THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for two at large seats on the Virginia Beach School Board on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting, or for clarity. The print edition containing our full voter guide is now on stands. Please reach me with any questions or concerns via email.
BEVERLY M. ANDERSON
Residence: Great Neck Meadows
Occupation: Retired teacher and currently a member of the School Board
Military Service/Education: BS Early Childhood/Elementary Education, from Concord University
Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association, Virginia Beach Democratic Committee
Social media: @bev4schoolboard on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I was a teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools for 36 years and as an experienced educator I know the issues of our school system and I bring the perspective of a classroom teacher to the Board. I also have the compassion and experience of a Navy wife, and mother of two sons who are graduates of VBCPS. Since joining the Board in 2013, my colleagues entrusted me with leadership roles as Vice-Chair for two years and as Chair of the Board for three years. I’m passionate about advocating for the students, teachers and staff of our schools. I was the leading advocate to lobby my colleagues and City Council for full day kindergarten in all elementary schools, and I’m proud to say that this fall every elementary school in VBCPS finally has all day kindergarten. I support fair and competitive pay for teachers and other VBCPS employees and I will continue to advocate for smaller class sizes to ensure the success of all students in VBCPS. As we begin the recovery from the pandemic, my experience and leadership will help guide the Board as we make decisions to help students and teachers transition to full time face to face instruction for all.
What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Currently the most important issue facing the city schools is getting all of our students back in school for face to face instruction. When the pandemic is over and the economy starts to recover, we need to prioritize raising salaries of teachers and staff. We must bring teacher salaries up to at least the national average so that we can attract and retain quality teachers. The nation-wide teacher shortage, (heightened by the fear of Covid 19), is now apparent in Virginia Beach. We desperately need to raise the pay of our teachers and staff so we are more competitive with businesses that attract college educated students.
What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools? As a member of the Policy Committee I helped to amend, adopt, repeal, and/or merge by-laws and policies during the past year. The Education Equity Policy was recently approved by the Board and an equity assessment will be completed to find and correct any educational inequities in our division. The policy committee also established two additional committees to the Board structure. The two new committees are Governance, and Planning, Performance and Monitoring (PPM). The Governance Committee is responsible for building and monitoring the School Board/Superintendent working relationship, and helps guide the Boards’ structural procedures as well as other duties as assigned by the full Board. Some of the PPM Committee responsibilities are to set the goals and priorities for the budget, as well as to review performance reports. These two new committees have given the Board a broader role in developing procedures and governing roles.
How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? Equality and Inclusion are important for all students and educational equity is a way to address many equality and inclusion issues. The new Strategic Plan 2020-2025 addresses equity in every single goal. The new Education Equity Policy calls for an equity assessment to be completed throughout the division by a third party. After the assessment, recommendations to address and correct equity concerns should be a priority so that every student in the division has educational equity and has an equal chance to be successful in VBCPS.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? I think keeping the Security Resource Officers (SRO’s) in our schools is important. Most of them develop good relationships with the community and VBCPS has worked with the police department to provide additional equity training for them. The recent security upgrades recommended by the Blue-Ribbon Panel and put in place after the security audit of our schools included locking all doors of the school. Entry to all schools is only allowed through the front door after pushing a buzzer to alert the security monitor, who then releases the lock to allow entry. The increased training of all security desk monitors are improvements to the security of our schools as well.
Tension among members of the School Board has been seen in everything from social media posts to committee assignments and policy decisions. How do you plan to work effectively and fairly on a divided board? We need Board Members who are willing to work collaboratively together and make decisions in a non-partisan way while keeping the best interest of all students and staff in mind. Supporting the school system and public education is most important when representing constituents in Virginia Beach. As a former educator, I view issues through the lens of a teacher and I will always advocate and vote for what is best for students and how it will affect the classroom. Working together for the good of students, teachers, and staff of the school division is something I have practiced and will continue to do in the future.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? As School Board Members we represent all students, parents, teachers, and staff of the school division. We make decisions that affect all students in schools across the city. Therefore, we wouldn’t want Board Members advocating for just the schools in their districts. It’s important that the citizens in the city get to vote for all School Board Members so that we are accountable to all constituents and as Board Members we think of the school division in its entirety. The hybrid system works for the entire school division and not just for schools in certain districts.
