Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County School Board District 7 candidate Chan-Denise Budhoo.
Why do you want you to represent District 7 on the OCPS school board?
As a veteran teacher, the reason I decided to run is because I am passionate about education and impacting the lives of all students so that they can excel academically and become productive members of society. I have been a public servant and educator for over a decade working hard to help our children in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. I have worked in some of the most challenging Title I schools helping the students who need it the most starting at Carver Middle School in 2006. I understand the frustrations of educators and I will be a voice of reason and change fighting on their behalf.
As a mother with two children who attend school in District 7, I understand the concerns of the parents and can convey their concerns to the school board with their best interest at heart. I have a vested interest in District 7. I will bring a fresh new perspective with real solutions to issues concerning education because I am currently a teacher not far removed from the classroom. District 7 needs someone who truly understands the perspectives of all parties involved in making education a success, which include students, parents, teachers and staff. I am that candidate that understands every angle of this equation. I'm running this race for our children, my fellow teachers who have been overworked and underpaid, and to make a difference in District 7 – as well as add diversity to the School Board. I am running because I care about our children and want to ensure that equitable education is provided for ALL students. Our children deserve the best!
What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
I believe that my experience as a teacher and a parent enables me to have insight to understand the issues that are present within our education system. I am young and vibrant with innovative ideas and solutions to bring to the school board. I have taught in a variety of schools including Title I schools as well as schools that were not title I, that experience alone helps shed light on the areas that need improvement. I have worked in the community helping youth through summer camps, career readiness, and performing arts programs.
My passion and dedication to the field of education surpasses all other candidates in this race. My motives and intentions are solely to help make public education equitable for all students. I will openly celebrate the success that OCPS has accomplished and in the same breath challenge OCPS to be better because there is always room for improvement. I can not say that is the same for the other candidates as some of them want to dismantle public education and have nothing positive to say about OCPS. I'm the most approachable candidate in this race with the most potential to take district 7 to the next level of excellence.
What would your priorities be, if elected?
When elected I intend to focus on school safety, student achievement, retaining highly qualified teachers, and community involvement. I am a firm believer and endorser of the arts, technical programs, and athletic programs. These programs give students a sense of hope and motivate them to use their talents and skills to share with the world. I don't believe in giving teachers guns. I would like to see OCPS take a more proactive approach securing the infrastructure and perimeter of the schools. In addition, hiring more resource officers and working closely with our local law enforcement officers.
What are three challenges district 7 schools are currently facing, and how would you address them?
- We need to regain parents trust as it relates to school safety. I would suggest that OCPS continue to communicate with the parents to let them know about the new safety measures that have been implemented.
- We need to provide more resources for underperforming schools in the district and have a plan for improvement. I will advocate for funding for tutoring programs to help in the areas of reading and math.
- We need to develop strategies to get the parents and the community involved with the schools. I would suggest providing resources for the parents and hosting community events which can help with fostering parental involvement. Community partnerships with organizations that provide mentoring is also a great way to link schools and community to help provide an outlet for the children as well.
What measures should the district take in its goal to retain high-quality teachers?
I am a teacher, and I love and appreciate what we do. We are the incubators and producers of all professions. Every president, doctor, lawyer, preacher, movie star, etc. has sat in a classroom and had to be taught how to read, write, and do math. With such an incredible responsibility as educating our future leaders, we are not esteemed and appreciated as we should be. We are at the bottom when it comes to wages with most teachers working two or three jobs. This is why people run from this profession; low wages, extensive and demanding workloads, lack of support from administration, and lack of resources. I think we should give teachers raises and bigger retention bonuses.
If OCPS cannot provide raises, they should be able to provide toll and gas stipends to teachers who live far from their work location, in addition to free school lunch. The administration at every school should make it a priority to ensure that the morale of their teachers are high and their teachers feel appreciated. When teachers feel appreciated, they will stay and move mountains for you and the students' grades and scores will soar. When the atmosphere is positive, we will see great things happen and the joy of teaching and learning will be evident again.
What is your overall opinion on standardized testing, and should students’ test scores impact teacher evaluations?
This is an unfortunate problem where students test scores affect the teacher's evaluations, job security, and potential raises. Each student is not equally endowed with the ability to perform at grade level. Therefore, most teachers would like to see growth from certain students and proficiency from others.
Each student is tested at grade level no matter if that student came to you well below grade in reading or math. Sometimes it can be very challenging, especially in Title I schools, to see the results you want as it relates to test scores. It's very upsetting to know that you can work the entire year teaching your heart out and if "Johnny" fails that test, your job, raise, and evaluation is in jeopardy. This is an unfair practice.
What are your thoughts on the recent drastic cuts in legislative funding to arts education/organizations?
The art education programs are the last fun things left in schools. Let the children sing, learn how to play an instrument, participate in drama, and art. I don't understand why they are cutting funding when these programs are proven to help with motor skills, creativity, critical thinking, and academic achievement. Let the children have fun! This why we need people like me to advocate for funding and help them understand the importance of preserving the arts programs.