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Candidate profile: Norfolk's School Board

The Norfolk School Board has three seats open with the incumbents running. Two incumbents in other seats are running unopposed.

NORFOLK, Va. — As we enter the final stretch of election season, we're taking a closer look at the candidates who are running for Norfolk School Board, and what their plans are to help your child in school.

Here is the list of races for each Ward on Norfolk School Board:






Profile: Ward 1

For Ward 1, incumbent Adale Martin is holding tight to her seat. She faces candidate and Portsmouth Public Schools teacher, Carly West Gelles.

As the two go head-to-head for the school board seat, 13News Now asked both candidates about their stance on Governor Glenn Youngkin's transgender school policy changes.

"I personally am not in the business of outing children. I don't plan to do that," said Gelles. "However, if there is a conversation that needs to be had between parents and their children, then as a teacher, I would encourage that."

Martin also said the students need to have a safe place.

"Making sure they are respected and feel safe in any environment because I feel that's a real foundation for them to learn," said Martin. "So, that means parents, teachers, and students... we all need to be communicating openly and honestly of what each child needs. Norfolk has a non-discrimination policy and that applies to all areas."

Another concern in Hampton Roads is when the Virginia Department of Education leaders released new data, showing Virginia students fell behind in academics following the pandemic.

Each candidate had a different way of addressing the problem in the school system.

Martin said many Norfolk Public Schools are above the state average regarding academic accreditation, but she said more funding will help in the long run.

"With the American Rescue Plan, the extra funding we've been begging for many years to provide the resources that are needed in the classroom," said Martin. "Our schools have been grossly underfunded for decades, so we can finally prove that with the proper funding of our schools, we are able to accomplish great things for our students."

Gelles said it comes down to more one-on-one learning.

"We need smaller class sizes, we need more specialists in the building that can do pull-outs," said Gelles. "Right now, Norfolk specialists can do whatever the principal of the school likes them to do, so they can do SOL testing and other things, but they're not pulling students directly as much as they should be and helping students with those gaps close them." 

Profile: Ward 3

For Ward 3, Norfolk School Board Chair and incumbent Carlos Clanton is looking to keep his seat at the table.

However, two other candidates -- Navy retiree John Sitka, and life-long Norfolk resident Mark Askew Sr. -- are looking to take the seat from Clanton this year.

We asked the candidates about their stance on Governor Glenn Youngkin's transgender school policy changes.

"I support each student," said Clanton. "I support the value of parental involvement, but at the end of the day as a member of the school board and education, I have to put children first."

Sitka and Askew say they favor more parental involvement.

"We're talking about elementary schools and pushing any other kind of gender issues on them... this is an adult issue," said Sitka.

"The idea of administrators stepping into an arena that is not naturally theirs... strongly opposed," Askew said.

Each candidate had a different way of addressing the problem of students falling behind in Virginia's school system.

"We need to get more teachers. We need to get them motivated. Let's pay them decently," Sitka said.

"Saturday schooling is a must. I think we could really get a lot of value out of the Saturday schooling," Askew said. "We should also go a step further and even offer to pay the students to tutor on Saturdays."

Clanton went off of what the school board is currently doing.

"We're putting funding in for specialists, a gambit of things there, but I can guarantee you that working with my colleagues and my superintendent, that we will get students back where they need to be," he said.

Profile: Ward 4

Leon Rouson is looking to keep his seat on Norfolk School Board this election, but he faces challenger Tiffany Buffaloe this year.

A long-time public school worker in multiple school divisions across Hampton Roads, Buffaloe said one of her priorities is school safety.

Rouson, who is also a Norfolk State University professor, said his focus is on providing resources for student achievement following graduation.

Regarding Youngkin's transgender policy changes, Rouson said, "We have to protect our children. When families send their children to school, they're kind of expecting us to protect their children and take care of them. If we start somehow looking at them differently or looking at their rights based on identity issues... I think we would start going down a slippery hill if we start touching on that. Education is supposed to be uplifting, period, for all students."

"I know parents are partners in their children and what happens to their children. I'm a parent. I also believe in making sure all kids are safe, no matter what they identify as," Buffaloe said.

Each candidate also answered the question of what they would want to do to help students catch up on academics.

"We need our parents engaged to help their children at home with math and reading deficits, so supporting the superintendent and making sure his/her goals are geared toward student learning," Buffaloe said.

"When you look at the data, you have to find out maybe things we can do, do better, do for the first time," said Rouson. "Then, [what] you have to do is professional development and as a teacher trainer, I understand that."

Incumbents Tanya Bhasin for Ward 2 and Lauren Campsen for Ward 5 are running unopposed.

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