VICTORIA C. MANNING
Residence: Chic’s Beach
Occupation: Realtor and Community Volunteer
Military Service/Education Completed: Navy Spouse
Endorsements: Carine McCandless, Tim Anderson, Ray Cheng
Phone: (757) 330-0432
Social media: @manningvbsb on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? As a parent I see first-hand the positive and negative impacts of decisions made by the School Board. I have developed a trust with teachers and the community to be able to discuss and receive feedback that will help improve our schools. As a businesswoman I understand budgeting and the need to prioritize the needs of the school division in order to help oversee the nearly $1 billion budget. I also believe it is important to ask questions and do research when issues come before the Board and I do not just rubber stamp things that come before me. We currently have a Board whose majority doesn’t value diverse opinions or asking questions. However, I will continue to fight to put students first and will always remember that I work for and report to the citizens of Virginia Beach.
What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Reopening our schools is the most important issue and I have consistently pushed to make this happen. My colleagues and Superintendent do not share my viewpoint on this topic. I have seen the negative impacts of isolation on our community. Suicides and addiction are on the rise. Our students need social stimulation, club activities, sports and in-person learning. In June, I asked the Superintendent how he was preparing for in-person learning and his response was that we already know how to do in-person learning. Yet, he is still not prepared to get our students back to school.
What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools?
• Improving student discipline: Teachers have indicated major problems related to student behavior. Students will curse out teachers with no consequences. Cell phone addiction and use in the classroom is rampant. We must create a division policy that bans the use of cell phones and social media in the classroom. Consequences must also be equally applied and enforced throughout the division.
• Return the awards of valedictorian and salutatorian: My colleagues on the Board voted to eliminate these awards beginning with next year’s senior class. We give “superintendent of the year” and “teacher of the year”, why shouldn’t we award our most advanced learners?
• Grading practices: In some schools, a minimum grade of a 60 is given even if no work it done. Teachers are told to allow retakes and points cannot be deducted for work turned in late. The “everyone gets a trophy” mentality must end.
How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? VB Schools has put in many programs and extra money into our low-income communities through title 1 funding. Summer reading programs to help students is just one example. VBCPS has been behind on the needs of our students with special needs, specifically related to how to properly develop IEPs (individualized education plans) for our students. These issues must continue to be addressed and staff properly trained on the needs of our students with special needs.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? We are fortunate to have a School Resource Officer program that is a partnership with our great VB Police Department. Unfortunately, there are times when the SROs cannot be present in our schools due to other obligations. I would like to see the SRO program expanded. There are instances of students bringing weapons to school and major assaults happening on a too frequent basis. We need these SROs to protect our staff and students.
Tension among members of the School Board has been seen in everything from social media posts to committee assignments and policy decisions. How do you plan to work effectively and fairly on a divided board? Board members who constantly bully other members should be removed by their employer, the people of Virginia Beach. The behavior of constantly attacking members who are in the minority for expressing a different viewpoint is unacceptable. One Board member constantly attacks me and my family on social media to a point that it is nearing harassment. I was removed from all committee assignments because I questioned actions of the Superintendent related to contractual violations. A new majority is needed on the Board to quell the bully mentality and to be better role models for our students.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? I do believe that a candidate/elected official should live in the district they represent. However, the current system is confusing. When voters arrive at the polls, they are often unaware that they can vote in every district, not just the one in which they live. I do not have a firm stance on this topic and welcome feedback from the community on how to improve the current system.
