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Chesapeake School Board candidates share why they're running

16 candidates are on the ballot vying for 6 open seats and no incumbents are running for reelection

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Editor's Note: Dana Cormier was previously listed as a candidate but has withdrawn from the race due to health issues.

A big shakeup is coming to the Chesapeake School Board, with 16 candidates on the ballot vying for six open seats and no incumbents running for reelection. 

Each candidate is in an at-large position, meaning anyone can vote for them, not just a specific district.

Wednesday night, they all had the chance to tell a crowd of about 60 people what their priorities are.

Kimberly Alameda said she is a mom who has had enough and decided to do something about it.

"I will always protect parental rights and respect medical and religious freedom. We also need to address budget concerns, special education, mental health support, safety and security."

Shirley Auguste said to work through a difference of opinion on the school board, they should go through some sort of required training in order to work together to support the division.

"Supporting collaborative efforts between parents and the educators, standing for respect of diversity, respectable livable wages for all school personnel, insuring schools are safe and financially supported."

Recent Chesapeake graduate Blaizen Buckshot Bloom told the crowd he has a unique perspective on what students need and how they're recovering from "pandemic learning."

"It’s about looking at our health curriculum and seeing how we can improve it to be inclusive of mental illness and getting at the bare minimum annual screenings for mental illnesses in our schools."

Amanda Dean said her two children are what prompted her to run for the seat. She said every child deserves a high-quality education, while protecting "childhood innocence" and removing "political agendas" from the classroom.

"I am focused on returning our school system to a former state, a state in which we are focused on truly that-- education," she said. "We should not be teaching our children the art of settling for less, but we should be pushing them to strive for their absolute highest potential."

Jennifer Economy said the board needs to work on rebuilding trust with parents and the community. She also wants to place a big emphasis on special education resources and nurses.

"Number one is improving the system for children with disabilities. Having two children diagnosed with medical disabilities, I had problems with their accommodations."

Gayle Gilmore told the crowd everything the board does is about the children.

"Equitable education for all students regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status or special needs or disability."

Malia Huddle has been a school counselor for 35 years. She, along with other candidates, said hiring and retaining qualified teachers is vital.

"Bringing teacher salaries to the national average and insuring a living wage for all school employees."

Brenda Johnson has previously served on the school board for eight years and left in 2012.

"I remained active in our buildings and have served as a resource for parents to help guide them when they asked a question."

Mike Lamonea is currently serving as the Chair of the Virginia Human Trafficking Commission and has previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He laid out his main priorities if elected.

"Safety and security, accountability, parents' rights, mental health resources, enhancing our vocational trade schools and extremely importantly, retaining and getting teachers into Chesapeake."

John McCormick, an attorney in the area, said it is vital to listen to teachers, parents and students and help them develop solutions to problems they're facing.

"Keeping standards high, not lowering them to solve problems. That's not a solution. Keeping standards high, but identifying why there’s a struggle. Why do we have a struggle to hire teachers? Why do we have a struggle to reach academic achievements? Don't lower the standards."

Jared Miller said he wants to look at where all of the division's money is going and make sure it's being used and dispersed appropriately. He also placed a large emphasis on school security.

"I think we need to add SROs in every single school, make sure they’re all protected and also I have no problems inviting former law enforcement officers into our schools to also act as armed security."

Bradley Moore said he wants to restore faith and trust in the public school system.

"Make sure our children feel seen and heard. We do that at the school board by appointing a student representative, or a group of student representatives, to provide feedback directly and regularly to our school board."

Former Norfolk paramedic Norman Pool said he wants to place a large emphasis on vocational abilities.

"I firmly believe not every child should go to college. I firmly believe that every child has the ability to find vocational abilities that they might be able to acquire a job that might actually make them more than they ever made in college. So, I'm a big advocate of increasing moving forward with finding other vocational avenues in our schools."

Jeremy Rodden is a father and is currently serving as a substitute teacher in the division. He said he's concerned about health and safety in the schools.

"Part of my platform includes making sure that we utilize experts and have expert-driven policies in our schools. We need to make sure that we're getting opinions from those that are most educated, listening to all of them and then making decisions based on those opinions."

Healthcare worker Kim Scott said the board can support educators by supporting parental roles in the classroom and higher wages. 

Like Pool, she is also a proponent of vocational opportunities.

"Something I am very passionate about is vocational education because four-year college is not the only path to success and we should celebrate the diversity and career opportunities available to our children."

Finally, Brittany Walker, a former Chesapeake teacher and principal, emphasized school safety, parents' rights and supporting educators.

"Any time we have to make any changes to the budget, we have to keep those cuts as far away from the classroom as possible."

Dana Cormier was previously listed as a candidate but has withdrawn from the race due to health issues.

The entire forum will be available to view starting Thursday morning. The city had technical difficulties Wednesday evening.

Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Women’s Division Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is hosting another forum. This time for Chesapeake City Council.

You can hear from those 13 candidates at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

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