Name: Seko Varner
Biography: Seko Varner is a Green Run High School volunteer who runs an entertainment firm and directs a youth mentorship program named the Golden Fold. He also workers as the operator for the Hampton Roads Workforce Development.
1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?
I am the best choice for the At-Large seat because of my background as an educator, business person, and entertainer; because of my interests of increasing student value, and because of my platform. My platform is “Safer schools, Smarter outcomes, and Stronger community programs.” If elected, my top priorities are to increase the safety of our schools continually increase the ability for our students to graduate with valuable credentials and experience, and to continually find ways to partner with businesses and organizations in our region to provide greater benefit for our students and staff. We have a great school system! I will work to make our school system even grater. Virginia Beach residents should elect me to continue the progress towards safer schools, smarter outcomes, and stronger community programs.
2. What would you do to improve the school security?
A great amount of interest in school security stems from recent school shootings. The recent school shootings have led President Donald Trump to advance the idea of armed teachers as a way to secure our schools. I have a different approach. We can accomplish safer schools with upgrades in staffing, technology, and training. I suggest an increased presence of security via armed Peace-Officers and utilizing the SDS Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System which is a product and service of Virginia Beach’s AIS Security firm and training teachers to lead our children to safety through professional development.
We can prevent school shootings when school staff has a greater ability to identify individuals who are having a mental health crisis, and when these staff embers know who and how to connect those individuals with for necessary support. Beach schools have recently enhanced the ability to be sure that the right people and the right things are entering our schools. Our schools also need to have the ability to quickly locate and secure potential threats, reduce opportunities for violence, and remove potential targets in instances when a potential school shooter is present. Enhanced staffing, technology, and training will improve school security.
3. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?
One of the best aspects of Virginia Beach City Schools is our longstanding and ongoing focus on technology investments. As a school board member, I will support advancement in technology to ensure that our students are globally valuable.
4. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
I’ve had the privilege of being a teacher, working alongside teachers, and partnering with teachers during the 20+ years that I’ve worked as an educator. While the world has changed rapidly over those decades a few things have remained the same. Teachers are miracle workers who are overworked, overwhelmed, under supported, and underpaid. As a School Board member, I will be a breath of fresh air for our teachers. If elected I will find ways to increase support, increase the preparedness, increase resources, reduce the unnecessary workload, and work towards raising the salaries of our teachers.
5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.
I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. We will better support our vulnerable students by increasing the value of all of our students and then focusing resources upon our more vulnerable students. We have a wealth of school system resources and we can also connect our more vulnerable students to the resources which are outside of our school system. Our community is ripe with services that can provide benefit to our more vulnerable students. Our schools are currently doing a great job in connecting these students and the families to the internal and external supports. However, we can increase our community connections. I began pursuing a seat on the school board to work to ensure that all of our students graduate with greater value. My priority is increased student value. I know that students must compete for every opportunity after high school. I’d like for all of the students in our district to graduate with workforce credentials and workforce experience. Having credentials and experience will arm our students with an increased value that will allow our students to win competitions for jobs, positions, and opportunities.
6. What are your top three budget priorities?
Safer schools, smarter outcomes, and stronger programs is my platform. My top budget priorities mirror my platform. The budget priorities are investing in school safety, making better decisions with capital improvements, and increasing teacher salaries. A close fourth budget priority would be identifying and pursuing additional non-tax revenue. A recent safety audit revealed that Virginia Beach Schools are very safe schools. However, safe isn’t safe enough when considering that our future doctors, politicians, and leaders are currently students in our schools. We should expeditiously find ways to install the Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System, or a system with similar functionality, to increase school safety.
Virginia Beach has beautiful big houses and beautiful big school building. Our school system’s newer properties have been compared to the Taj Mahal. While I see the value in edifices which are architectural marvels, I fear that we may have over-invested our capital improvement resources. I firmly believe that our schools should make more prudent decisions with the resources that come from taxed-enough Virginia Beach residents.
I support the recent decision to fund our future budgets in a manner that provides teachers’ benchmark salaries to a level and that may eventually approach or equal the highest in the state when adjusted for the cost of living. I think that this increase might have been supplemented via resources from strategic partnerships with businesses, higher education, and other industries to avoid adding a tax burden upon Virginia Beach’s residents and businesses.