October 11, 2016

Critical election in four weeks - Vote for Lori Hershey; vote for our kids! #recessmatters

Four weeks from today voters will head to the polls. And while this election year is a big one nationally, there is a race much closer to home that will really matter to Jacksonville families. It is the election to fill the one open seat on the Duval County School Board. And it comes at a critical time for our school system.

When I first met candidate for Duval County School Board District 7 Lori Hershey in person, I immediately liked her no nonsense style. She had just received the most votes in the August primary, and was looking ahead to November.

Lori impressed me with her strong knowledge of our school system. It should come as no surprise as she is a Jacksonville native and the mother of four. Three of her children have graduated from the DCPS system; one is still enrolled.

One of the first things Lori decided was that she would run on her own merits and not partner with special interest groups. She had the opportunity - they approached her almost immediately following her strong performance in the primary - but she wanted to stay true to her own principles. She believes our School Board needs leadership not tied to special interests, and is committed to our schools and our children.

Lori with her husband Scott and their four children.

The District 7 seat is critical at this time. I cannot emphasize that enough. This Board member will have the power to shape the direction our School Board takes moving forward. Cater to special interest groups or focus on what matters most - our children?

To help other voters get to know Lori Hershey better, I emailed her some questions about her goals for our school district should she be elected:

Tell me why you chose to run for the Duval County School Board...

I’m running for school board because I care about public education and I want our city to have a school system we can be proud of and more importantly one we can believe in. I have been committed, focused and engaged with our public schools for over two decades. I’ve always been a champion for public education and students.

What do you see as the key issues our schools face today?

1. School safety and security are important. This school year alone has already had bomb threats at Mandarin High, LaVilla School of the Arts and others. We must ensure our campuses are safe and our classrooms are conducive to learning. Disruptive behavior interferes with learning for all. The best way to make sure our classrooms are conducive to learning is by empowering our teachers.

2. The School Board manages a budget that is 1.7 billion dollars. We must balance the budget and work efficiently within our means to produce excellence in education. We need to cut bureaucratic waste and direct dollars to the classroom.

3. So many of the challenges that face our schools are mandates that have been passed down from D.C. and Tallahassee. We must demand more local control of our schools.

4. Every student needs to graduate prepared and ready for success whether students enter the work force or pursue college.

5. Recruit and retain the best teachers.

If elected, what would your top goals be as a member of the Board?

  • Working to restore effectiveness to the board. Currently our board is fractured and it is important for board members to lay aside differences and work together for the common good of all students and address both the short and long term goals of education in our city. This election provides the opportunity to adjust the differences that currently exist. I have experience working on boards and with teams. This experience has provided the skills to work effectively as a board member. 

  • We need to address over crowding in our schools as well as those schools that are under utilized. This process will not be easy but it is vital. District 7 continues to see growth and our schools are at or nearing capacity. I wish there was an easy answer for this problem but there is not. Continuing to use portables to deal with over crowding is not the best long term solution. Building new schools is not something that happens quickly. This solution would be best solved by developing a strategic plan that is prepared for future growth.

  • Establishing policies that empower our teachers. If we are going to recruit and retain great teachers, then we have to give educators the freedom to educate without being restricted to script. Establishing policies and practices that empower educators in the classroom are essential.
Can you tell me a little about your background? How are you uniquely qualified to sit on the School Board?

I have been committed, focused and engaged in Duval County Public Schools for over two decades. Three of my children are graduates of DCPS and one is still enrolled. I have also worked in the classroom, served as a parent volunteer and mentored through United Way’s Achievers for Life Program. My experience with our schools also extends to my work experience. I have worked for educational non profits like Communities in Schools and am currently employed at the Jacksonville Children’s Commission. My experience and perspective is multi-faceted. My depth of experience with our school system provides me with a deep understanding of the issues and challenges that face our schools. I hold a Master’s in Public Administration and my work experiences have allowed me to: manage and balance budgets, negotiate contracts, and manage teams. I have the practical experience; as well insight into challenges that face our schools

I will be voting for Lori on November 8 and I hope you'll join me!

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