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2016 General Election, Miami-Dade County School Board: District 1

No District 1 school board candidate managed to clinch a majority in the Aug. 30 county election. The two candidates went on to a runoff.

Steve Gallon III
Wilbert T. “Tee” Holloway

Steve Gallon III

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Why are you running for the School Board of Miami-Dade County?

 I am running for the school board to bring my 26 years experience as an educator to help address and improve student learning and performance, teacher and employee pay and working conditions, equitable career advance my opportunity, and improved parental and community engagement.

Specifically, what are your experiences attending and working within K-12 schools?

I am a life-long public school educator and leader with over 26 years of experience, and having served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, elementary and high school principal, and district administrator in Miami-Dade County, as well as a Superintendent of Schools, my experience and background are uniquely superior to those of the other candidates. My knowledge, background, experience, and proven advocacy in areas that include but are not limited to curriculum, instruction, data, budget, finance, personnel, collective bargaining, legislation, and school operations and safety will enable me to help craft and support policy to improve our school district. In addition, they will all enable me to serve as an experienced voice for employees working in schools and departments throughout the district.

What have you identified as the most important issue impacting education within your respective District? How do you hope to address this issue if elected to the Board?

The most important issue impacting education in District 1 is advocacy and the fair and equitable distribution of resources to support District 1 schools. In addition, there are opportunities to improve student learning and achievement for all students, as well as increase employee compensation and improve the overall working conditions for all district and school employees. There are tremendous opportunities to improve the communication, cooperation, and collaboration among the school board, administration, and unions which can be done by first by listening to all stakeholders and assessing the critical issues, barriers, and opportunities relative to communication, cooperation, and collaboration. In doing so, this will facilitate the identification and establishment of common interests that we collectively agree upon that will make the school district as an organization better.

As a School Board member, I will be advocating for a more democratic school district where everyone should be respected and heard — one that values employees’ voice and offers them more decision-making opportunities. I believe and have experienced that when employees are allowed to be heard and contribute meaningfully to identifying and solving problems, and making decisions, better solutions and improvements are found. Such solutions and improvements are implemented more effectively because people are more committed to solutions they have a hand in developing.

What would be your top priorities within the first 3 months, if elected? 1st year? 2.5 years?

The top priorities are the improvement of student learning, the fair compensation of teachers and staff, and the over testing culture that has seemed to dominate classrooms and schools today.

First, I believe that an academic review of the schools that are persistently underperforming — such as Carol City Middle, which has received four consecutive Fs and has reading rates well below 20 percent — should be conducted. Schools such as these should be provided focused, intensive support and have resources deployed to ensure the learning and academic success of these students. Accountability and oversight should be a must and the exploration of more learning pathways for students needs to be revisited as programs for vocational/technical, arts, and at-risk students have been eliminated (MacArthur, 500 Role Models, Corporate Academy have been closed) or on the decline in the urban core.

With respect to the fair compensation of teachers and staff, this should be a priority. There are tremendous opportunities to improve the compensation, benefits, and working conditions of all employees. Despite the recession of 2008, in which employees made tremendous sacrifices, I think that the district has done poorly in making employees whole and rewarding them for the overall success that has been publicized in the district and providing for a fair, equitable, collegial, and rewarding working environment. The over testing of students should be addressed at both the local and state level. As an educator at the policy level and having had experience at the teacher, principal, district, and superintendent level, I would seek to engage in a meaningful, strategic discourse around this issue and examine what we are doing at the district level and state level and advocate for changes.

Lastly, the disparate treatment of Blacks in contracts with the School Board is an issue which has continued to perplex segments of the Black community. The fact that for years Blacks, which comprise over 20 percent of the population, had only been receiving less than 2 percent of contracts is troubling. It is even more so troubling that the call for changes came from community groups such as the Urban League, NAACP, and ICARE, as opposed to Board leadership. Although policy changes were just made in November 2015, the oversight of implementation remains a critical issue that needs to be monitored at the Board level.

MDCPS has been nationally acclaimed as a successful district, but also houses 25 of the state’s lowest performing elementary schools. What will you do about improving equity for all students who learn in the district, and not just excellence for a select few?

First, I believe that an academic review of the schools that are persistently underperforming such as Carol City Middle which has received four consecutive F’s and have reading rates well below 20% should be conducted. Schools such as these should be provided focused, intensive support and have resources deployed to ensure the learning and academic success of these students. Accountability and oversight should be a must and the exploration of more learning pathways for students needs to be revisited as programs for vocational/technical, arts, and at-risk students have been eliminated (MacArthur, 500 Role Models, Corporate Academy have been closed) or on the decline in the urban core.

What can you do to recruit, retain, and develop a strong, professional teaching force? What opportunities can be created for teachers to take on leadership roles without having to leave the classroom?

We must first improve teacher compensation and benefits and provide for improved working conditions. Also, we must provide the requisite resources and support to work with teachers and give them a greater sense of respect, ownership and efficacy as it relates to their work and profession.

How can we foster a productive relationship between public and charter schools, and one that leads to improved educational opportunities for all students?

The way the positive relationships are fostered is in first recognizing that both are public schools and that we both serve students in the community. The focus must remain on supporting the education of children and working cooperatively on behalf of parents and families.

How should parents, families, and other community members be involved in how schools are run, including decision around funding?

First, as a school board member I would work to involve parents, families, and community members through improved transparency and access to information involving the budget and funding. I would make myself available and open to dialogue, and receptive to information about the operation of the school district from those who are the closest to the work through meetings, Town Halls, focused stakeholder groups, as well as committees and Task Forces. Personally, however, I will be open, engaged, and accessible as I have been for the entirety of my career in public education.

According to recent data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), more than 1.6 million students across the country attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer, but not a school counselor. How can the school board influence the ways our youth are exposed to and interact with law enforcement? What can be done to ensure our priorities, resources, and partnerships are squarely focused on nurturing the growth and greatness of our youth?

 We need to shift the paradigm where we focus on prevention first as opposed to punishment. The sheer optics speak to a system that does not focus on prevention, intervention, and support. The realignment of our focus and priorities along with resources can begin to shift the tide in a more positive direction. School counselors and support staff will be a great start. Also, partnerships that are more positive and proactive with law enforcement would also be critical.

Wilbert T. “Tee” Holloway

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Did not respond to multiple requests for interviews.