WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.
WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for the Berkeley District seat on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board.
Sandra Young faces John “Rio” Riofrio, both newcomers, in this race. Young’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place Nov. 3.
Read a completed questionnaire from Riofrio here.
1. What do you feel are the three major issues facing the school district right now? What are your ideas on how to address those issues?
First, overcrowding at some of our middle scools. The new school planned for James Blair would provide space for over 900 students. Unfortunately, it is in a terrible location that is about to become worse. There is a new Aldi’s being built across the street which will add to the congestion in the area. I think we should revisit this decision. Finding a different location is necessary. The initial idea was that smaller schools would provide a better education. Research does not support this. In fact, larger schools can support more electives and choices in foreign languages, math, and science curriculum.
Second, providing opportunities for those students who do not want to go to college. At a recent board meeting, a new bus was added to the transportation pool which will give students a way to get to New Horizons, a trade school. I would like to expand the local programs available or investigate transportation ways to give students access to New Horizons in Newport News.
Third, reducing costs to the taxpayers. This does not mean reducing services. I would look at our county and city resources to see what could be utilized; grounds service, attorneys, purchasing, and payroll processing are a few.
2. Population data suggests that WJCC will need a fourth middle school to accommodate students in the coming years. What do you think of the school division’s plan to build a new middle school on the campus of James Blair Middle School? Would you support the project’s progress in future budgets?
See above, I would not support the project’s progress. I want to take another look at location and design. We need to make sure the building site can be expanded in the future. And the cafeteria needs to be large enough to support a reasonable lunch schedule. We also need to review what moving off the four period daily block schedule can do to improve facility and staff availability.
3. The WJCC school division budget for FY 2016 was $4 million short of the amount it requested from the City of Williamsburg and James City County. What budget items would you want to ensure are fully funded and not cut back if WJCC schools faces a similar budget situation in FY 2017?
We cannot cut essential services to students. This means classes necessary for graduation, special education, transportation, and art, music, and p.e.
Let’s take a look at the block schedule and see if scheduling changes would compensate for some of the staffing costs. In addition removing duplication between county/city and school services maintains education while reducing administrative costs.
4. The WJCC school board has discussed starting the school day later for middle and high school students. Do you support later start times for these students? Why or why not?
Absolutely. High school students are growing physically and need more sleep. Starting so early results in a large number of high school students being sleep deprived. None of us works well when sleep deprived. It affects our mood, health, and productivity.
5. Which school improvement projects do you think need to be priority for the school division? Why?
Again,I would like to see a greater focus on students who want to enter the work force upon graduation. I would like to work on strengthening our involvement in New Horizons.
6. Talk about the achievement gap in WJCC Schools. Are the current strategies to close the gap working? Why or why not? What are your ideas to help progress in this area.
The achievement gap has been an ongoing concern for years. Gaps exist between males and females, minorities and whites, and most particularly between children from homes at different economic levels. Challenging course work helps some students. Writing for math, mandatory retention, and Reading Recovery helps many others. All of these help close the gap for some students. Some of the issues are social such as the priority education has in the home. One suggestion would be developing a pre-4th program for those students who are retained with a use of different strategies and very focused instruction on reading and math. We know that being a good reader by the end of third grade is predictive of future success in scool.
7. How would you describe the working relationship between the school board and the Board of Supervisors? What can the school board do to improve or enhance this relationship?
At times, there have been unresolved issues. These then are left to the superintendent and county administrator to sort out. I think a lot more discussion and an identification of priorities and common goals are needed. The issues need to be given the time necessary for full discussion.
8. How well do you feel the school board members work together? What do you feel you can bring to the school board’s dynamic?
My impression is that they work well together. There seems to be mutual respect for each other. I think I can bring a classroom teacher’s perspective as well as a common sense approach to solving issues.