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
Why do you want you to represent District 4 on the OCPS School Board again?
I want to continue thoughtful growth management by expanding on the 19 relief schools I have already advanced, continue the work of developing leadership skills in our youth, grow the programs that support the well-being for every child, and further advance on the 271% increase in career and technical training so every child graduates with workforce skills.
Why are you the best candidate?
I have always been very active in the community, serving in leadership roles with economic development, education, chamber, arts and not-for-profit boards, as well as through my executive roles in health care administration. I see firsthand many of the disparities, underlying issues and barriers to moving the needle for public schools. My approach to problem-solving is a combination of reviewing facts and facilitating collaborations. I seek input from parents, community and students; review the facts and data; and, when I have to, create the short wins while working on strategies and tactics to advance long-term accomplishments.
What would be your priorities, if re-elected?
Growth management, increasing experiential learning, career and technical training, enhancing whole student support including mental health, combating the opioid and drug threats to our children, and advancing a new sixth-to-12th-grade Polytech School model that could focus on energy, autonomous technology and medical sciences.
How do you balance the varying needs of parents and students, and teachers’ concerns regarding COVID-19 and reopening schools?
I am dedicated to creating success for every student. With that in mind, the approaches are not one-size-fits-all. We need to provide an education-delivery system for students and all our education staff. During COVID, for some this will mean face-to-face, and for others remote learning. We need to provide options and meet each child and staff member’s needs to the best of our ability. This disease is scary and is wreaking havoc, but I also realize the longer some students are out of school, they may never recover from their loss of developmental and learning deficits. I believe education is the great equalizer, and we need to find a way to deliver it safely.
What has to happen for you to feel comfortable with reopening schools for face-to-face instruction?
I don’t feel comfortable with everyone going back face-to-face. I have encouraged as many parents as it makes sense for to choose LaunchEd until we see the spread of the virus better contained. The latest data shows the average age of most of Orange County cases are people in their 30s, and we are lucky to have one of the lowest mortality rates at a one-half percent. We need to build on these facts and continue to reduce the risks so we can resume a full life. We all need to do our part to reduce the spread in order to protect our education staff, students, families and community at large.
Some teachers say Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent $500 million bill to raise teachers’ salaries favors new teachers rather than rewards veteran educators. What is your position regarding this bill and its implementation?
The latest legislation did target increasing starting salaries. This is a first step. We absolutely need to find a way to balance compensation for our outstanding seasoned teachers. How would you change it? We need to not let (our) focus divert from this issue. COVID will pass, but this inequity between highly skilled teachers and other credentialed professionals will not if we don’t continue to advocate our legislature and governor on behalf of our veteran teachers. Also, we need OCPS to be allocated the appropriate budget dollars from the state budget to also increase our support staff salaries just so we can more rapidly close the wage gap in our marketplace.
What are the education challenges unique to West Orange County, and how would you address those as a member of the School Board?
One of our greatest challenges is the rapid growth. West Orange County is no doubt one of the best places to live, work and play. That is no secret, as we are still one of the most popular areas to relocate to in the nation. We need to continue to advance relief schools, but we also need to work with the state to retool the education system by offering more experiential learning and exploring the best ways of delivering education to each child. That does not always have to be — nor should it be — the way we have done for the last 150 years.