Editor’s note: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates for the Shenandoah County School Board to answer three questions. Unedited responses are below.
Jessica Kelly and Marty Helsley are vying for the District 2 seat held by Richard Koontz, who is not running for re-election.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am the product of public education, including a Maryland state university, and have two children who attend school on the South campus of Shenandoah County Public Schools. I am a member of the Mount Jackson Hometown Partnership and helped to plan and organize the inaugural and successful Chili Cook Off in March 2019. Our family is active in the community, participating in events, sports, Scouts BSA, and community fundraisers.
Why are you running for School Board?
I believe in the strategic plan put in place for 2018 - 2024 and believe that it lays out the correct priorities in order to prepare students and support teachers. In particular, I like that the plan ensures several pathways for students as they consider life after high school, and has a focus to maintain equitable and competitive salaries for teachers.
The board has functioned well over the past several years, and I believe an important component of that is the balance it maintained between former educators and administrators and those engaged in business and community development. In my career in technology I have learned how to be a good listener to those who are impacted by my work, to understand their needs and pain points, and to collaborate with diverse groups in order to arrive at good solutions. This is a skill that I would bring to the School Board.
What is the biggest problem facing the School Board and how would you solve it?
I see the challenges of maintaining and building on positive changes made over the past 2-3 years and keeping ahead of facility needs as two areas which the School Board should focus in the near-future.
First, while there have been great strides in achieving accreditation of our schools, providing competitive compensation to teachers, and improving morale, it is important that the board continue to monitor and make positive progress in these areas. Second, while there have been some short-term fixes made to address overcrowding, longer-term plans to address this issue need to be made and impact the entire division.
These issues are not simple and require careful planning, analysis, and evaluation. I would bring my experience in a technical field to both of these questions. I will also continue to talk with and listen to administrators, teachers, parents and other concerned citizens around these and any other issues. I would like to see the board hold public forums at several different times of day in order to allow for more community engagement.