My Final Appeal to Undecided Voters on Election Day

cbuggs-closingstatement

With Election Day upon us, there may be a few questions you, the voter, may have for me:

 
(1) Why did you choose to run for a school board seat?
 
Twelve years ago, at the tender age of 18, I found myself leaving Nashville, headed to my very first internship. I soon landed in Pasadena, California, where I would study stars as an astrophysics intern with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory branch of NASA. For the first time, I realized the prestigious workforce was not as diverse as I expected. I saw very few minorities and even fewer women doing what I was training and aspiring to do. This realization pushed me into education as I saw it as my civic and spiritual duty to support young people in ways they often were not. I decided to pursue a career of advocacy, where I would work directly for and with students to ensure lifelong success.
 
When I decided to run for a school board seat, I saw myself as the perfect candidate. Having grown up in Nashville and as a lifelong resident, I have witnessed different shifts in public education. I had the honor of going to high school in the same exact building as my grandfather, the late Harold Moses Love, Sr. (Historic Pearl High) and graduating from one of Tennessee’s best schools (Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet H.S. at Pearl High). Unfortunately, I understood that many of my peers did not have this option. My experience with NASA further shaped my understanding that not all students are granted the same level of exposure and access to resources.
 
Before I earned my teaching certification and began this journey as a life-long educator, I was another member of the community who wanted to see kids succeed. I began by tutoring students through the MNPS Reading Clinic, teaching dance to kids in my congregation at Lee Chapel AME Church, mentoring students weekly at the Andrew Jackson Boys and Girls Club, and nurturing my 7 younger biological brothers and sisters to meet their fullest potential. I saw disparities in how each of these young people were treated. I saw flaws in public systems created to fill in gaps for the underserved. And I saw an unmet need for role models who looked like these young people. So I taught. When I felt I needed to learn more, I went back to school to earn two Master’s degrees in Education from Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University. Then I taught some more. When I realized education policy decisions were being made without input from teachers, I took time off from work and studied education policy. I regularly visited the legislature and sat in Education Subcommittee meetings for the House of Representatives and Senate. Then, I taught some more. When I saw that many of my efforts to impact students were ignored because I was “just a teacher,” I became the Assistant Director of TRIO Programs at Tennessee State University, a program that supports first-generation/low-income high school students. This has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the correlation between student outcomes and college readiness and why many of them were unprepared. Today, I continue to teach and advocate for MNPS students in this role.
 
I am a teacher who has dedicated my life, academically and professionally, to advocating for young people. I am a teacher who saw early on in my career the need to learn the system in order to change it. I am a teacher who understands that effective policies and productive teamwork can be the difference between life and death for a student. For instance, this year alone I have lost four of my former students, my babies, to gun violence. It never dawns on me speak to these personal experiences because as a teacher, as a community member, as a big sister, and as a role model, this is my life. This is what drives me to work for students.
 
(2) What is your platform?
 
For almost a decade I have been trusted with the lives and successes of students as a MNPS middle school math teacher and coach. After studying the 278 policies that govern MNPS, I’ve identified approximately 20 policies in need of high-priority improvements to better meet the needs of our students, teachers, and families. From a teacher’s perspective, it is difficult to arbitrarily choose just 1, 2, or even 3 areas of focus because they are equally necessary to meeting students’ needs because of poorly distributed resources and/or ineffective policies. However, I have identified three core themes where MNPS can take action to improve:
 
  • FOSTER COLLABORATION: Parents currently feel ignored and left out of conversations that would allow them to make informed decisions regarding their child’s education. I will be that trusted advocate and voice for parents.
  • FOCUS ON S.T.E.M.:Many students are not graduating ready to attend college or enter the workforce. I want to fight for more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum and instruction time to raise math scores, similarly to how the district has successfully raised literacy scores.
  • REDUCE OVER-TESTING: Currently 4th-grade students take 29 standardized tests. I will aim to eliminate unnecessary testing that wastes time and taxpayer dollars but does not improve or inform classroom instruction.
 
