Name: Sonya Allen
Biography: Sonya Allen is a Chesapeake Public Schools teacher. She got her bachelor’s of science degree at Old Dominion University and her master’s degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School. She spent more than 2 years in Romania as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Website: Sonya Allen for Suffolk School Board
1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?
What do students gain with a high school degree? We have problems with truancy because students do not see the point of school. Can they get a decent paying job right after high school? No.
Trade schools like the College and Career Center at Pruden allow students to access alternative career paths to college debt. Vo-Tech is thriving in other areas of America and needs to be recognized as a positive solution for students in Suffolk, VA. Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe discusses this and I feel this is a big change that we need to make. The purpose of education is to make citizens prepared for the workforce. And we need to expose them to internships, apprenticeships, and career options. The abstract concept of “grades = success” will become practical reality. This is how truancy and behavioral issues will decrease. Show students concrete goals they can obtain for their own success.
2. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?
Technology is great, but change doesn’t have to come through an infusion of money. More money doesn’t make for a better system. Suffolk schools need to re-prioritize where the money they already receive is spent. We also need to be more transparent with our budget. Teachers need to have access to the money set aside for student enrollment so they can purchase class supplies. SMART Boards and laptops are fun to use, but are not what makes the classroom dynamic and engaging. Instead, it is the passion of the teachers.
3. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
The most stressful thing about being a teacher is when a student needs reprimanding and the administration is inconsistent with disciplining the student. The Administrators must consistently support teachers to create accountability with the students. Schools must be secure and teachers not feel physically threatened. Manners toward others must be instilled as part of the elementary school program.
In addition to these top 3 programs, teachers need to know they are valued.
Teachers planning bell is not a duty bell without compensation. For example, teachers should receive time to leave in proportion to the time they have extra duties. Many school systems already implement this activity. Also, school finances in Suffolk are horribly managed. Each student should have a certain dollar value prescribed to them, for example $5 per science student in a class of 30 = $150. The teacher is then given a school account to buy supplies. Money should not be arbitrarily given to different departments at principal’s whim. Teacher pay should reflect the rate of inflation.
4. What would you do to improve school security?
In Chesapeake, teachers will be given real life scenarios with lock downs and fire drills that simulate an actual shooting. This means drills will be during lunch, PE, and other chaotic times to help prepare staff and students for a real life emergency. Getting students under cover and out of harm’s way must be a key factor. These same emergency measure are a good start for Suffolk. Suffolk needs to have all access doors locked, better monitoring system at all entrances, fobs on access doors for teachers to use, and faster response times.
5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.
All students need to be exposed to various career paths in middle school and early high school to open up their mind to new possibilities and goals. We should have guest speakers, afterschool clubs, apprenticeships, professionals, military personal, field trips, and Saturday programs set up to showcase various career path. It is our duty as educators to make a highly skilled workforce. Our high poverty rate will ends with increased job training in high school.
Somewhere we have lost the fundamental premise for education. It is not ‘knowledge for knowledge sake.” It has a purpose. Education’s purpose is to get people trained for jobs.
6. What are your top three budget priorities?
- High School absenteeism must be addressed as it correlates with low graduation rates.
- College and Career Center at Pruden: restructuring, hiring, and enrollment. Vo-Tech is a great way to get students careers after graduation. This program needs to be promoted better and utilized more through the schools. Engineers, mechanics, H-VAC, and medical field careers are lucrative trades to acquire. Graduating HS is not enough anymore to get a job. Trades and are needed.
- Financial accountability and transparency at all schools and helping teachers access their class budgets
- Clean up the schools. Create an active supportive janitorial staff
- Bring in local farmers for food providers in cafe
In all of these goals, I will support the teachers through administrative changes