MATTHIAS PAUL TELKAMP
Residence: Indian River Woods
Occupation: Senior SharePoint Consultant
Military Service/Education: High School / Vocational School
Endorsements: VBDC, VA LGBTQ+ Dems and Virginia Beach School Board Member Jessica Owens
Phone: (757) 952-6841
Social media: @MPTelkamp on Facebook and Twitter and @cutulus on LinkedIn
What are your specific qualifications for this office? My main focus is on the technological aspect of school administration. It is used every day, in every school, and it affects students, teachers, and parents alike. We have seen quite dramatically how poor, outdated, or ineffective technology can have a severely negative impact on all involved. We have also seen how technology can benefit and improve the educational experience. I have 18 years of IT experience, specializing in streamlining computer systems to make communication and coordination better. I want to bring that expertise to the School Board. I have three daughters in three different VB schools and have volunteered often. I have served on a PTA Board for 2 years and am currently Second Chair VP for the Friends of the EBA as well as the Fundraising Chair. I have been solely responsible for my children since 2012 andhave been met with challenges in school communication and support. I want to be in a position where I could work collaboratively with school administration, teachers, parents, students, and other School Board Members to advocate for and help those who are most vulnerable.
What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in the office? Covid-19 is currently the most important issue affecting schools. Technology, of course, ties into how the pandemic is affecting how students are taught. While there are many challenges facing us, this is an excellent opportunity to reimagine education and what it looks like moving forward. Our teachers are working harder than ever to provide a great education. They need to have a voice without worrying about repercussions and the ability to be a real partner in their educational experience. We also need to make sure that the students and teachers are in a safe, but welcoming environment when F2F, and that the teachers have whatever tools are necessary to accommodate that.
What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools?
• Teacher Pay. Our teachers have not had a raise of over 1% in more than a decade. This is starting to result in a teacher shortage, as they can make more money in other careers. This is evidenced by the loss of more than 100 teachers since March of this year. Some are choosing to retire rather than deal with the additional burdens of teaching during the pandemic. I will prioritize working with the budget to give them the raises they need and deserve.
• Equity in the classrooms is something we need to address. Both for students and teachers. We need to consider the environment, what is being taught, and equal access to a quality education. As an example, teachers are being reassigned from other schools to ODS and that is burdening those schools.
• Streamlining Technology. I want to reduce the number of applications that we use as a district. This will help reduce costs and make it easier to manage. I currently have 22 applications for school on my phone and that does not count all the methods of communication from the school district.
How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? We should be striving for equity, not equality, as equity is providing what is needed for each student to excel. We need to make sure that the equity policy that was just passed is used to address issues of disparity, inadequate inclusion of multi-cultural education, and unconscious biases in instruction.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically, should the schools do? Our schools are safe and use many preventative measures already, including locked doors, doorbells with cameras, and on-premise security staff. Lockdown drills are conducted multiple times a year. We need to address how lockdown drills can negatively impact students with anxiety and stress. There needs to be more information provided to help parents deal with this trauma, as well as a better notification system when a drill is planned. Also, SROs can be a blessing, but also can cause anxiety for some students, and this issue also needs to be addressed.
Tension among members of the School Board has been seen in everything from social media posts to committee assignments and policy decisions. How do you plan to work effectively and fairly on a divided board? I plan to do the job and not get into the bickering and games that is currently being played. Our children, teachers, and parents deserve Board members who will not deprive them of time and resources. I agree with Jessica Owens, “we can disagree passionately”, but we still need to treat each other with respect. I can work with the the current board by focusing on those I am representing and not outside agendas, and by keeping a cool head regardless of the situation.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements are necessary? I do not think the hybrid local election system works. Right now, a person representing Princess Anne can court votes in the other 6 districts, which dilutes the representation of the candidate’s own district. Some members of the city council have clearly been influenced by developers and special interests to the detriment of their constituents. If we want to have a board that is truly focused on the district they represent, we need to change the current system. I think only those who are running At-Large should receive city-wide votes. This would bring balance back.
