Name: Sharon Felton
Biography: Sharon Felton is a life-long Virginia Beach resident who attained her public education at the city’s schools. Her children and grandchildren are also products of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system. She was first elected to the Virginia Beach School Board in 2014.
1. Why should residents re-elect you to the School Board?
As a life-long resident of Virginia Beach, having gone through the Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) system, as well as my children and currently my grandchildren who going through the VBCPS, I am dedicated to the success of VBCPS. During my first term as a school board member, I was able to increase my knowledge regarding the day to day functions of a school system, what it takes to “get things done,” and how to communicate this information to stakeholders (our parents, students, and staff). My first term allowed me to understand the intricate needs of our students and families, and seek ways to make sure our school system remains “ahead of the curve.” I feel that is our obligation to properly prepare students to be active engaged citizens within our local community as well as our global community. As a community, we need leadership that will recognize the value of equipping our students with the needed skills to be successful in life, post high school. Whether they decide to go to the military, obtain a certification, or go to college, we must do all we can to provide an atmosphere in which they can achieve those goals. I am committed to seeing that every child has access to a quality education. Being re-elected to the school board will allow me to continue to address and find resolution to challenges that we face. I remain committed to being “the voice of the community.”
2. What would you do to improve school security?
As a current member of the Virginia Beach School Board, I am committed to seeing that our schools are safe. While we have safety procedures in place and have adjusted them due to our current climate, I recognize that more needs to be done. In addition to an improved security system to be activated this fall for schools; in July 2018, I along with my Virginia Beach School Board colleagues approved the implementation of a “Blue Ribbon Panel.” The group is made up of Virginia Beach citizens who come from all walks of life, who can bring their knowledge, skill, experience and expertise to the table. The purpose of this group is to provide recommendations, based factual data that would direct us on how to address the gaps in our current security practices.
3. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?
Currently the Virginia Beach City Public Schools has taken great strides to incorporate technological advancements in the classroom and beyond. I am proud to say that the current leadership has made it possible for every student grades 1st – 12th to be issued Chromebooks/tablets where they can work on assignments and gain knowledge on how to utilize this tool and others of the like, for future use in college or employment. These successful initiatives make it a much easier process to seek out and designate funding to continue to enhance our use of technology throughout the division. Beyond hardware, I will continue to work to see that our division is using state-of-the-art equipment and software to provide a learning environment that is conducive to how children are learning and retaining information in this “information age.”
4. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
From what I have read, what I have been told, and what I have witnessed, salary is probably one of the most challenging aspects of being a teacher. Many of our teachers are dedicated to educating our children and understand that they will not become wealthy (monetarily) in doing so; however, those same dedicated teachers find themselves working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I know many teachers who in addition to being a full-time educator, work retail jobs, drive Uber of Lyft, or tutor just to make ends meet. Each year, I support salary increase for teachers and I am constantly looking for ways that we can provide a compensation that is satisfactory to the work that we are asking them to do. We must continue to seek ways to attract and retain the best teachers for our children, and respect their dedication, skill and expertise that they bring to the classroom. Teacher to student ratio is a challenge as well. I believe that one of the strongest aspects of the learning process is the interaction between the teacher and the student. We must continue to seek ways to keep classroom size at a minimum so students and teachers have time to get the most out of the learning process.
5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.
Currently as a school division, Virginia Beach City Public Schools have policies and practices to support students who may be in vulnerable situations such as homelessness and/or poverty. We can continue to do a better job of informing our students and parents about services available to them should they find themselves in a situation where they are in need. We can continue to work on identifying and removing barriers to achievement for vulnerable or underserved children and continue to adhere to best practices and mandates that eliminate such barriers for students. But in the end, we should make sure all students have access to a quality education and resources needed to make sure that they are able to achieve at their greatest level, properly preparing them for life beyond secondary school.
6. What are your top three budget priorities? In no particular order, my top 3 priorities are:
- Continued Implementation of “all day” kindergarten throughout the school division
- Diversity in school division leadership and teachers; Equity pay for teachers and non-instructional staff/custodians
- Accessibility of resources to all students