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

THE INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Kempsville 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]


JENNIFER S. FRANKLIN

Residence: Avalon Woods

Age: 52

Occupation: Mortgage Banker

Military Service/Education: Retired military reservist – 24 years; 14+ years of education. 

Endorsements: Vicky Manning, Carolyn Weems and Jessica Abbott

Website: jenfranklinforvb.com

Phone: (757) 717-6789 

Email: jenfforvbsb@gmail.com

Social media: Jen Franklin for School Board on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? Have served on the PTSA in Virginia Beach for over 20 years, I have spent hundreds of hours with teachers, students and administration. During my tenure serving on various PTSA boards (from Secretary to President, and different committee positions), I did whatever it took to serve and support the teachers, students and staff. My desire to serve Virginia Beach schools is still strong and I really want to use my experience to help with some of the issues we are facing right now. I served 24 total years in the U.S. Navy between active duty/reserve time and serving on various other community boards gives me experience with working with others to get to a common goal.

What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Hopefully by the time that I would be elected to the School Board, children will be back to in person learning. If not, that would be my primary goal to get them back to school. Lack of focus on what is important (educating our students) seems to be one of the biggest issues facing VBCPS right now. I see a lot of talk, outrage and focus on topics that draw away from what the primary goal should be which is to provide the best education and environment that we can for our students. When a student graduates from VBCPS, we should have a well prepared, well educated young adult prepared for the next phase of their life.

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

• Workforce and Career Readiness

• Enforce Student Discipline

• Restore Valedictorian & Salutatorian

How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? By not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Discussion alone is not going to solve this problem. We need to create opportunities to allow the students to come together to learn about other cultures and realize that kids are not so different. One of the best lessons that I learned was in boot camp where my Company Commander forced myself and a girl that I didn’t get along with (because of assumptions that she had about me because I looked different) to work together to achieve a common goal. We still might not have liked each other, but we did at least respect each other by the end of the exercise. It impacted me so much that I still remember that 30 years later as a defining moment in my thinking. Having opportunities to work together for common goals is essential to bringing different people/cultures together.

Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? I fully support the School Resource Officers that we have in our schools. I feel that they are not appreciated enough for what they provide. Utilizing them as well as working in conjunction with having them provide more specialized training to the teachers and staff for emergency situations would be a great way to bring the safety level up in the schools. Having worked security in the military, you train, train, train for what may happen. I believe that same concept should be utilized to ensure safety in our schools as well. The SRO should work as a team with the staff to ensure that there is a well thought out plan should something happen.

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 PTSA President, I had to juggle many sides of a topic. Parents, students and teachers did not always see things the same way. Listening to others and finding a common thread was how I navigated through a lot of issues then and I believe that same theme should be used on the board. We all want the best for the students and teachers, I believe coming from that common ground could (and should) be the core of every decision. There seems to be very little acceptance or listening on the current board by many members.

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? The current system seems very confusing to voters.  Many people on election day do not understand that they can vote for all districts no matter where they live in Virginia Beach.  I would support a more common sense system that voters understand.


DANIEL D. “DAN” EDWARDS

Residence: Lake James

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired Naval Officer and Business Owner

Military Service/Education: BS Education, Northwestern University; MBA, William & Mary; 25-Year Career Naval Officer

Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association-Political Action Committee of Educators, Virginia Beach Democrat Party and Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer

Website: DanEdwardsforSchoolBoard.com

Phone: (757) 717-0259

Email: dedwscolbd@aol.com

Social media: @danedwardsvbsb on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I have a unique combination of education and public finance experience with a demonstrated deep passion for public education. During 20+ years on VB School Board including 18 years as chair our schools have come to be locally appreciated and nationally respected. I have demonstrated leadership with ability to get things done on and off the school board with strong civic involvement: Board member & officer of VB Crimes Solvers, VB Parks & Rec Foundation, Virginia Beach Sports Club. Norfolk (regional) Sports Club, VB Rotary Club and as a board member of College Access Foundation, Mt. Trashmore YMCA and Tidewater Council Boys Scouts, and former board member Virginia Symphony.  I also serve as race and scholarship chair for the Tidewater Striders Running Club.

What is the most important issue facing the city schools, and how will you address it in office? Reopening the schools and getting all our students back into the buildings is critical.  We must do it as soon as possible but this must be done safely following medical guidance to keep our students and staff safe and ensuring our schools do not contribute to the spread of Covid-19.  Board needs to work with the Superintendent in prioritizing resources and making tough decisions as we establish instructional processes not previously envisioned as we work to accommodate parental preferences, staff medical limitations all while sustaining social distance.

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

• First, executing Compass to 2025, our strategic plan. Six goals (educational excellence, student well-being, student ownership of learning, exemplary, diversified workforce, mutual support partnerships & efficiency) reflect community priorities of all our stakeholders from parents & students, staff, higher education, military and businesses as potential employers.  Each goal has well-defined strategies and includes an equity emphasis. 

• Second, address pending teacher shortage driven by demographic factors and compounded significantly by Covid-19.  We must identify resources for major increases in compensation and other ways to properly enforce their status as professionals.

• Third, expand vocational offerings and extra-curricular activities and participation.  Students involved in work-related classes, athletics, clubs, fine arts and similar offerings bond to their schools and studies and develop better citizenship skills.  Recent scheduling protocols allow for midday involvement eliminating barriers and we need to ensure all students opportunities to get involved in their school communities in ways they find meaningful.

How can the city schools help address concerns about equality and inclusion? The recently approved Equity Policy provides the blueprint for doing this.  It is a commitment to finding and eliminating the sources of inequities driven by race and other factors using a comprehensive audit as a first step in this process.  The board will need to ensure this is done promptly and thoroughly and review the results with staff to identify corrective actions – new policies, policy adjustments and potential changes to resource allocation. An expansion of the Equity Council to be totally inclusive is also a likely outcome. 

Is the district doing enough to address school security concerns? What specifically should the schools do? Yes. VB Schools is implementing the 11 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel which include: Safety protocols including access control, exercises and surprise audits. Infrastructure & security personnel improvements & training, more cameras and sensors. Behavior and mental health staff increases and improved engagement with partner agencies. Board gets regular updates and I am pleased with our progress and always pray it is enough.

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? Basic board governance requires all members to accept the fact that they work with all members to develop policies and priorities and maintaining separate agendas communicated through personal social media is not helpful to the process. Communication between individual members and the superintendent is critical and has been sadly lacking and will hopefully improve.  Acceptance and use of basic governance training is needed and hopefully will be done so all understand their individual vs. collective roles in this process.

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? No, not necessary but the hybrid is beneficial and helpful to have all board members focused on the greater good of the full city whileremaining aware of and providing representation for each of the seven districts.


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