts we have made with the implementation of a buzzer system at every school. We have a new Blue Ribbon Panel that consists of representatives from the Virginia Beach Police Department, officers from Oceana Naval Air Station, security experts, staff from the Child and Youth Services Division, principals and staff from our Safety and Loss Control Department. They are in the process of analyzing our current security practices and procedures and will provide recommendations on how to enhance the division’s work. It is unfortunate that safety has become a nation-wide problem, but it is imperative that we remain diligent in our efforts to keep our students and staff safe.
I am also acutely aware of the fact that our employees deserve an increase in compensation. We are facing a nation-wide teacher shortage and hiring and retaining teachers is becoming increasingly difficult. We must work together with the city to offer our employees a competitive wage and respect them for the professionals that they are.
What are your three policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? As a current School Board member I think it is important to point out the work we have done with our policies and bylaws. In early 2016, under the direction of Dr. Spence, we implemented the Policy Review Committee. Their role is to advise the Superintendent and School Board of the need to amend, repeal, adopt and/or merge policies. We now have a formal structure in place where both administration and school board members can request consideration of ANY policy or bylaw review at ANY TIME. Their work is also dictated by any legislation at the state or federal level that has school policy implications. I am particularly proud of the following policy/bylaw changes:
► Changed meeting schedule to avoid a conflict with City Council meeting dates.
► Increased the time limit for guest speakers from 3 to 4 minutes.
► Merged all existing Citizen Advisory Committee policies under one document, with a corresponding regulation that provides a formal process for the recruitment and appointment of citizens. We are currently reviewing applications from MANY citizens who are interested in serving on 3 of our citizen advisory groups.
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