I am an experienced educator who wants to advocate for quality public education for all students, in every neighborhood, and in every school building. I will use my years of practice as a teacher and student advocate to better support our schools.
 
(3) What is your stance on charter schools?
 
My academic background in education and my professional history as a teacher in both a charter (Smithson Craighead Academy) and zoned (Neely’s Bend Middle) school resonates well with many different stakeholders. I decided early on that I would not be baited into the pro-charter/anti-charter debate but would instead remain focused on the needs of ALL children in ALL schools. I have an unwavering devotion to serve students—not school buildings or political agendas—and the well-being of young people will always be my main concern.
 
As school board members, we can’t be so far leaning in our thinking that we make parents and fellow board members feel isolated in having to pick a side. We have to make sure every school gets a fair shot at being great! I support parent choice as I am a product of it as a magnet school graduate. I also support pouring more resources into traditional zoned schools that don’t have the same support as charters and are not allowed to explore innovative practices with their classrooms. There are 35 total public schools in District 5 with charter schools making up only 22% of those schools. It’s evident that every child can’t attend a charter school. For the school board to focus its energy primarily on charter schools means we are leaving a majority of our students, and their parents who already feel isolated and ignored, out of the conversation.
 
I am often accused of being pro-charter or anti-charter because of those who support me (and possibly even because of those who oppose me), but very rarely have these accusers taken time to have conversations with me regarding my balanced stance. Those who have, now support me.
 
Speaking of supporters, I’ve gained the support of many students, teachers, parents, and other community members/leaders. I am humbled to have received the formal endorsements and support of many different organizations:
 
  • The Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA), the union representing the hard working teachers of MNPS, has formally endorsed me.
  • SEIU Local 205, the union that represents hard working MNPS support staff, like my father and step-father and many other paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and custodians, formally endorsed me.
  • TNRefinED, an advocacy group comprised completely of MNPS parents, has formally endorsed me.
  • The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce‘s SUCCESS PAC has formally endorsed me.
  • Women In Numbers, a nonpartisan organization established to engage, encourage and endorse qualified women to be elected to public office, has formally endorsed me.
 
These supporters, among many others, have given their time, energy, and money to help me reach as many neighbors as possible and I appreciate it whole-heartedly! Their efforts have allowed me to meet face-to-face with thousands of District 5 residents and convey my message almost daily over the past six months.
 
 
(4) What will you do as a school board member?
 
The MNPS website states the following: “The school board represents the public’s voice in public education, providing oversight for what the public schools need and what the community wants.”
 
To accomplish this, I pledge to:
 
  • be accessible to the community and listen to concerns and feedback regarding our schools;
  • work with fellow board members and the new Director of Schools to set strategic goals and ensure policies are updated to meet those needs;
  • review the budget diligently to ensure resources are distributed equitably and efficiently;
  • collaborate with different stakeholders the way I have successfully done as a board member and chair of several community organizations; and
  • continue to be an agent of change in public education in this new role.
As a public school teacher, I’ve seen decisions made by idealists, theorists, and politicians, but not by educators. The day-to-day happenings of our schools are being mandated by individuals who rarely experience how those policies hinder effective advocacy. I am currently running against a lawyer, a pharmacist, and a parent, all of whom I respect. However, as a career-long educator, I am more prepared academically and professionally than my opponents. I want to earn your vote by displaying all of the leadership attributes that make me qualified as opposed to discrediting other candidates.
 
Throughout this campaign, I have gained a clear understanding of policy governance, ideological stances, and unfortunately, political warfare. My character has been attacked and my temperament tested. My resilience has been tested, and I’ve learned when to push back and when to hold back, because sometimes silence is the best response and evidence of intelligent leadership. My combination of professional and life experiences have cultivated my genuine passion and understanding of public education. I was built for this.
 
District 5, I need your vote on August 4th! See you at the finish line! #BuggsForSchools