Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Lynnhaven District seat on the Virginia Beach School Board up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The incumbent is noted. The answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting or for clarity. Our full 17-page voter guide is now on stands.
Carolyn T. Rye
Residence: Middle Plantation
Occupation: former corporate trainer & group insurance management consultant; former classroom teacher and private math tutor
Education: College of William & Mary, B.A. Government (Concentrations: History, Mathematics). Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison, NJ), Silberman College of Business, M.B.A., Management.
Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association, Virginia Beach Hospitality PAC and Hampton Roads Black Caucus
What are your specific qualifications for this office? Since my election to the Virginia Beach School Board in 2014, I have sought to ensure that every student has access to the quality instruction and resources they need to prepare for whatever paths they may choose upon graduation. I’ve relied on my experience in business training and management, in the classroom and boardroom, and as a parent of successful VBCPS graduates to thoughtfully approach discussion and decision- making. My tenure on our board’s Internal Audit and Policy Review committees have offered the opportunity for valuable insight and leadership. I humbly ask for your support on November 6.
Please refer to www.carolynrye.com for community experience/service.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it in office? My early adult years in New Jersey provided valuable insights into the unique circumstances of children with special needs, as friends and family alike became parents of children diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and Down’s syndrome, to name a few. As these children advanced through their school years, I was able to witness first-hand both the challenges they and their families faced, and best school practices that resulted in desirable outcomes.
I have remained a consistent advocate for our nearly 8,000 students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), as well as the additional 2,800 with 504 Plans. I applaud the strides VBCPS has achieved, but acknowledge we can and must do better. I was a loyal supporter of the citywide Special Education PTSA until such time that it disbanded in 2017. Our existing five-year Special Education Plan is an outgrowth of a consultant review I played a role in securing (and put forward by the Superintendent).
What are your other policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? I am committed to building on the successes of VBCPS while maintaining a focus on continuous improvement, with the division’s strategic framework, Compass to 2020, serving as the foundation for that work. Such work includes maintaining state accreditation for all 82 school test sites, and ongoing improvement for all students in key navigational markers such as SOL testing; SAT/ACT scores; graduation rates; AP/dual enrollment. It requires adequate student counseling and behavioral support, and sufficient teacher resources. It means allegiance to our VBCPS mission of empowering every student to become a life-long learner who is a responsible, productive and engaged global citizen.
It challenges us to align personalized and strategic digital teaching and curriculum with the “future ready” characteristics of our new VBCPS Graduate Profile (e.g.,communication, collaboration, resiliency, personal & social responsibility, etc.).
With the four Compass pillars in mind (high academic expectations; multiple pathways; social-emotional development; culture of excellence), my additional priorities include: ensuring school safety (see #5 below); seeing the multi-year universal full-day kindergarten implementation plan through to its completion in two years; maintaining a focus on employee compensation and benefits; continuing my leadership role in school board policy development as chair of the Policy Review Committee; expanding interscholastic opportunities by continuing to champion VHSL-sponsored varsity lacrosse; continuing to tighten student achievement gaps; finding a way forward to responsibly replace aging schools; reducing class size where needed (at the secondary level in particular); promoting physical and emotional student wellness. (Refer to www.carolynrye.com, “priorities” page, for details.)
Do you support the School Board’s decision to switch to a Latin honors system instead of class rankings and no longer honor a valedictorian or salutatorian? Yes, for these reasons:
- 77% of elementary and middle school parents who responded to a division survey voiced support.
- Our extensive array of academies and specialty programs creates an unlevel playing field based on program participation and accessible weighted credit options.
- Traditional ranking systems have been falling out of favor for decades. Nationally, well over half of high schools no longer report rank; Fairfax County is one notable example.
- Colleges are trending to a more holistic approach to admissions; GPA, curriculum strength, and test scores rank as top factors.
Please refer to my Virginian-Pilot guest column via https://pilotonline.com/opinion/columnist/guest/article_09d02012-3903-11e8-b50d-37b1688c76c3.html.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? While school safety has always been a priority for me, recent tragic events made it necessary to place additional attention on this subject. A Blue-Ribbon Panel convened by the Superintendent earlier this year analyzed VBCPS safety protocols; emergency preparedness and response; infrastructure and personnel; behavioral mental health. Overall, panel findings reinforced that VBCPS has a strong safety plan in place. I support our Superintendent’s efforts to proceed with panel recommendations that include buzz-in video com entry systems for all schools (completed three months ahead of schedule); redefined expectations for mental health personnel; improved training for security personnel. In October, the School Board appropriated $1 million of reversion funds to additional Safe Schools infrastructure items, including additional cameras and fencing, and relocation of certain school security desks. VBCPS remains actively engaged with the House Select Committee on School Safety & Security; a Security Update Plan from our new COO is anticipated.
Mary Watson Wales
Residence: Lynnhaven District
Occupation: Retired Teacher
Endorsements: Bill DeSteph and Victoria Manning have endorsed me; John Moss supports me
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I spent 30 years teaching high school English. When I am elected, I will be the only School Board member with 30 years of high school experience. Because I recently retired, the issues we need to address are very fresh for me. I have served on the following Boards: Virginia Children’s Chorus, Alanton Baycliff Recreation Center, North Alanton Civic League, and Linkhorn Bay Condominium. I also started the first National English Honor Society at First Colonial High School.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it in office? The most important issue in our school system is lack of accountability. Students must be held accountable academically and behaviorally. We address this first by supporting our teachers. Students need to be responsible for their work and understand that if they fail to complete their assignments that there are consequences. Replacing a zero with a 50 undermines accountability. I was told to pass 2 seniors who had failed my senior English class; this type of social promotion needs to end. Students must also be accountable for their behavior. Teachers need to have the ability to seek support from the administration when handling disruptive students. Consequences should be clear, consistent and fair.
What are your other policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? Financial responsibility should be a priority. Our school system is overspending when it comes to new construction. Many of the modern schools include a lot of glass features, 2 story foyers and curvy designs. This is an additional and unnecessary expense. Six basic brick designs could be built for the cost of one “Taj Mahal” school. The cost for teacher training could be reduced if we used people currently in the school system to provide workshops. Speakers are expensive to hire and often not engaging and relevant to the entire faculty.
Do you support the School Board’s decision to switch to a Latin honors system instead of class rankings and no longer honor a valedictorian or salutatorian? I do support the Latin System but not abolishing Valedictorian, Salutatorian and class rank. Our schools recognize our outstanding athletes and many of them receive scholarships. Our top students can also receive scholarships and some colleges and universities offer a full tuition to Valedictorians and Salutatorians. There is stress and competition in all that we do. We need to instill in children that there is pride in doing their personal best.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? We need to look at school safety models across the country and in particular schools that have been faced with school shootings. We should implement random book bag checks, have a tip line to alert the authorities of any potential threats, use a program known as Watch DOGS and consider evacuation as part of our safe school plan. Evacuating is something other schools are currently doing. For example, recently a school was on lock down, and the bus drivers were in the front of the school. They were told to stay on the bus with the door shut. They are sitting targets. They should have evacuated to a near by shopping center until it was safe to return to school.
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