The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge our school system is facing right now. There are obvious risks and benefits to resuming in-person schooling and also to not resuming in-person schooling. Delaying the start of school will give us the opportunity to see if any changes come from the FL DOE. It also makes sense to watch other school districts, who are starting up again, and see how successful they are. The safety of our students and employees directly impacts the entire county, so it needs to be handled with great care.
Because of COVID-19, the District's budget will be lower than in the previous years. As a former financial planner, I will look for ways to reduce the budget to balance with the lower revenues. We will need to make sure that every dollar will count for the student, the teacher, and their needs.
Hiring and retaining teachers has been a problem for Manatee County. It is crucial to give above-average salaries. Also, I will work on strengthening the community of the teachers and empowering their voices to address the issues they are facing in the classrooms and with the district as a whole. Opportunities for professional development need to be guaranteed to ensure that teachers can be the best that they can be. We want to cultivate a culture that teachers want to be a part of for the entirety of their careers.
The district's reading levels have been an important issue for years. Presently, 47% of our students are not reading on grade level. I would like to see students, who struggle with reading, held back sooner. Our current policy is to hold back only students in the 3rd grade, but at that point, the damage is nearly irreversible. I would help bring the successful processes that I have implemented in my elementary schools to the district at large.
With the cancellation of last school year's testing, our district will need to find a way to evaluate students and teachers. I believe that this is a great opportunity to bring teachers into the process of developing our evaluation system. Together will be able to evolve our evaluation system into a more collaborative one.
Charter schools are an important part to our community's education system. We need to make sure that the money given by FL DOE needs to follow the child. Doing this, we will ensure that students have equal opportunity in all schools.