JEFFREY A. “DOC” FELD
Residence: Red Mill Area
Occupation: Foot and Ankle Surgeon
Military Service/Education: Civilian who completed Chief Residency in Podiatric Surgery at The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Huntington WV
Endorsements: Many students, teachers and patients
Phone: (757) 366-1403
Social media: Jeffrey Feld VB School Board on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? Being a product of public education, whose mother and sister are retired teachers, married to a teacher and having three children currently attending public school I have a vested interest in its success. Most people know that I’m outspoken, lead with my heart while having a calm and rational approach to problems and tasks. I stay active, pre COVID, volunteering with a local wrestling program and helping the youth. I am also the only independent candidate running for the “nonpartisan” School Board and have been willing to listen and talk to anyone who desires. I will not shift my opinion just because the wind blows. I have convictions and morals, upon which I have built my family, reputation and my two Podiatry offices. People like my business experience, my medical background, my values and the platform, upon which my campaign is based. I believe that we must make the best decisions for our students, teachers and staff within the public school system. Once elected, I will continue to be an advocate, make the hard decisions for all of our community’s kids and will not beholden to anyone else besides what is in the best interest of all of the kids.
What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? We currently have a teacher shortage including an additional 70 teachers vacated their positions very recently. Attracting and retaining highly skilled education professionals is becoming increasingly difficult. We need to provide greater compensation and ensure a safe environment. Doing such will allow for the city schools to retain the most experienced, educated and successful teachers. Additionally, proper compensation for experienced professionals is important for morale and retention. Providing school loan forgiveness and additional funding for classroom supplies should be implemented as well. Without the best teachers we will fail with all of our other educational goals.
What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools? Improve the safety for students, increase vocational education opportunities and focus on equitable education. Additionally, making smarter decisions with our expenditures and providing additional student resources with an increase in teachers’ compensation will help with teacher retention. A reduction of non-educational teacher programs will help allow teachers adequate preparation time and more time to focus on the students. Having too many programs is neither efficient nor productive for the students’ learning environment. Focus on proven programs, such as PBIS and others, that teachers can be proficient and get the desired effect and yield future results. My ability to breach the divide and communicate effectively, along with collaborating with the City Council, we can implement all such priorities. Overall, I am in favor of any policy and any tool, which can help a teacher connect with a student to bring about optimal learning and individual success.
How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? Creating environments where students thrive together and understand that individuality is positively unique is essential for school success. All individuals should be treated fairly and equally, no matter the race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age and disability. Promoting equality and inclusion at an early age establishes a clear set of rules regarding how we should treat others in life. We need to ensure that all students have equal access to opportunities. Using multicultural resources in classroom lessons help mitigate any discrimination. The purpose of public education isn’t only academic achievement but also experience, inclusion and citizenship.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? The SRO program needs significant changes. Some students of color look at the SRO differently than others and we need to be respectful of their feelings. While I respect 2a, I do not feel that having more guns within a school will help protect children, teachers or staff. We need to address the underlying issues and emphasize the need for extra funding for counselors and behaviorists. Helping to educate teachers, as they are the first ones to recognize possible domestic violence, can also help with community awareness. Through education we may help prevent suicide by firearm or mass shootings.
Tension among members of the School Board has been seen in everything from social media posts to committee assignments and policy decisions. How do you plan to work effectively and fairly on a divided board? Being independent means I have things in common with everyone based on the issue(s). We need to “listen more and talk less” and find common ground. Encouraging and fostering an environment that’s about the process, rules and setting a good example for the community and not putting the focus on individual(s) whom may want a future career in politics. It’s about the kids! Not politics. Once everyone can agree on that we can move forward in a positive way. I will remain true to my beliefs and will work with whoever else is elected for the sake of the kids.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? I think our current system is inadequate. Having such disenfranchises local communities within Virginia Beach. I feel if you live in specific district then the only people who should vote for you are those within that district. If all of Virginia Beach can vote for a candidate, which is the situation currently, then Rose Hall, Kempsville and Centerville districts can vote in a candidate whom they want for the Princess Anne district but whom does not echo the concerns and therefore does not properly represent constituents who live in the Princess Anne district. But currently everyone can vote for me!
