THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Princess Anne 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.
Paul F. Day
Occupation: Retired Police Officer
Military Service/Education: United States Navy, B.S. Criminal Justice.
Endorsements: Vicky Manning, current school board member, Carolyn Weems, current school board member, and Robert Dean, former city council member
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a retired Virginia Beach Police officer who has also served as a Resource Officer, security officer and substitute teacher for the past 10 years in many of our elementary, middle and high schools throughout our great city.
My knowledge of the school culture – as well as the teachers, support staff, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers and students themselves – is from first-hand, one-on-one experiences. I have seen what works and what doesn’t. Teachers, support staff, food service workers, custodians, parents have voiced their frustrations, and with a unified school board, we can resolve these concerns.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it in office? Teachers at all grade levels have shared their frustration about challenges to maintaining a safe environment that promotes both positive social and academic learning. Most relate to discipline: how disruptive students are not disciplined, and Teachers care about their students and know that a child’s disruption and/or inattention is due to other external events. When the administration does not support a teacher’s request for intervention, it fails the child, the teacher, and every student in that class. Students respond to structure, and teachers desire to focus on student learning, not preserving their jobs. I am already working with other new candidates for School Board to examine why these discrepancies exist, and we are researching alternatives to create a safe, yet positive learning environment. Our administrators need access to contemporary, value-driven assessments and procedures that create results instead of hierarchies. They too struggle with the politics of public education that create this unstable environment. The resources already exist to make these changes.
What are your other policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? Responsible spending, transparency, on-line check book. We’re paying too much for new schools.
Following below is cost comparison information for school replacement construction. All of the figures were obtained from the Virginia Beach City Public Schools website, and the Virginia Department of Education website. As you can see, we are consistently spending more per pupil and per square foot for our new schools than the state average — in some cases about twice as much or more! Clearly we should be demanding cost savings. Those dollars could have gone to teacher salaries, school safety, or a property tax reduction.
Kellam High School: Student Capacity: 2000 Current Student Membership: 1838 Building Size: 336,410 sq. ft. (two stories) Total CIP Project Cost: $102 million. Cost per pupil: $55,495.10 Cost per s.f.: $303.20 Source: http://www.vbschools.com/school_renovation/schools/kellamHS.asp
Compare: Loudoun County HS Cost per pupil: $46,945.00 Cost per s.f. $289.92 Loudoun County Median Household Income: $134,464 (#1 in US in 2016) (source: U.S. Census Bureau) Virginia Beach Median Household Income: $61,805 (source: U.S. Census Bureau) Statewide average cost per pupil: $35,690 Statewide average cost per s.f. $175.65
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 believe valedictorian and salutatorian should be reinstated and not eliminated in the year 2022. Awards are given for teacher of the year, superintendent of the year and athlete of the year and I believe it is important to recognize significant achievement for valedictorian and salutatorian.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? School safety is paramount not only in Virginia Beach but the nation as a whole. The school administration recently formed a (blue ribbon) committee to explore are strengths and areas where we need improvement. The committee discovered nothing that we weren’t already aware of involving security in our schools.
My experiences in law enforcement and the schools provide me with a unique insight into potential problems and solutions. Two examples: For years, uniformed officers have helped protect the adults and children in our middle and high schools. I believe it is time to include retired officers in our elementary schools. These are the children most vulnerable in a crisis situation. Over time, we can utilize experienced, retired officers in our middle and high schools as well to provide uninterrupted security when Resource Officers are diverted due to training, leave, court appearance etc.
Kimberly A. Melnyk
Residence: Christopher Farms
Education: Graduate of Longwood University
Endorsements: Republican Professional Network, Hotel/Motel Association and Virginia Beach Education Association
Phone: (757) 619-3811 // Email: email@example.com // Social media: Kimberly O’Connor Melnyk on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I was elected to the School Board in November 2014. I have lived in Virginia Beach for over 40 years and am a product VBCPS, having attended Old Donation Elementary School , Brandon Middle School and Green Run High School. I graduated from Longwood University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and taught for VBCPS at Glenwood, Strawbridge and Christopher Farms Elementary Schools. I was appointed by City Council to the Vision to Action Community Coalition, I serve on the Board of Directors for Virginia Musical Theatre and I am a member of the Governor’s School Regional Board and Foundation Board. I am a mentor at Green Run Elementary School, volunteer with the VBCPS Beach Bag Program and serve on the Social Ministry Team at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. I work hand in hand with my colleagues to support the Superintendent and the goals that have been set for our division.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city schools and how will you address it in office? A pressing issue in schools across our nation is ensuring equity for ALL students. Equity is something we have to intentionally keep at the forefront of every conversation, because when we do, we see results. In four years, Virginia Beach City Public Schools went from having sixteen schools that were not fully accredited to having a fully accredited school system. All sixteen of those schools were high-poverty. I want to be a part of ensuring that every child in our city-no matter his or her race, gender, zip code or otherwise-has access to the best education our schools have to offer.
What are your other policy priorities as a potential member of the School Board? First, I feel that it is important to highlight some of the division’s successes as these include goals that we have been working on for the past four years:
- Highest EVER on-time graduation rate (93.3%). We were higher than the state (91.6%).
- Lowest EVER drop-out rate (3.8%). We were higher than the state (5.5%).
- Class of 2018 was offered a RECORD $104 million in scholarships.
- We are 1:1 across the division with chromebooks.
- We are 100% accredited for the second year in a row.
I plan to continue to work hard in the areas of Special Education, reduction of class size and increasing employee compensation.
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? Virginia Beach City Public Schools joined nearly 70% of the nation with the implementation of the Latin Honor System.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? The division is doing an excellent job in the area of school safety. In April, Dr. Spence created a Blue Ribbon Panel to analyze the division’s safety procedures, infrastructure and practices. The panel included the Virginia Beach Police department, personnel from Naval Air Station Oceana, City partners, and community members. The work of the panel garnered recognition from groups around the state. Every school in our division is equipped with a buzzer system. After entry into a school, visitors must present their ID and are then entered into the Raptor Security System. In addition, all of our schools have security cameras inside and outside of the buildings. Per City Council’s approval, the School Board has earmarked an additional one million dollars for additional security cameras and the relocation of security desks. To see the Blue Ribbon Panel’s comprehensive report, please visit vbschools.com.
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