In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Jessica Vaughn
Office: Hillsborough Co. School Board Member District 3
With my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, my background as a full-time classroom teacher, and my history as a substitute teacher; I have experienced an assortment of different classroom settings, a variety of diverse schools and I have engaged with a mixture of different students, teachers and support staff. These experiences have all equipped me to be an effective and proactive advocate for our schools and for educational policy as a whole.
As a CDD Board member for the past four years, I have managed a multi-million- dollar budget and worked closely with my fellow board members in order to better our community and to build a strong financial infrastructure.
And finally, as a parent of a neurodiverse and bi-racial son, I uniquely understand the challenges and importance of advocating for all our students equally.
Why should voters vote for you?
I am fiercely passionate about public education. My unique qualifications and my educational experience all make me the best candidate in this race. I am a hard worker who has prepared myself for the job. I will always ask the hard questions and then work to keep the voters informed. I am proactive and solution-oriented. I have spent the last five years as a community organizer because I deeply care about our community as a whole. I am not for sale. I haven’t accepted large bundled contributions from reckless developers and special interest groups. My loyalty is attached to my own personal values, our students, our parents, our teacher, our school staff and the betterment of Hillsborough county, not big-money donors. I have built a broad coalition of support based on my dedication to the issues, my integrity, my history of action and passion for civil service.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
1) Budget Reform – I will evaluate the upcoming budget, find ways to get more funding from Tallahassee and our Federal government, and strongly advocate for the financial needs of our teacher, students and support staff. With even less money coming from the state due to
COVID19, we will be facing an extreme budget crisis. Mitigating this crisis with as much harm reduction as possible is crucial.
2) Holistic Student Safety – This includes responding to the COVID19 crisis responsibility, addressing equality & equity, addressing the trauma of school shooting drills, access to safe drinking water, prioritizing non-toxic materials in our classrooms, quickly responding
to school bullying, focusing on healthy school meals, safe transportation & the safety of neuro-diverse and disabled students.
3) School Board Accessibility and Transparency – working to make our school board more transparent, accessible & accountable, keeping our voters engaged and educated and working to be a strong liaison between our board and our community.
4) Create Inclusive and Supportive Educational Policies – We need to create inclusive and supportive educational policies which support our students comprehensively, and which foster their individuality and their intrinsic curiosity, as opposed to just teaching for standardized tests.
5) Supporting Our Teachers and Support Staff
What are three key messages of your campaign?
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
- Offering College Preparatory Academics, Technical Training and Workplace Experience.
- Teacher Recruitment and Retention
- Protecting Public School Funding
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
I would have been proactive and prepared to meet the needs of our schools reopening during a global pandemic. We should have started planning and building the needed infrastructure to reopen back in May, as opposed to waiting until the end of July to start planning. For students who choose the brick and mortar option, I would have made sure that we had the proper safety procedures, class sizes, PPE and teach support available for our in-person classes.
I would have advocated for standardized responses to COVID19 cases and given
parents full transparency into the process. Also, with COVID-19 pushing more activities online, we need to address broadband inequities & limited access to technology for each student. To address these challenges, school boards should have established digital equity offices to deliver households the tools & training needed to physically access & use broadband/related digital services. A digital equity office would co-design & co-operate programs that make broadband and related devices more affordable and accessible for lower-income households.
A digital equity office would also support programs that build the digital skills of local
households and support our school staff & employees. These offices would also help support digital skills training operated by agency peers, online tutorials & external partners & nonprofit community groups. A digital equity office would offer a platform for community members—especially from historically disadvantaged communities—to directly engage in a technology needs assessment & plan related intervention.
Sadly, because of COVID19 even more students have fallen behind due to racial & socioeconomic inequalities. Also, many neurodiverse or disabled students aren’t able to successfully learn at home without access to their accommodations. Therefore, it is urgent that we intervene immediately to support our most vulnerable students. First, yearly skills assessments must be accurate in collecting data so that can give our teachers the support needed to make gains with students who have fallen behind. Next we must provide teachers with software training & resources to help make virtual engagement & instruction effective, while offering training in remote-learning best practices. We must also work with parents to help create a good learning environment at home, call upon in-house social services & ensure all students have the infrastructure needed for success. Finally, we must steer away from the overuse of standardized testing, so that teachers can focus on each student’s individual needs.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
As a board member, I will promote policies which focus on restorative justice/discipline, community-based schooling, ending the school to prison pipeline, equipping our school staff with comprehensive bias training, expanding our history curriculum and policies which cultivate more diversity within our hiring practices. I will also focus on policies which provide more supportive and nurturing environments for our students, policies which focus on evaluating the needs of each school individually and policies aimed at staffing our schools with appropriate nurses, mental health counselors, and social workers.
What motivates you to run for public office?
For the past decade or so, I’ve watched too many candidates run for school board, not because they have a passion for education, students or teachers; but instead because it is an easy launching point for their political career.
This has resulted in our public schools being underfunded, our teacher’s feeling under prioritized and our students left to fall through the cracks. All too often, I hear directly from school administrators, from teachers, from parents and our students themselves how
extremely powerless and frustrated they feel with the lack of resources offered to them in Hillsborough County.
Therefore; I am running for Hillsborough County School Board because I know that my proven experience as an educator, my experience as the parent of a non-neurotypical student, my
experience as a C.D.D board who oversees a multi-million- dollar budget, and the years that I have invested into community organizing have all prepared me to be the best candidate in this race!
If you’re ready for an accessible, thoughtful, experienced, reflective and honest school board member who isn’t “for sale” , who is ready to do more than just make empty promises, while fighting to prioritize our schools, our students and our teachers; please vote for me on
November 20, 2020.