Where Does Charla Stand?

Ensure School Safety in the COVID-19 Era

We can all agree the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. For the safety of our students and staff, we need to work with the appropriate health agencies, the school district, professional associations, and community partners. All voices must be heard. 

Now is the time to follow the latest scientific advice and guidelines. As schools open this fall, we need to implement appropriate cleaning and safety protocols. Training for district employees is paramount. 

The uncertainty we’re all feeling is hardest on our students. Let’s be open to new and creative ways to meet their academic, social, and emotional needs. 

Fight for Appropriate School Funding

Many of the Lee County voters I’ve spoken to are concerned about the district’s finances. They want to elect a school board member who will be a good steward of their tax money. 

I’m proposing that we recover the 0.5 mill taken by the Florida Legislature to balance the state budget in the 2008 and 2009 recession years. We can’t allow the state to balance its budget on the backs of our children.

Lee Schools should also decide how best to utilize our own money. 

As your District 2 Board Member, I will advocate for keeping the Required Local Effort (local property tax revenue) the same and not instituting a Roll Back Rate (a millage rate needed to generate the same amount of money as the previous school year).

Implementing these changes would have provided Lee Schools with an additional $21.6 million last year. This funding could be designated for employee salaries. 

Many new teachers are leaving the profession because they can’t afford to live here and pay student loans. Lee Schools is the second-largest employer in the county and well-paid employees will help boost the local economy. 

I also recommend leaning down the district’s reserve balance. A 3% balance is required by law and I believe we could dip below the10% needed to maintain our current high credit rating in order to supplement our current funding gaps. 

Bring Creativity Back Into the Classroom 

I’ve taught at South Fort Myers High School (Go Wolfpack!) for over a decade and I’ve witnessed firsthand how high-stakes testing is affecting instruction.

Teachers don’t have the flexibility to authentically engage their classrooms. They are being pressured from the state level on down, to “teach to the test” and students are frustrated.

Testing should be one of the many ways we measure student performance; instead, it’s the sole focus. Research has shown that standardized testing stymies creativity and disproportionately affects minority students. 

Creativity in the classroom can ignite a student’s imagination and desire to learn.

I’m advocating for “ongoing assessments” of student work to be used in the classroom, the same tasks they will experience in the workforce. This allows teachers to better meet student needs with immediate feedback and quick adjustments to instruction.

I also support decreasing class sizes across the district. Having personally taught classes with more than 40 students, I can tell you there is a clear correlation between class size and student achievement.

It’s time for Florida school districts to stop manipulating the numbers and follow the Class Size Amendment approved by voters in 2002.

Keep Our Students Healthy & Safe 

Dealing with COVID-19 is our priority right now, but we need to continue providing students with vital mental health services, social-emotional learning programs, diversity education, and assistance with conflict resolution.

Lee Schools needs additional funding to hire more psychologists, social workers, intervention specialists, and guidance counselors. 

Investing in character programs will help decrease incidents of school violence, sexual assault, and bullying. Academics isn’t the only thing students learn in school. It’s our responsibility to model a culture of respect and responsibility. 

Having an appropriate social-emotional atmosphere improves the academic learning process. The district needs to support schools by having qualified personnel train employees on how to build this atmosphere.

Lee Schools has implemented several diversity initiatives, but we need to stay diligent. Schools need to place a value on respecting diversity and promoting inclusion. There needs to be open discussions on the differences between people.

Violence in schools is unacceptable. Our students need to be educated in non-violent resolution and in ways to process their feelings in productive ways. Furthermore, school teachers, support staff, and security personnel need to be trained in de-escalation. 

Bolster SDLC Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

When elected as your District 2 Board Member, I will dedicate myself to bolstering the district’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. 

I will do this by supporting the efforts of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and enforcing the agreement between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the School District of Lee County.

School and classroom cultures need to promote diversity. As an educator, I understand that learning is a lifelong process. I want to ensure our teachers receive the training, resources, and materials needed to accomplish our initiatives. 

SDLC has a responsibility to seek job bids from more minority contractors and establish programs to recruit teachers from all local backgrounds (“Grow Your Own”). 

We need more diversity in staffing schools, and we can provide financial help or training to new recruits. 

Support Lee County Teachers & Support Personnel 

Teachers and support personnel are the heart and soul of our school system. As a member of the Lee County School Board, I will regularly meet with district employees to listen to their concerns and suggestions. 

Hearing our employees is only the first step. Next, I will meet with the Teachers/Support Professionals Associations (TALC/SPALC) to identify challenges and create actionable solutions. 

Our employees deserve our best so that they can give their best.

I do not support outsourcing or privatizing school services to reduce costs, and I don’t see any scenario where this could improve services. 

With the Lee County student population growing every year and additional precautions being taken to deal with COVID-19, I do not support a reduction of school personnel. I would prefer working with staff, the school district, and professional associations to find a solution.

I applaud the state’s decision to increase salaries for new teachers, but it should also include lifts for established teachers and support personnel.

Identify Opportunities to Partner With Lee County Businesses

Many local businesses and companies are struggling to find employees with the skills they need. Our workforce is changing so fast and we need to partner with these businesses to prepare our students for the jobs of the future. 

Together we can identify and implement new certificate programs for students. Many of them will be able to transition directly into a high-paying job after graduation. 

Thousands of graduates have already benefited from our industry certification programs through Microsoft and Adobe, as well as in trades like manufacturing, agriculture, firefighting, hospitality, healthcare, and more.