In advance of Election Day on Nov. 3, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all 25 candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Charlottesville City Council and both local school boards. In the days before the election, we will also feature their responses to several important questions about key quality of life issues so that you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2015 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, copies of our 2015 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more. All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.
CHARLOTTESVILLE SCHOOL BOARD
FIRST IN A SERIES
Business leaders and social service agencies have told local government that new investments are sorely needed in the area of early childhood education. Will you make pre-K education and quality childcare a priority and if so how?
Four at-large seats available
Absolutely. Pre-K education is expensive, quality childcare is expensive, but if we’re going to create a school system that truly serves our community, they need to be in there. They need to be part of our approach to teaching the whole child and teaching the child from birth all the way through lifelong learning. To me, it’s getting it as something that is part of our finances. It needs to be in the budget that is long-term funded. I don’t know the answer as to where we get the funds right now, because we’ve been struggling with it as a community for years, absolutely for years. But I know that when our best-prepared students in our community are the ones who have had access to high-quality education from birth through schooling, when I know that that’s been the situation for our best-prepared students, I know it’s the answer for our least-prepared students. And we need to find a way to get high-quality education to those students as soon as possible, and I think pre-K and childcare are the answer.
I have a four-month-old, soon to be five-month-old, and childcare scares me. I don’t know how my wife and I afford it, and we have college educations and great jobs. I can’t imagine staring down, trying to find good quality childcare in this town if you didn’t have the financial resources, and how your child could ever be prepared for school, because it scares me as an educator who has plenty of resources to make that happen for my child. I think that’s something that we need to have available for all of our students if we really are going to have a community that we can all stand behind and really say is for all of our neighbors, and not just for a select few.
Yes, I will. I think it’s very important as I said. I would really like to take a look at where we can go in terms of the population that we have who need these extra inputs, and you know, what our end goal is. You know the three-year-old program, that ends at like 1:45 in the afternoon, and I actually don’t know what happens to these kids then, but that seems like something that we need to change for that to be effective. How I’m going to do it, I can’t really answer that. You ask a lot of questions, I have a lot to learn now. I have to meet with people and find out what’s going on, what’s working, what people are thinking about, and then from there I think to see how we move incrementally toward that goal.
Amy Laufer * Incumbent
I believe that we have made pre-K education a priority. We have currently 220 students enrolled in our three- and four-year-old program. The three-year-old program is fully funded through the city, and the four-year-old program is joint with the state Department of Education as well. I think if we are to increase our pre-K education at this point, we need to have reconfiguration occur, because 220 students is really a school of itself, and if we were to expand, I think currently with our model of a preschool in each of our elementary schools, the capacity is not there to increase it by much more, so if we were to increase it, it would have to be in a building of its own. There’s a lot of pros and cons to both, but I think having one preschool building can allow us to service more students, and we can also combine preschool services. A lot of the students who we are seeing in our preschool program have special needs, and we need physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists, and they could be housed right in the building, instead of having to transfer through all of the schools. So I think that could really help bolster our preschool program.
Jennifer McKeever * Incumbent
I will certainly make pre-K education a priority. It has been a priority, particularly for the division for many years. I feel like the city’s investment in the three-year-old program and the four-year-old program is very significant. So significant that we don’t have a waiting list for the four-year-olds, and I’m very proud of that. I would love to see it expand to the three-year-olds as well. I think the preschool teachers we have are very strong. I very much appreciate the evaluation that we use to evaluate our preschool teachers, I think there is very high standards and expectations for our teachers. The children are nurtured and developed appropriately at the preschool level, so to continue you that and add classrooms at the appropriate level is certainly a high priority. And I think about question number nine about reconfiguration, I’ll more into depth about that.