My Vision is to Lead with and for T.L.C. in Gwinnett County Public Schools
T is for Teachers
Our educators in Gwinnett County are hardworking, compassionate, and skilled in their craft. They are knowledgeable in best practices and want to see our youth succeed, both academically and in life. Accomplishing such a feat is no easy task. I know because I was a teacher and instructional coach for over 10 years. It is important that educators be equipped and empowered to best meet the needs of all their students. Children come with unique interests and abilities; teachers should therefore be provided with the tools and resources to engage their students in rigorous learning opportunities that promote academic growth. Teachers should furthermore be considered essential participants in problem-solving processes, particularly those impacting their individual practice and personal classrooms.
In the absence of teachers, learning cannot take place. Just as importantly, in the absence of good teachers, impactful learning will not occur. We have great educators in place across the district, and we need to strive to keep them. High teacher turnover negatively impacts student achievement. Teachers across the nation are vacating the profession because they do not feel valued. As a board member, my vision is to rethink how educators and their leaders are evaluated, supported, and incentivized. If we are to be and remain a system of world-class schools, we must be deliberate in our care and respect for those working most closely with our youth. We should ensure that teachers have adequate planning time that is not interrupted, that class sizes are appropriate, and that additional staff such as paraprofessionals, social workers, and counselors are accessible to provide comprehensive support.
L is for Learners
Gwinnett is an award-winning school district. However, as our student body and society evolve, we need to explore how to innovate our approach to education. Our curriculum offerings should be future focused so that learners are prepared to compete globally. Students across the district should have access to courses in financial literacy, entrepreneurial studies, computer science, and other industrial areas that are in high demand. We need to enact flexibility in our pedagogical practices and consider a variety of curriculum materials that are in alignment with student interests. Our diverse student body wants to see themselves in the texts they read and in the content they study. Research has proven that students benefit from having teachers who look like them. We need to be in tune with our students’ interests and how they learn best. As a board member, I will work for our youth to have a meaningful voice in their education.
With discipline incidents on the rise and students battling mental health issues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and other factors, there is a desperate need for targeted support. I envision schools enacting restorative practices that attend to the social and emotional needs of our youth. Instead of punishing students for their actions or not addressing student wellness outside of academics, I would like to see teams work to unveil underlying issues that necessitate solutions. Students thrive in environments that are welcoming. Our learners desire a sense of belonging and want to know that there are people that care for them…not just at home, but at school also. Restorative practices will help our learners and stakeholders to foster strong, supportive, productive relationships.
C is for Community
Parents in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) are passionate about the success and well-being of children. We trust that our students will receive a high-quality education and will be treated with care. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of our families should be respected and recognized as a value-add. As a member of the Board, I would like to see consistency in how individual schools engage parents. Parents should be invited to participate in routine conversations related to school improvement efforts. In my experience, parents possess a knowledge base and expertise that is oftentimes not solicited. We should work to put meeting and/or communication structures into place that are accommodating and easily accessible for parents. We should furthermore ensure that parents are able to uplift their personal concerns, and they are not solely consulted on topics the school/district considers high priority.
In addition to parents, the involvement of community organizations, businesses, and other stakeholders is essential to the success of GCPS. As a board member, I will advocate for strong partnerships. The more extensive our network of support, the more transformative our efforts will be. Having worked in public education for 20 years, I know that achieving success for all students is a multifaceted endeavor complete with barriers and obstacles. However, it is certainly attainable. We must be intentional about working in collaboration with others, so our youth reach their full potential.