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2020 Virginia Beach Elections: Questions for candidates for School Board, Centerville

THE INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Centerville District seat on the Virginia Beach School Board on the Tuesday, Nov. 3, ballot. 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 the editor with any questions or concerns via email.

[Charles Apple/For The Independent News]


TRENACE BASNIGHT RIGGS

Residence: Bentley Park

Age: 67

Occupation: Retired VBCPS teacher and present SB member

Military Service/Education: BSED degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Ed. from Radford College and MSED in Early Childhood Education from Old Dominion University

Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association-Political Action Committee of Educators and the Virginia Beach Democrats Committee

Website: TrenaceRiggs.com

Phone: (757) 403-3573

Email: Triggs50@cox.net

Social media: @trenaceriggsforschoolboard on Facebook, @riggswake on Instagram and @triggs501 on Twitter

What are your specific qualifications for this office? A native of Virginia Beach, I attended VB schools from 1st-12th grades and graduated from  Kempsville HS. I have two children who are also graduates of VBCPS. I taught for 37 years, 35 in VBCPS, 18 in kindergarten and 19 in middle school. I have spent my profession as a strong advocate for public education serving on several education boards. While serving as the VBEA Vice President and President for eight years I attended most School Board meetings and workshops to stay up to date on the school division. Serving on the VEA board for 8 years also kept me knowledgeable of state and national educational concerns and actions. This is my fourth year serving on the VBCPS School Board representing District 1, Centerville. My experience and knowledge as a teacher and an advocate for public schools gives me the advantage to know how the schools operate and what is important for our children’s education, safety and health as well as the teachers, staff and employees. Since I have been on the school board I have served on several committees, one being the Policy Review Committee of which I am presently the chair which was instrumental in the newly adopted Educational Equity Policy.

What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Currently getting all students back to school with Face to Face Instruction safely is the most immediate issue facing our schools. However, when our economy has recovered and this Pandemic is over we need to focus on increasing the pay for all teachers, staff and employees in our schools. It is imperative to get VBCPS teacher’s pay up to the national average in order to attract and retain the best and brightest educators. This has been the message for several years and now Virginia Beach is experiencing the consequences of being impacted by the nationwide teacher shortage escalated by Covid-19. 

What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools? As the Policy Review Committee chair I know policies are a system of principles that guide the division’s decisions and helps us to achieve rational outcomes. One such policy deals with the practices of the school division’s strategic plan including the guidelines and framework for all of our decision making. Another important policy is the Educational Equity Policy which provides a framework to advance educational equity in alignment with the School Board and Division’s visions and priorities. A third policy deals with forming two new committees, the Planning, Performance and Monitoring and the Governance. The PPM committee’s purpose is to provide transparent oversight of the School Division and it’s strategic goals and to coordinate school Board member’s engagement in operational planning including budget planning. Some of the Governance responsibilities are building and monitoring the School Board/Superintendent working relationship, and help guide the Boards’ structural procedures as well as other duties assigned by the full Board.

How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? The board adopted the new Educational Equity Policy last month. This policy will support the development and implementation of strategies to address identified needs to ensure equity emphasis is met and inclusion occurs. This policy will also commit to ensure that equity of opportunity and access to programs, services and resources are met to support the work to close achievement gaps. This policy also asks for a school wide equity audit conducted by a third party. Another assurance to address equality and inclusion is the Equity Emphasis which is included in each of the seven goals of the framework of the new Strategic Plan 2020-2025. 

Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? Continue with and elevate the 2018 Blue Ribbon Panel audit recommendations of all schools focusing on three School Safety areas (1) Safety Protocols, Emergency Preparedness, and Response; (2) Safety Infrastructure and Personnel; (3) Behavior and Mental Health. Eleven recommendations are found on the VB schools website. Several to note are the completed Buzz-In Locking system at the entrance, the location of Security run check–In desks in entrances of all schools, re-evaluate the security personnel program which includes hiring process, evaluation of security personnel and appropriate training, expanding mental health personnel and many more.  Increase and continue community engagement and collaboration with partner agencies ie: VBPD SRO’s in the secondary schools.

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 need to be willing to work together in a collaborative manner to support the growth and educational needs of our students and be responsible to staff, teachers, employees, families and citizens in our community. It is important to foster an atmosphere of openness to share our ideas and feelings, and a sense of shared purpose. A School Board Protocols Manuel presently being developed by members of the Governance Committee will support this by providing a guide with clear expectations for board work. Self evaluation and participating in training is additional ways that can help the board to work more effectively together. 

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? As a school Board member I believe our present system is necessary because we make decisions that affect all of the students, teachers, staff, and employees in all schools in the entire city. I think it is important that all citizens should have the opportunity to vote for all of the school board members. I feel the district representation system would divide the members and they would focus more on working for the schools in their own district which would be divisive to the board. I believe the present Hybrid system helps the board members work together for the good of the entire school division. 


LUIS M. CORTES III

Residence: Near Tallwood

Age: 39

Occupation: self employed 

Military Service/Education: Disabled Veteran

Website: cortesvbschools.com

Phone: (757) 301-1189

Email: info@cortesvbschools.com

Social media: @LuisCortesVBSB on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I’m a small business man and a father of 5 and a product of public school education. I feel being a parent with a child who has autism and fighting for his equality has educated me in seeing how much rights a parent have but have been suppressed for a while. Therefore fighting for the children rights and parents right have been my focus.  

What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Safety, equality in education for special needs, bring more trades and dual enrollment for college bound children, restoring valedictorian and salutatorian.   

What are your three main policy priorities for Virginia Beach schools? 

Improving grading system. 

Address evaluation committee for IEP. 

Address diversity and equity to include all ethnics groups. 

How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? Implement practices that address the hiring and education of staff and admin on every ethnic group. 

Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? My plans include implementing special conservators of the peace or armed security and placing police officers back on the streets to assist the department’s shortage that has reached 104 officers more than one police precinct short. 

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? As a veteran I have learned how to work with others with different views to complete the task at hand. In this case it’s simple our kids are our mission and therefore I will do what is in my power to fight for their rights to for a great education. 

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? Yes I think we should keep it the way it is.


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