Candidate Profile: Robert “Bobby” Melatti

Politics
Bobby Melatti Virginia Beach School Board_1539293083264.jpg.jpg

Name: Robert “Bobby” Melatti

Biography: Robert “Bobby” Melatti graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in history. He is a member of the Resort Advisory Commission, and served on the Virginia Beach School Board from 2012 until 2014.

1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?

Education has been a core component of my make-up all my adult life. At 35 years old, I began a 33 year journey that took me from TCC where I received my Associates, to ODU where I received both my Bachelors and Masters in History all while working, raising children, engaging myself in the community. I served for 13 years on the Arts and Humanities Commission and to this very day, continue to serve on the Resort Advisory Commission. I was elected to the School Board in 2012 and served until 2014. I would like to return to the Board to continue the work that has been done during my term and beyond. I believe that it is very difficult for one individual to make a significant difference but I do believe that the team of 11 Board members working hand in hand with the Superintendent can move mountains!  I have a track record in nearly every arena of my life as a bridge builder and believe strongly, in the power of compromise. I work for IMGoing, the City’s event contractor at the resort. I can point with pride to a program that is steeped in the philosophy of inclusion and who’s mantra remains to this day, “something for everyone.” In the last analysis, I believe that I have a well rounded understanding of the City in general and that helps qualify me as a good candidate.

2. What would you do to improve school security?

As a School Board Member I will continue to monitor the implementation of the suggestions of the Blue Ribbon Panel. The panel’s charge was to determine: 1) What the Schools are doing well. 2) Where the schools have gaps and, 3) proffer suggestions for improvement. Their recommendations included; buzzer entrance features, more staff training, making sure that ALL entrances and exits were securely maintained, updating practice drills, and developing a methodology to report anonymous tips. In addition, we should consider hiring additional security in the form of retired police officers to work in all schools including elementary schools and as current less trained security personnel retire or leave VBCPS, they should be replaced by the above mentioned very qualified men and women. Additional counselors, additional cameras and better maintenance of the current camera systems in place as well on a focus on social-emotional learning.  Security is a work in progress that must never be viewed as a finished product.

3. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?

Technology is advancing exponentially. However, I think we would be well served to remember that teacher training is just, if not more, important than the technology itself. The division must consider adding more computer resource specialists (CRSs) to facilitate these efforts in instructional technology. I would like to see the division continue to focus on the 1:1 ratio of student to devices provided by the schools and consider replacing the current interactive white boards with “interactive panels.” In addition we need to continue to expand our network security and our infrastructure in order to accommodate the future technology that is just over the horizon.

4. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?

The challenges of choosing a teaching career have never been more evident or numerous as they are at present. The most obvious consideration is usually compensation. There is much evidence to show that teachers are paid about 18% less than those who choose a profession outside of the classroom that require the same level of education. Many teachers have Masters degrees and some still in the classroom, have earned PHDs. When one weighs the expense incurred to earn these designations one must then decide whether to set their sights on the Classroom or the Boardroom. Although the private business sphere is fraught with many issues, the challenges faced by teachers, bus drivers, janitors and security personnel who work in the schools are definitely more acute and not as easily controlled. Added to the less than adequate compensation, are the difficulties experienced due to bad behavior. Although every effort is made to support the teachers, site based autonomy means that the enforcement may be somewhat different from school to school. I would support a more consistent approach to student behavioral issues and how discipline is administered. Grading differentiation seems to be an issue with many teachers as well. Teachers are professionals and thus need to have some latitude when it comes to accepting late work or make up exams but to insist that teachers award anything other than a zero for work not turned in at all is just wrong. I support the grade of zero. I would support it even more ardently if it were based on a five point system instead of a 100 point system. There must be room for redemption in any program that gives nothing for nothing! These students need to feel that they have a chance. If they lose hope by October because of a couple of assignments that they failed to turn in, then we may have lost them and the cost of that loss is high. It is manifested not only in the time and expense to re-teach them the material but in the event that they drop out, the taxpayer burden is unacceptable. I support the recruitment and retaining excellent teachers as one of my top two priorities.

5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.

Vulnerable students, especially those who are poor or who have physical or mental challenges, have different priorities. While most children, those of average intelligence, who come from financially stable households, who have engaged parents, and who can focus on a wider range of life, are able to live life in a more “wide angle” vista. However, those students who suffer from “scarcity” whether that be scarcity of food, money, parental guidance, or nutrition find it difficult to focus on anything else. This tunnel of scarcity syndrome can rob one of insight. If you’re hungry, it is difficult to think of anything except where your next meal is coming from. If you have no money, you are constantly worried about how you will pay your bills to the exclusion of everything else that you need.  In order to support these students it is necessary to take a more holistic approach as the schools approach the students. For the most part, that is already happening and greater strides are being taken to identify and assist the struggling student. I would increase the number of student support teams to help those students who are in need. There is no easy answer to this but we know we have to do a better job of helping to identify issues that are plaguing our most vulnerable students.

6. What are your top three budget priorities? 

My top three budget priorities are:

  • Fair compensation for all employees of the School Board including teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, plant and janitorial staff.
  • Funding the Capital Improvement Projects. We need to do a better job of accelerating our replacement and refurbishing efforts of our schools. If we were to continue to on the same year to year contribution schedule of 42 million dollars per year, we would need 145 years to complete the cycle of replacement needed. We need to increase the contribution to 80 million per year and be judicious with our “bells and whistles” for the school buildings we create. We’ve kicked the proverbial can down the road for too long.
  • Invest in additional teachers in order to reduce class sizes. This will accomplish success on so many levels. Most importantly, it will take some of load off of teachers who can then spend more quality time with each student.

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