Name: Stephen Johnston
Biography: Stephen Johnston moved to Virginia Beach in the 60s when his father was transferred to NAS Oceana. He graduated from Old Kellam High School, and his two sons also attended Virginia Beach City Public Schools. He works doing electrical design for military projects at a Hampton Roads engineering firm.
Website: Johnston for VB School Board
1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?
The citizens of Virginia Beach should elect me to the School Board primarily because I am not a Teacher, and no one in my family has been employed by any school system. I am the only candidate for School Board who can say this. Please don’t get me wrong we need Teachers on the School Board but we do not need only Teachers on the School Board. Would you want only people from the pharmaceutical industry running the FDA? Or just bankers and investors running the SEC? We need more diversity on the School Board; we need some parents from this side of the desk to fight for a quality education and safe schools for our children.
2. What would you do to improve school security?
I would concentrate on Classroom Safety. Last year the VBPS conducted a survey where most of the Teachers said they did not feel safe in their classroom. If the Teachers are not safe then you know the students are not safe. First I would invest in providing all school employees with a panic button, similar to a First Alert button. If a problem arises in the classroom, lunch room, in the halls or even in the Teachers Lounge, the Teacher could press the button and send a message to the school Resource Officers that help is needed at that location. We cannot afford to put Resource Officers in each classroom, but this is the next best thing.
I would invest in enhanced training for all school employees in conflict resolution and how to deescalate a situation before it becomes violent or out of hand.
I would also invest in a continuing training program that teaches all school employees to be aware of the changes in students’ behavior. These changes over time most often go unnoticed because no one is looking for them, but if properly trained these early warning signs may be detected so that help can be gotten for the individual before the situation turns tragic. These lessons would also apply to the personal lives of our school employees, some of the tragedies in our schools were not caused by the students or their peers but by people from the personal lives of the school employees.
3. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?
The Schools have already invested to give each student an E-Reader, the next step in investing in technology is to invest in trade related technology. We should invest in computer aided drafting/computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM). We should invest in technology that is in high demand for manufacturing jobs and careers so that our students are career ready when they graduate from high school.
4. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
The most challenging aspect of being a Teacher in Virginia Beach is a general lack of support and respect from the Administration. There is pressure from the Administration for the Teachers not to refer students for discipline problems and to increase students’ performance on standardized tests. Teachers should be given more authority in their classrooms to remove problem students and less stress should be placed on testing at the elementary school level.
5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.
We need mentoring programs in all of our schools. It does not matter if you live in a low income area or an affluent area every child should have a mentor. One of the best programs in Virginia Beach is the Men of Distinction program at Williams Elementary school. This program is one of the main reasons Williams Elementary is fully accredited. This program is led by community volunteers, and they bring in various leaders from all over the city to help teach the children about becoming good citizens and a successful part of the community.
I would like to see all schools have an activity bus for the students. Not all students families are able to pick up their children from after school programs and an activity bus would greatly increase the opportunity for every child to get extra help after school and allow them to participate in other activities having a well rounded learning experience.
6. What are your top three budget priorities?
My top three budget priorities are:
- Raises for Teacher assistance and other school personnel.
- Improving classroom safety
- Enhancing school building physical security.