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Vote Dr. Chino L. Walters for CCPS Board of Education At-Large (July 19)

Community Concerns & Issues


It is no secret that many families, students, and educators in Charles County grapple with educational disparities every year while dealing with the harsh reality that neighboring counties are provided with the benefits of quality education that our schools deserve. We must take serious action in addressing these disparities and closing the funding gaps to ensure that our scholars have equity in reaching their full potential and that our educators receive the compensation they deserve. To discover solutions that will meet this challenge head-on requires innovation, collaboration, and commitment; therefore, we must invest financially in increasing the salaries of our educators, while making them comparable to our neighboring counties. We must also provide opportunities for career advancements that will help close the retention gap and provide a more attractive recruitment program. The bottom line is that Charles County residents are tired of seeing good teachers go, whether they are retiring, transitioning to other careers, or taking their expertise to other counties. Yes, pay is only one factor of the equation, but it is largely significant. If we can hire and retain more qualified educators, behavioral health professionals, paraeducators, and other professional specialists, we will move Charles County Public Schools forward. 

Research shows that by investing adequate and equitable funding in public school systems, student achievement levels increase, especially for low-income and minority students. We must reevaluate our school funding framework and policies and focus on what matters to our students and educators. We must fund more pathway programs that provide high school students with industry-recognized certifications before graduation, more social support programs to help students and parents navigate through mental and social challenges, and curriculums that are focus-driven and not policy-driven. Also, let us not forget the dire need to fund early childhood education in Charles County. Education funding matters, and we owe it to Charles County Public Schools. As a CCBOE member, I will work to ensure that CCBOE continues to actively develop an equitable and adequate education funding system; this is extremely necessary to the future of our county, communities, and economy.

Teachers across the country are faced with the decision to retire or change careers due to many factors, mainly because of low salaries and added stress due to COVID-19. The pandemic alone has put this strain on the schools and teachers of Charles County. As a result, we will see the retention rate continue to drop significantly if we do not intervene. Over the last two school years, our teachers have had to work in hybrid and virtual environments, learn and enforce confusing health and safety protocols due to the ever-changing dynamics of a pandemic, and respond to students in stressful, emotional, and complex situations. Some students lost family members, became ill themselves, and others became homeless. All the while, our school system placed a heavy burden on our teachers to keep the education process seamless; yet they have continued to receive lower salaries and inadequate resources for professional development. As a result, teachers are burnt out; they leave Charles County and teach in neighboring counties that offer higher pay and have more ideal learning environments. We must take the proper steps to address the recruitment and retention issues within Charles County Public Schools and we must start now!

We need to prioritize recruitment and career advancement. Yes, it is not just about the money; however, we need to offer our teachers much better salaries and provide them with the autonomy, resources, and support they need to be successful. Increasing salaries is vital to both attracting and retaining qualified educators. We must provide our teachers with competitive and equitable salaries comparable to the cost of living in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, and to those with similar educational levels. In addition, we must implement effective retention and recruitment strategies such as smaller classroom sizes, mentoring and ongoing professional learning and development opportunities, financial incentives, scholarships, education loan forgiveness, and providing early pathway programs to high school students giving them the opportunity to be exposed to the teaching profession. Lastly, we need to recruit more minorities and minority males to become educators in our County’s public schools. Minority teachers particularly benefit minority students, as they are role models and advocates that will help close the achievement gap by providing social, emotional, and academic support. Therefore, we must implement staffing strategies beyond the traditional job fair by partnering with local colleges, universities, and HBCUs; this can play a key role in our recruitment and retention strategy.

As Charles County Public Schools return to the classrooms after undergoing many challenges with hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic, some things will take more time to reestablish than others. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, teachers, and students were required to conform to an unprecedented learning method without proper planning and resources in advance. While virtual learning provided an opportunity to continue education, it also increased the achievement gap for many students. These students were mainly children in families with lower incomes, those who experienced technology-related disadvantages such as the lack of internet access in their homes, and students with disabilities and learning difficulties. Research showed that many lower-income students had to either use public Wi-Fi in parking lots or struggle to complete assignments with a smartphone. With virtual learning becoming an option in Charles County, it is incumbent on us as policymakers to make sure that we strategically plan out County goals for virtual learning that will not widen the achievement gap. To ensure this, we must implement a “stand-alone” virtual school partnership within our local school system that will provide families within our County with the option to utilize virtual learning opportunities while creating employment opportunities for educators who possess specific skills necessary for virtual instruction. This will ensure that teachers operating in the classroom are not overwhelmed by the challenges of teaching both virtually and in-person at the same time. 