LAUREN L. LOGAN
Residence: Highland Parish
Occupation: President and Co-Owner of Coastal Crush Lacrosse League
Military Service/Education: Masters of Education from ODU
Phone: (757) 343-1191
Social media: @laurenloganvb on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I graduated from Kempsville HS (92), Mary Baldwin (96) and received my Masters in Education from ODU. I spent 10 years working in IT, mainly as a Consultant. I worked in IT at Newport News Shipbuilding for an additional 4 years I worked for 3 years as the VB Director for Girls on the Run. I coached several GOTR teams and worked with many ES and MS in Virginia Beach to implement the GOTR program. Currently, I am the co-founder and President of Coastal Crush Lacrosse Club. Coastal Crush is a recreational lacrosse league for K-8. We focus on youth development through positive play.
What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Returning our students, teachers and staff back to school in person is the biggest issue facing VBCPS today. I believe the Superintendent and a majority of our School Board members are doing everything they can to continue providing a safe, exceptional education to our students. With that said, I would have voted to keep all staff and students virtual the first nine weeks and then reassess. The extra time home would give teachers and staff more time to plan and adjust and ensure that our school facilities are ready for safe, in-person teaching. The schools need more time to adjust to loss of staff. The first nine week online would have given everyone some breathing room in these incredibly stressful times.
What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools? I think Virginia Beach City Public Schools are the best in the country! I am running for the Virginia Beach School Board so I can help keep VBCPS heading in the right direction. My priorities are compensation and retention of teachers, mental health of students, and continuing to provide a safe, equitable education while COVID-19 persists. Teachers in VBCPS need to be paid more. They are under the state’s average salary, even though our cost-of-living is higher than average. We cannot retain good teachers unless we pay them what they are worth. Mental health is a huge concern of mine throughout the country. I want to concentrate on giving schools the resources they need to deal with mental health issues. During these uncertain times, I want to make sure our students, facility and staff are healthy and safe.
How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? I believe there are racial inequities in VBCPS, and a greater focus is being drawn to them as a result of the pandemic. I am happy to see that the current School Board voted to adopt an equity policy, but that is just the first step. We need to adjust several major aspects of our public schools to address racial biases and disparities. We need a teaching staff that is more reflective of our community’s demographics. We need discipline policies that keep students on the right track and in a safe, comfortable environment. We need to build a school system where every student, no matter their zip code, has equal access to an exceptional education.
Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? I believe the Security Resource Officer (SRO) program is a great program. These officers are building great relationships with their community. However, not everyone is comfortable having them in their hallways. I believe the SROs should spend more time in the classroom or the gym interacting with the students. They need to do more to interact, other than sit at the front of the school. It is imperative that all our students feel safe and comfortable while in school.
Tension among members of the School Board has been seen in everything from social media posts to committee assignments and policy decisions. How do you plan to work effectively and fairly on a divided board? In watching School Board meetings, the tension is clear. Simple rules of etiquette should be created and signed by each member. There should be no question about the rules. Listening is a skill that is needed to compromise and be open minded to different opinions. I plan to actively listen to others. In my past jobs, my teams spent time participating in team building exercises. These exercises help teams learn h ow to better interact with each other. They are helpful in making team work effectively.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? No, I do not. I understand there is currently a lawsuit going to trial in October in hopes to move toward voting and eliminate the at-large seats. At the very least, we should immediately have a referendum to see if the voters want to move to a ward system, and then ensure that those wards are drawn fairly to represent our city’s demographics. I am not sure what my opinion is on eliminating the at-large seats on the Board, but I am looking forward to learning as the lawsuit proceeds in October. If you live in Centerville, I do not necessarily think you should be able to vote for Princess Anne’s school board representative.
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