As a teacher, I have seen a lot of well-intentioned policy that just doesn’t work once it gets to the classroom level. I want to bring common-sense problem solving to the board that builds on a foundation of what really affects change from the classroom up.
We must invest in what is truly best for students.
IMPOSE A CAP ON CLASS SIZE
During the great recession, I saw my class sizes grow – some almost doubling in size. Class-size matters. It affects students on all levels – the type of instruction that is able to be provided for our students, the ability to meet each student where they are, and the school community. It affects workload and teacher retention. It also affects school safety and the ability to build relationships with students and ensure we are providing for the needs of the whole child, not just academics.
In Henrico, the secondary class average is 22 students, but over 2000 classes have over 28 students, many above 30. We are hiding behind an average class-size that doesn’t tell the whole story. Our students and teachers deserve better.
EXPAND HIGH-QUALITY, NON-AP CLASS OFFERINGS IN HIGH SCHOOLS AND TECHNICAL CENTERS
I work extensively one-on-one tutoring high school juniors and seniors as well as teaching the junior-senior small group at our church. Through these relationships, I spend a lot of time talking with high school students about their classes and workload. I am continuously dismayed at the amount of pressure the students feel as they take entire loads of AP classes. It is not a problem that is unique to Henrico, but that doesn’t make it ok.
When I served on the Strategic Planning committee last year for High School Instruction, one of my tutoring students asked me with tears in her eyes to “please tell them how bad it is.” We are redefining what is normal for the whole next generation and not for the better. We must stop holding AP classes as the gold standard and have more diverse, high-quality course offerings that meet our students where they are, providing appropriate authentic learning opportunities.
ENSURE THE 2020 COMPREHENSIVE REDISTRICTING UTILIZES HEALTHY MATRICULATION PATTERNS
One of those most important issues facing the next school board will be the comprehensive redistricting of the county in 2020. Tuckahoe will likely be fairly insulated from a lot of the major changes as no new schools are being built in our district nor are there a lot of developments being built.
For Tuckahoe, I will prioritize looking at matriculation patterns for elementary through high school to make sure we are keeping school communities as intact as possible.
In the county as a whole, we must improve the method by which we account for planned developments so that we don’t find ourselves overcrowded again in a few years. We also have rich cultural and economic diversity in Henrico that needs to be considered when planning our school lines.
INCREASE THE NUMBER OF SCHOOL COUNSELORS
Currently, most elementary schools only have one school counselor in Henrico, regardless of size, far exceeding the 250:1 recommended ratio. Middle schools and high schools also exceed this number. School counselors not only assist with the educational goals and needs of students but also the social/emotional well-being of students. They are a critical resource for all students including those in crisis.
When we increase the number of school counselors, we increase our capacity to meet the needs of all students at every level. Some might argue that we just need to worry about educating the child, but a student cannot learn with all of the external pressures.
When we increase counselors, we also help teachers be able to focus on teaching and not wearing extra hats when they are already stretched thin. We improve outcomes across the board.
MAINTAIN THE ROLE OF ARTS AND ATHLETICS IN OUR SCHOOLS
Henrico has outstanding arts and athletic programs. These programs aren’t “extras” but are instead an essential part of our schools in Henrico. Education is about more than academics.
The opportunity for creativity, communication, and collaboration involved in these programs grows life-ready graduates. The arts and athletics offer depth of experience to our students beyond academics. They also foster relationships among students that don’t have academic classes together providing a greater understanding and appreciation of community.