We must also consider the fact that the effectiveness of virtual learning varies among students. In order for Charles County Public Schools to get the full benefit of virtual learning opportunities, we must steer away from trying to replicate the physical classroom through virtual solutions alone, but we must become more innovative in strategically implementing collaborative solutions that promote a student’s individual learning. To accomplish this, Charles County Public Schools must hire and train teachers and staff with the necessary skills required to operate a virtual learning model that is scalable for all students, especially those with learning challenges and disabilities. In addition, we must invest in state-of-the-art technology, resources, and support to ensure that the quality of learning is comparable to the physical classroom.

There has been a significant rise in mental health challenges for students, parents, and educators in the last three years. Many factors have contributed to this increase, including the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic issues, behavioral challenges, and social-economic disparities. All in all, emotional burden has challenged many within the Charles County Public Schools; this has directly impacted the quality of education and increased behavioral problems in the classroom for many teachers. In addition, we are experiencing more students responding negatively to challenging situations in schools because of social trauma and stress. As a result, school safety and academic achievement have been adversely affected in many cases. We are witnessing more student altercations and threats of violence in our schools, as well as drug and substance abuse, parental and caregiver frustration, and teacher burnout. It is urgently necessary that Charles County Public Schools provide mental health services and solutions that will holistically aid our students, parents, and educators. 

We need to utilize current grants and funding to hire more school psychologists, specialists, counselors, social workers, and to train teachers on how to recognize and respond to students who need mental health support. In addition, we must provide funding for students and educators to subsidize the cost of mental health care. Mental health care support is challenging. Charles County Public Schools are doing the best they can given the current circumstances, however, there remains an urgent need to strategically address access to mental health services and support. Failing to do so will ultimately prevent students from learning and increase self-destructive behaviors that will lead to long-term consequences that will impact their pathway to success. I will champion the need to provide ongoing solutions that can be readily accessed by students, parents, and educators onsite and online. We can achieve this by developing partnerships with local clinics to implement school-based mental health services for students, parents, and teachers to help mitigate the mental health challenges that are increasing in our schools.

Parent and community involvement is an integral part of bringing success to Charles County Public Schools’ educational framework. Research shows that when parents, communities, and schools work together, student achievement tends to be higher and students are more likely to go on to enroll in higher-level learning programs and pursue college degrees. With the overall low achievement scores in English and Math in Charles County Public Schools, parent and community involvement are vital to addressing this gap. Unfortunately, research shows that parental involvement in education declines once students are in middle school. Having had the opportunity to facilitate parent and teacher conferences in Prince Georges County Public Schools, it was refreshing to engage with parents about their child’s progress and success; this often resulted in decreased behavioral problems and increased student performance. Unfortunately, a lack of collaboration between CCBOE and the community, specifically parents, is a huge problem. Failure to effectively collaborate with the community makes it difficult to properly evaluate the needs of our students and parents and to promote initiatives to increase involvement.

We need to strategically conduct parent-community meetings and initiate surveys to collect feedback from families and the community to understand what we need to do to improve the overall educational experience of our Charles County students. In addition, transparency and open communication with the community about our school policies and initiatives are vital for healthy collaboration. The bottom line is that the community needs a voice at the table with policymakers, and I will serve as that voice—a liaison between the community and Charles County Public Schools to ensure that we focus on things that matter to our students, parents, and community. In addition, we need to implement a parent association that can serve as an additional liaison to understand better the needs of our families and community. Collaboration is key, so we need to focus on building solutions to get the right voices at the table. Lastly, we need to make parents believe that their voices are meaningful and that they can affect change. I will ensure that parents know that CCBOE wants them involved in the decision-making process.

