Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County School Board District 4 candidate Pam Gould.
Family: Married to husband, John, for 32 years; two adult sons, Gregory and Matthew
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Cedar Crest College
Qualifications: Incumbent; years of senior executive experience, including as CEO of Shepherd’s Hope
Of the three School Board seats on the primary ballot, this was the only one that is headed to a runoff. In your mind, what does that mean about District 4 and its voters?
When there are three active candidates in a race, it splits the vote in normal circumstances. While I did win the majority of votes in every precinct but three out of 38 — and I won the overall primary — it was just shy of the required 50-plus-1 vote needed to prevent the runoff. The election happened during very tumultuous times, all while the School Board was navigating through the shift in learning models, state’s executive orders and the community’s fears. It was very difficult to get accurate information at the forefront of the community. I believe this uncertainty and the lack of ability to assemble the large community forums I normally host had an impact.
What are the key differences between you and your opponent?
I have been an extremely active leader in this community for (more than) 30 years. My executive, board and community leadership roles have allowed me to have the pulse on and often lead the solutions for health, human services and education challenges. For more information, please take a moment to review my LinkedIn profile: bit.ly/3iD2Reu.
Why should District 4 constituents cast their votes for you?
Over my tenure, I have advanced the opening of 19 new schools; increased career and technical certifications and training by 271%; improved career-transition opportunities for students with disabilities; started Generation WOW to provide young women with mentors, leadership skills and opportunities; been a thought leader in programs (such as) the Guidewell Mental Health Think Tank, which resulted in my introducing mental health first-aid training to the school district; and spearheaded the Farm to Table program with OCPS Food and Nutrition Services. In the coming term, I will continue to champion new schools and programs that will enhance the educational experience for our students; advance mental health and school health programs and initiatives to keep our students and staff safe; further my work with local organizations to impact early learning so some children don’t start kindergarten lagging behind their peers; and champion new experiential and career-pathing programs, including a sixth- to 12th-grade polytechnic school, as well as academies/programs in energy, autonomous vehicle and medical sciences and certifications.
In District 4, growth will continue to be an issue, and new schools typically open at or near capacity — and are then overcrowded within just a few years. Is there any possibility in changing this dynamic? If so, what is that?
I am constantly seeking new ways to fund school construction and operations. Our state does not have the same taxing structure like so many others in our union. While this is a great benefit for individuals and families, it limits the resources for investment in education. The allocations of these tax resources are in the hands of our state legislature. Local solutions have helped — like the local 1 mill and half-penny sales tax — advance schools but on their own are not enough to solve the deep funding shortages. It is not just the cost of the facility but ensuring there is enough funding to operate all the programming and support services each school needs. I continue to look for opportunities to cut costs. One example was championing the waiver of tolls on school buses that resulted in substantial annual savings for the district and made the routes more efficient.
During the pandemic, some families have opted for private, charter or virtual options for their students. How should the district respond to this trend to encourage families to keep their children in OCPS schools?
I am a believer that every parent needs to act in the best interest of their child. That said, OCPS continues to offer programs, experiences and opportunities for students that are not duplicated in one place elsewhere. As we recover from this health and economic crisis, I encourage parents to look closely at the menu of options to see if they would like to re-evaluate their choices. I am proud to say that the OCPS schools in my district are all high performing in academics, extracurricular activities and social opportunities.
If you had a magic wand, what three issues would you change immediately at OCPS?
I do believe in magic; after all, we all live in the shadow of a magical castle. Now, all we need is unlimited resources. I would like things to change more instantaneously. There are many great initiatives, but they roll out in a very measured manner often slower than I would like to see.
Technology during and before this crisis has been a blessing and a curse. We have provided greater access, but that also increased the number of apps students and families need to learn. The technology needs to continue to be enhanced and streamlined. There are too many places to go to get information.
Lastly, I would want to instantly bring every child’s reading ability to their grade level or better. Strong reading and language skills will set the course for success for every student. Magic can happen if we all work together. Please volunteer to read or tutor at your local school. Education is the great equalizer!
If elected, how will you ensure transparency and open communication with your District 4 constituents?
I will continue to provide information, even when I know it is not the answer that people are wanting; host staff and community table talks where the guests set the agenda for the conversation; post updates on social media and newsletters; and share my email and cell phone: [email protected] and (407) 968-3508. I chose to serve and believe easy access to me is important.