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Read the Tampa Bay Times Voter Guide

 

Why are you running for the Pinellas County School Board?

I am running for School Board to give back to a community that has been generous and supportive to me. I am a Pinellas County native; I am a product of the schools and community. This community heavily invested in me over the years and allowed me to achieve great things. I am now at a point in my life where I can give back in a new way. 

There are six reasons I am running for School Board:

  • I want to ensure our students remain safe at school

  • I want to create a better quality education and close the achievement gap for children in our community, so they are prepared for the future

  • I want to advocate for our teachers and school personnel, so that they have a strong wage and benefits package along with good working conditions

  • I want to create an ‘economic pipeline’ and build our local economy with strong career and technical academies that prepare students to enter the workforce 

  • I want to ensure that student have access to early learning opportunities

  • I want to ensure adaquate funding for our schools and make sure public dollars are not wasted by charter schools 

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What would you recommend to increase school safety?

A basic expectation of every parent, grandparent and member of our community is that children will remain safe while at school. The Florida Legislature has outlined required safety measures, many unfunded, and the School Board has instituted additional items. 

I support the Board’s plan to implement the FL Legislature’s requirement by building school security, under the leadership of Chief Luke Williams. I believe this is a cost effective way to comply with the law and allows direct control over security officers. Additionally, this allows the Board to ensure that each officer receives the necessary training, including cultural competence training, to serve within a school setting. 

I believe the ensuring single points of access within our schools, installing security cameras, requiring visible identification badges, and providing safety drills are all good measures that should be implemented. To further ensure safety, I do believe that we should work to make sure that classroom doors lock form the inside and not the outside. 

Furthermore, I believe that we should work to address the underlying causes of violence within our schools. This should include, but not be limited to, increasing mental health & counseling services to students, providing training to teachers and staff to identify struggling students, fully implementing restorative justice practices, and addressing behavioral problems.

School safety remains a top priority and the School Board should do everything in their power to ensure that each child is safe at school. 

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What do you feel are some of the greatest challenges facing the Pinellas County School District and how would you address them ?

There are numerous challenges facing the school district. A few of the priority items in my term would be:

  • A priority would be to ensure the safety of our students at school by partnering with local law enforcement agencies, building up the campus police force,  fortifying our schools, increasing mental health services, and adressing behavior probelms in the classroom. 

  • A priority would be to close the achievement gap that is currently in place by building a bridge between parents, teachers, and the community. Students, regardless of any factors, deserve a quality public education that prepares them for the future. The ‘three legged stool’ of teachers, parents, and communities makes student success possible. I would focus on strategies to better engage parents in the education of their children.

  • A priority would be to increase the number of students who are school ready, students who start strong finish strong. In conjunction with our community partners, I would work to align our resources to ensure that all students have the opportunity for early learning opportunities.

  • A priority would be to examine the salary structure, benefits, and working conditions of teachers and school personnel. Too often teachers are micromanaged and not allowed to exercise professional judgment, affecting the culture and working conditions. School personnel are not provided a strong wage, which affects the School Board’s ability to recruit and retain. Additionally, teachers are saddled with a performance evaluation that needs to be retooled. These factors, wage, benefits, and working conditions, are essential to recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and school personnel.

  • A priority would be to create an ‘economic pipeline’ for our local community. We need to better prepare students to enter the workforce, either directly out of high school or after college. Building our career academies, increasing the involvement of local businesses in those academies, and providing internships and apprenticeships are areas for improvement and development. 



Paid for by Dr Matt Stewart for School Board, District 6
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