Diversity in Charles County Public Schools is essential to the strength and creativity of our schools. Therefore, it is important that we continue to foster safe and welcoming environments where students can learn and excel regardless of their race, background, and beliefs. Research shows that minorities make up approximately 65% of the student population in Charles County; however, the overall representation of minorities in education and administrative roles are not fully comparable. Therefore, we must continue to strategically implement solutions that attract and retain minority educators, especially males, and continue to expose our students and educators to various cultural and social backgrounds through teaching strategies and school programs that will ultimately prepare our students with the necessary social skills to thrive in a diverse world. Diversity and racial and social justice education all support the improvement of students cognitive and critical thinking skills. In addition, exposing our students in Charles County to various viewpoints and worldviews early will promote the demand for social justice for all students and educators. However, we must be clear that diversity and racial and social justice does not mean forcing students and teachers to disregard their personal convictions and viewpoints, but it means educating students and training teachers to create a reflective learning model that encourages information sharing, collaboration, and understanding. 

We also need to ensure that our learning environments and content, especially in primary and secondary education, allow students to see themselves and learn more about themselves. Doing so will increase student self-value and remove learning that portrays a one-sided view of world history for all students. Our students must learn about historical figures of all cultures in order to promote “liberty and justice for all.” I am dedicated to ensuring that, through my role on CCBOE, our students continue to thrive in a diversified world and are able to make an impact in our local communities. I will also ensure that we are more intentional in building a more diversified workforce of educators in our schools so that parents, students, and communities feel represented in public education.

Research shows that poverty and low-income earning dramatically and negatively impact the overall well-being of students, predominantly minority students, in the areas of physical and mental health, family support and planning, nutrition, and access to technology. These are all crucial areas that can determine whether or not a student will succeed in education. Therefore, we must establish community schools if we are going to close the achievement and opportunity gaps in our communities. I will be an eager advocate for the need to reform practices that contribute to the problems found among disadvantaged students and the need for public schools within Charles County to become more of a centralized place where essential services can be provided to our disadvantaged communities to help close the opportunity gaps; this is the function of a community school. The American Rescue Plan provided additional funding for schools to address COVID-19 associated achievement gaps by implementing evidence-based solutions and programs that extend beyond the classroom and are available year-round. I will be dedicated to ensuring that Charles County Public Schools more effectively utilizes these funds to actively address the current poverty and opportunity gaps. All in all, when we close the achievement gaps in our schools, we also close our communities’ skills, careers, and economic gaps.

Within the last year, while rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and while students returned to in-person learning, public school systems around the country experienced a spike in staffing recruitment and retention problems as well as bus strikes due to transportation professionals being offered extremely low wages and minimal benefits. As a result, public school transportation continues to be an undeniable concern in the Charles County Public Schools system as well. Within the last year, Charles County public school transportation operators engaged in a bus strike just so that they could have an opportunity to voice their need to earn livable wages, only for those needs to go unmet. Our transportation operators support our schools beyond transporting students from bus stops to school. They give parents an assurance that their children will travel safely to school, sporting events, and field trips. There is an idiom that states, “You never miss the water ‘til the well runs dry.” This is reflective of the fact that Charles County Public Schools cannot afford for our transportation “well” to run dry. Also, the last thing our county needs is another bus strike and staffing losses due to the unmet demands of our invaluable transportation operators. 

The answer is to allocate more funding to school transportation to help reduce staffing shortages and to provide more competitive compensation packages for our transportation professionals. Our transportation operators and attendants need to be paid higher wages that are comparable to our neighboring counties. We need to utilize our American Rescue Plan and ESSER funds to implement recruitment, staffing, and compensation solutions that reassure our transportation operators and attendants that we are moving in the right direction on their behalf. We also must address the need to reassess our transportation and safety plan and to determine if our bid and contracting procedures are in alignment with our goals. Ultimately, I am dedicated to fostering confidence in CCBOE so that our transportation professionals, parents, students, and community members know that we will continue to innovate and improve our county’s transportation plan.

Charles County Public Schools & Centers

“If elected as a member of the Board of Education for Charles County Public Schools, I will remain
focused on supporting the success of all our scholars, regardless of their circumstances.”