Name: Tamara L. Shewmake

Biography: Tamara L. Shewmake is a Portsmouth native who graduated from Norfolk State University with her bachelor’s and M.B.A degrees. She has worked in finance, as well as the local and federal sectors of the government. She is currently a Portsmouth Board member and Executive Committee member of the Hampton Roads Chamber and the second Vice President of the Portsmouth PTA Council.

1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?
As a lifelong resident of Portsmouth, a wife and mother of three students in Portsmouth Public Schools (PPS) and a product of PPS, I am in tune with the community and the needs of our children. I am fully committed to doing what is right at every turn to ensure our children are prepared for success from cradle to career.
2. What would you do to improve school security?
School safety is paramount not only to those who have children but to the community as a whole. As such, improving school safety should be an effort undertaken with community involvement. I would strive to bridge the relationship between school officials, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and civic leagues/neighborhood organizations to come up with general plans and even specific ones to address the needs of each community. A perfect starting point would be implementing a community watch program to create a communication system at bus stops to ensure students are safe outside our traditional school areas.   
3. How would you invest in technology and improve its applications in your schools?
I would like to expand the use of Chromebooks and other devices school system wide to ensure our children have access to the best publications and are comfortable utilizing budding technology. I am committed to seeking out resources and working with systems who have made this a reality to develop strategies on how to best facilitate this for our system.
4. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
One of the most challenging aspects of being a teacher is instructing students while lacking resources. Many students and parents cannot afford to contribute to supplies needed class wide. Further, many educational professionals understand the need for additional instructional tools which often times results in teachers utilizing personal funds. I believe pushing for community engagement across the board will positively impact this issue. For example, as the Legislative Advocate for the city wide PTA, I am aware that the PTA contributes classroom supplies to schools. Increased community participation will as a result begin to address this problem.  I will strenuously advocate for specific funding to address this as well.  
5. What would you do to better support your vulnerable student? For example, those who live in poverty.
For my entire adult life, I have worked in the community to help build support systems around those who need assistance for varying reasons. It is clear that our vulnerable students need a consistent nurturing environment with teachers and professionals who understand them and the challenges they face on a daily basis. I will push to ensure teachers are trained to recognize signs of distress so they can act accordingly and adjust to learning and behavioral challenges appropriately. I will also advocate for greater access to mental health professionals in schools to ensure our students know they are able to express their concerns and seek help in a safe and supportive environment.
6. What are your top three budget priorities?
My vision for our school system is to support our children from cradle to career; therefore, my top three budget priorities would revolve around creating sustainable programs in the following three areas:
  • Early Literacy – Studies have shown that students who have developed early literacy skills have better outcomes throughout the course of their educational career. Our school system presently has limited preschool programming but would benefit greatly if we had city wide three and four-year-old preschool programming, which I will advocate for.
  • Financial Literacy – Our children need to develop the basics of financial literacy and should have the ability to learn about finance from basic savings to entrepreneurship throughout the course of their public education and I will work to make this a reality. 
  • Post Graduate Preparedness – I will advocate for programming would ensure there are attainable certificate and degree programs for all students without demanding academic prerequisites or disqualifiers.