Running for Pinellas County School Board, District-7 Seat
Running for Pinellas County School Board, District-7 Seat
Two weeks ago, I wrote about some of the factors leading up to my decision to run for the Pinellas County School Board (PCSB), District-7 seat. This week I want to use this space to drill down a little further and discuss some of the specifics I heard from families and other community members whose children attend many of the schools in District 7.
First, it must be acknowledged that, for a long time, there has been a general air of immense frustration on the part of parents and guardians of children attending Pinellas County schools in District-7. This is especially true for families of those children enrolled in elementary and middle schools.
There are numerous reasons why south county families are frustrated with the school system their children attend and I will get into those as we go. However, there is a genuine belief by many that their voices are not being heard when they reach out to school board officials.
The apparent lack of communication between the school board and the community, and the desire for change, is one of the reasons I am running to replace the present member for district-7.
The second important reason I am challenging the incumbent for the District 7 seat is that I believe the work of a school board member is a full-time job. A school board member cannot hope to adequately hold down two full time jobs without giving poor service to one or both jobs.
Therefore, as a policy position, I will not be holding a second full-time job while I hold the position of school board member for my district. As a Pinellas County School Board member, I intend to spend my time focusing on the concerns of public school students, teachers, and the communities that support them.
I believe that only by being present on the ground in our schools can a board member effectively learn about the concerns of the schools, children, and the community they represent.
I understand that a board member is concerned with setting policies for the direction of the district, as well as managing its budget (among other things). However, it is also important that board members make time to listen to students, families, teachers, and the community.
Education is personal to each child and the 5000-foot view is an inadequate position from which to communicate with children or their families
The following are six major issues identified by the community as critical for the success of students in Pinellas County public schools.
• Better Learning Resources – It is my intention to work with others to bring greater learning resources into the schools for students and teachers in order to help close the achievement gap and other disparities that currently exist in the system.
• Increase Early Childhood Learning – It is my intention to work with various community organizations to find ways to expand the availability of early childhood learning facilities and resources, especially in communities of low income, and working families.
• Research has shown that the more children that have access to early learning resources such as Head-Start, more will do better, and struggle less, when they get into kindergarten and then the elementary school stage of their education.
• Improved Communication – As mentioned earlier, families and the community believes that inadequate communication between the school board and the community is a major issue. Therefore, increasing communication with our students, parents, teachers, and the community will be one of my focus items on the school board.
This includes bringing school board meetings into communities around the county in a rotating basis. Also examining ways to design and implement programs that make schools attractive as multi-purpose and resource centers for parents and families.
• Improving School Safety – Working on improving school safety, not by hiring more gun-carrying personnel for on—campus duty, but by first undertaking a comprehensive safety assessment on every campus.
This must include site survey of physical plant, interviews with classroom teachers, students, and parents. Then designing processes and systems to prevent un-authorized access to our campuses.
• Establishing a better student transport system – I will seek to work with parents, business organizations, and other community interests to establish a 21st Century transportation program for all students in the Pinellas County Schools system.
Cities around America and other countries have achieved this: Why shouldn’t Pinellas County? One of the pluses is that once accomplished, this could lead to establishing a later start time for all school levels in our county without any significant drain on existing transportation resources.
• Changing our approach to discipline – The community have been asking for this and I believe the time has come for us to revise and reconfigure the disciplinary process in our schools to eliminate off-campus disciplinary remediation.
Research has shown that academics tend to take a back seat when students are suspended out of school. My goal will be to work with all stakeholders to ensure that discipline is done effectively and with productive benefit for the student and the school community.
This must also include greater utilization of the principles and practices of Restorative Justice/Practice. Teachers and community groups have voiced the concern that this cannot be directed solely by the school system administrators. It must be owned and utilized by teachers who have been properly trained by persons authorized by the International Institute for Restorative Practice (IIRP).
Let me conclude with this statement I heard during a campaign meeting. Because more failure is not an option, we must be willing to make the kind of changes that will ensure the future success of our students, our schools, and our communities.
As a community, we must be willing to give change a chance if we are to ensure the success of our children and students. I would ask you to join with me to make the changes necessary to ensure the kinds of success our children and students deserve. Remember to vote on (or before) Aug. 28.
Nicholas Wright, Candidate for Pinellas County School Board, District 7