Why are you running for School Board?
Friends have been asking me for years when I was going to run for office. I never saw the right race for my skill set. A year ago when it was made public that the district had used $200 million of reserves over 4 years, I wondered how that could happen without any questions. When the rating agency reduced the bond rating of the District and thereby increased the cost of debt, I wondered if the school board members understood the serious consequences of the rating reduction. I began to think that maybe my skill set of 30+ years of accounting and financial management experience would be helpful to the community as a member of the school board. Then Carol Kurdell decided in March that she would not run for a seventh term and I told my boss I was thinking about running. As the parent of a student in the Hillsborough County School District, I have seen the decay of morale in teachers and staff, pressure from school administrators for PTA/PTSAs to provide more and more of the routine expenditures of the schools and news reports of aging buses.
But the final push that helped me decide to run was when a consulting firm from Texas recommended 1,700 employees be released, I decided I was ready to serve. I am the Finance Manager at the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative and any report that puts 1,700 families in Hillsborough County at risk of homelessness is a concern to our entire community.
What, in your opinion, is the most serious problem facing our county’s schools? What would be your solution?
The financial health of the district is the most serious problem. It permeates every aspect of the school day from the moment students are picked up on aging buses, the temperature of the classrooms, the fear and morale crushing effect of possibly being one of the 1,700 employees that a Texas consulting firm has proposed being fired. The financial problems have been caused by the deliberate actions of the legislature by putting more funding burden on local governments. Dollars have been diverted from public schools to for-profit charter schools and vouchers.
The first solution I would propose would be to create a Finance Committee that would be comprised of School Board members, appointees of the Superintendent, and members of the community that have expertise in finance and management as well as subject matter experts for facilities, transportation, etc. We need to start at each operating unit, our schools, and build the organization from the bottom up.
Will you support and advocate for all the special needs students in our school system?
I have been supportive of the special needs community since I was five years old, when my sister Carol was born. She has brain damage, autism and suffers from grand mal seizures. I understand how special needs siblings affect the whole family and change that family forever.
My dad wrote the mandatory education bill in Tennessee and my uncle, who was a Tennessee State Representative, led the “Weldon Act” to passage and signing in 1972.
Last year at Middleton High School, an aide from the Exceptional Education Department (ESE) approached the PTSA to help provide holiday gifts for the ESE students and to help stock the ESE department with much needed supplies like adult diapers. We created a Sign Up Genius project that was shared via social media and we received donations from all over Hillsborough County.
The ESE Department approached PTSA again at the end of the year to sponsor a banquet for our special needs students. We fundraised almost $1,000 to provide tuxedos for the young men, a terrific meal for the students and their families, a photographer for family portraits and a DJ for some dancing. The young ladies received gowns from several charities to make the night very special.
I will continue to be an advocate of special needs families to make sure that all laws for services are complied with. I will lobby legislators if additional services are needed and I will support and promote the Vision of the Hillsborough County School District to Prepare Students for Life.
What is your opinion on the common core state standards (Florida Standards)?
In my opinion the Hillsborough County School District should create an environment where teachers have the opportunities to teach students based on what each student needs as an individual. We need to meet our students where they are and allow teachers to determine the strategies and teaching methods that they should use to help students be successful.