All of the six candidates running for Duval County’s District 6 School Board seat participated in a forum Thursday evening hosted by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund downtown.
The district encompasses much of Jacksonville’s Westside and Riverside areas. District 6 board member Becki Couch is termed out.
In alphabetical order, the District 6 candidates appearing on the August primary ballot are Dave Chauncey, Andrea Elliott, Charlotte Joyce, Karen Nuland, Bruce Taylor and Monique Tookes.
Dave Chauncey is a former Ribault Middle School social studies teacher. Now a lawyer, he advises schools and colleges around the state and leads the Ribault High Future Lawyers Mentorship program. He has the endorsement of the political arm of the Jax Chamber.
Andrea Elliott is a charter school teacher and a member of the NAACP, supporting the youth chapter with civic engagement. She also coaches soccer and cheerleading in District 6.
Charlotte Joyce started as a teacher at Joseph Stilwell High, now a military leadership magnet school. She serves as the school’s magnet coordinator and also founded the school’s Leadership Booster Club.
Karen Nuland has led PTAs at two schools and was elected to two terms as president of the Duval County Council of PTAs. She’s also been on many community boards including Duval Public Schools’ Joint Planning Commission and the Sanctuary on 8th Street.
Bruce Taylor is a retired Navy veteran and former Duval County teacher. He retired from Englewood High as the dean of students and was once a teacher of the year.
Monique Tookes has held several volunteer roles with the school district including serving on the school advisory council, the district’s code of conduct task force and the parent academy liaison for Andrew Jackson High school. She helped create the DCPS Parent Academy.
Below are a sampling of questions the candidates answered at Thursday’s forum. Responses have been edited for brevity.
- What is the biggest challenge facing Duval schools?
Chauncey: Prioritizing student achievement. “We can’t just settle for the status quo. We can’t just continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” He said the district has to be innovative.
Elliott: Student and teacher retention. “Cut the unnecessary stress, bring resources to the classroom for the educators,” provide quality professional development.” Make resources like the Parent Academy relatable and flexible for all parents.
Joyce: Reputation. “Duval County Public Schools is just a few points away from an ‘A,’” she said, “but the problem is we have a bad reputation.” Said the district needs to strengthen its code of conduct and put teachers back in charge.
Nuland: Budget. Said state funding hasn’t been adjusted for inflation and the state Legislature reduced the property tax cap districts can levy. “We have $100 million in back capital improvements that we have not had the chance to do. We don't have the money.”
Taylor: Bad communication with community. Said parental and community involvement strengthen schools. “One of the biggest challenges we have is from the top down. We [should] start truly taking a look at how we’re going to get our communities involved in the [surrounding] schools as well as the stakeholders.”
Tookes: “Human capital” of parents. “One of the greatest things that I’m hearing is while we’re this close to an ‘A’ we have to think about those children when we deal with equitable education, and I want to specifically deal with those children who have learning disabilities.” Said it’s a federal mandate to assess and accommodate those children.
- Position on charter schools?
Chauncey: Depends how they’re serving students. “If we’re doing the job that we need to be doing on a day-to-day basis and the district is being innovative and thinking outside the box and providing that quality education then there wouldn't be the desire for some to have charters.” Supports good charter schools that have shown innovation.
Elliott: Quality charter schools provide good education. Works at a charter school. Said she is trying to figure out why parents are choosing to go elsewhere and fully eliminating them isn’t useful.
Joyce: In favor of school choice. Said charters are like learning laboratories, and you’d ideally want to bring their successes into other schools. “The school board needs to have good oversight over the charter schools, and it needs to stay at a local level.”
Nuland: Charters should have to meet same state requirements as traditional schools, and that’s not currently the case. “If we were all on the same playing field and we were all good stewards of our money, we could have charter schools.”
Taylor: Give the community a choice. “They must be regulated at the same pace as public schools.” If they’re not, changes should be made. Said the schools have a place if they’re doing a good job. Wants charter leaders and traditional schools leaders to collaborate.
Tookes: Have to find a way to coexist. Said there’s an ignorance, lack of information about the great things traditional public schools are doing.
- How do we retain teachers?
Chauncey: Give them t freedom to teach. “As we have teachers that show mastery as they move forward, it’s not micromanaging them in the classroom.” He said making those teachers adhere to scripts and micromanagement causes burnout. Said training is also important.
Elliott: Leadership, which includes providing quality professional development and mentors. Said there’s too much paperwork associated with training and certification programs.
Joyce: Mentors for new teachers. “I firmly believe with all my heart you have to provide the training up front.” Said her plan would be to pair new teachers with experienced teachers before allowing them to take on a class by themselves.
Nuland: Changing the culture because teachers don’t feel like they can speak up. “These teachers need to speak up if they’ve got something to tell us. They’re on the front lines.” Also need teacher mentors.
Taylor: Salary increases. “We need to put some money on the table. That’s what keeps people in jobs.” As a certified teacher mentor in Duval, he said new teachers’ being paired with veteran teachers is important.
Tookes: Improve the school community. “We have to understand the stresses our teachers are under. I know as a parent, being a sounding board for a lot of the educators I’ve been able to serve.” She said they don’t feel heard and are stressed about curriculum.
The District 4 seat is one of three up for grabs in the August election. The others are District 2, which covers the Beaches, and District 6, which covers much of the Westside and Jacksonville’s urban core.
In Duval, any candidate who gets at least 50 percent plus one vote in the August primary wins the race. If that doesn’t happen, the top two candidates will move on to a runoff in November.