Age: 56

Profession: Retired Teacher, Guilford County Schools

Highest degree earned: Bachelor of Science in intermediate education

Leadership experience: National Board Certified Teacher; Guilford County High School Teacher of the Year 2003-04; GCS New Teacher Mentor; Dudley High School Leadership Team; Freshmen Academy Team Leader; Honor Society Faculty Council; Junior Marshals Advisor

Civic involvement: National Association of University Women (Greensboro), charter member; vice president, Dudley Educational  Sports Hall of Fame/Hall of Distinction; second vice president, Greensboro Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Board of Directors, Chosen Productions; Piedmont Triad Chapter, WSSU Alumni Association

Web presence: BESTfordistrict4@gmail.com; www.DesireeBest.com (under construction); Facebook and Twitter sites under construction

QUESTIONS

What experience qualifies you to serve as a school board member? I am a lifelong educator. I retired from GCS after serving as a teacher’s assistant and a teacher for more than 31 years. I am currently a tutor in the district. I attended elementary, junior high and high school in Greensboro and graduated from Dudley High in 1979. School boards need authentic educator voices; teachers are uniquely driven to lead and impact our communities.

What do you see as current challenges facing public education in our county? What action would you take? Recruiting/retaining highly qualified teachers, infrastructure, school safety, budget cuts, lack of instructional resources, and class sizes are some of the challenges facing GCS. These challenges require swift action as they affect student achievement. I would work to make sure the community is well informed about the state of GCS, advocate relentlessly at all levels for fair funding, and ensure that funds are used wisely.

Working together the Guilford County school board and county commissioners have hired a consulting firm to determine the condition of its public-school buildings, future needs, and the safety of the schools. If this assessment requires upgrades, how would you fund this? Renovating and building new schools not only improves academic outcomes for students but also benefits the local economy through the creation of jobs. I would support a federal or state infrastructure bill that includes school construction. I would also support a local bond referendum. Clearly, improving school facilities improves the overall quality of the school system that in turn increases property values.

School violence appears to be a complex problem in Guilford County. What would you implement to address the issue? The community must address youth violence—this is not just a school district problem. However, the district can implement strategies that identify students who are suffering from trauma. These students need access to behavioral and mental health services. All GCS staff would benefit from professional development that helps schools effectively support students; subsequent state funding for school-based mental health clinics would support the initiative.

How should student success be measured and what tools can be provided for that success? Assessments that measure if students are on track at each grade level, as well as those that measure college/career readiness upon graduation can be useful. It is also helpful to measure how “hopeful” students are about their futures by using well-designed student surveys. Student engagement in non-academic programs reveals a great deal about school culture and should be part of the state’s accountability system.

What programs or services would you like to see added and which ones do you think should be eliminated? I would support comprehensive educational programming so that all children can pursue their talents and interests. I believe there should be greater emphasis on Career Technical Education and STEAM, as well as on social-emotional learning. We must also enhance services for academically gifted and exceptional children. GCS programs should be evaluated regularly, and the board must receive recommendations for continuation or elimination.

What should Guilford County Schools be doing to address the challenges of scarcer resources after the state in 2012 eliminated the 100 school cap on charter schools? Per pupil spending in North Carolina ranks 43rd in the nation. Policies like not granting districts a state sales tax exemption while doing so for cities, counties, charter and private schools, and public universities decreases revenue for classrooms. State lottery money for education is not going directly to our students, either. School board members must spend far more time galvanizing communities to change public policy.

What changes would you make in your district or at large if you have no additional funding? In Guilford County, we have some of the nation’s top-ranked schools, as well as talented students and educators. If there is no additional funding, it will be increasingly important that schools are more inviting to the community so that the public sees the great things happening in GCS. Showcasing outstanding programs and students will result in greater community support for local schools.

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