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One race features an incumbent versus an upstart challenger. The other pits two longtime Volusia County Schools employees.

At the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters will decide among them to seat two new members on the Volusia County School Board.

In District 5, which is mainly the Deltona area, four-year incumbent Melody Johnson faces challenger Ruben Colón in a battle that amounts to a philosophical disagreement on the direction of the School Board.

In candidate forums and online, the race has occasionally gotten pointed, with incumbent Johnson leveling charges of smear campaign tactics, and Colón alleging impropriety in Johnson’s campaign donations.

Johnson is pleased with the general direction of the School Board, but determined to battle the District Cost Differential (DCD), a state mechanism that takes school funding from some districts and gives it to others. Volusia is among counties that give funding rather than receive it.

Colón, on the other hand, said the county school system is off-course. With little chance to change the DCD, he says, the county should be looking inward. Colón wants the School Board to address differences in the quality of education between East and West Volusia, and declining grades at some schools.

The other race is District 1, a bid to fill the seat being vacated by Dr. John Hill, who is running for West Volusia Hospital Authority. District 1 includes DeLand, Northwest Volusia, DeLeon Springs, Orange City and part of DeBary.

Longtime educator Al Bouie faces Jamie Haynes, Hill’s sister and also a veteran educator, in a contest that seems to rest mainly on qualifications.

Only those voters who live in the districts may cast ballots in these races. Check your voter registration card to determine your School Board district, or check with the Elections Office at 386-736-5930.

Especially in the District 1 race, because of similarities in the candidates’ experience, many voters may cast their ballots along party lines, although School Board races are nonpartisan. For those voters, Johnson and Haynes are Republicans, while Colón and Bouie are Democrats.

Our interview with Colón was conducted in person, while our interview with Bouie was conducted over the phone. Johnson and Haynes answered questions via email.

Read the interviews with the candidates on the next two pages.


DISTRICT 1

Al Bouie — Bouie, who stepped in after his friend DeLand accountant Bill Kelly dropped out due to medical reasons, is running to represent District 1 on the School Board. A longtime educator in Volusia County, with experience as a teacher, principal and administrator, Bouie said he is the best-qualified. Elections Office records show Bouie has raised $17,850.60 for his campaign.

Al Bouie — Bouie, who stepped in after his friend DeLand accountant Bill Kelly dropped out due to medical reasons, is running to represent District 1 on the School Board. A longtime educator in Volusia County, with experience as a teacher, principal and administrator, Bouie said he is the best-qualified. Elections Office records show Bouie has raised $17,850.60 for his campaign.

AL BOUIE

Q. What are some differences between you and your opponent?

A. Well, I think I’m the best and most qualified for the position. I am a career educator, high-school classroom teacher, coach, assistant principal, a principal at all three levels and a curriculum supervisor.

I understand the dynamics of curriculum, how to train teachers to use curriculum to be effective. I’ve been a district administrator, recruiter and director, so I understand how to recruit the best teachers and what we need to do to retain them. And I’ve been a college administrator, as well, so I’ve seen that transition and dynamics of the process as students move forward.

I’ve been in the trenches all the way. I know what effective schoolteachers’ classrooms look like, what effective administrators do.

You know, the research is true. And I’ve been trained and know how to implement the principles of available research.

Right now, we’re off course. I’m concerned right now about the discourse between the schools and teachers — the feeling the teachers have that they are not appreciated. Next to our children, our teachers are our most important members of the school system. We have to set them up for success. And there are ways to do this, ways to make them feel appreciated.

We have to have appropriate instructional materials, we have to pay them salary compensation, especially for the elementary-level instructors.

I’m not a fan of this module approach to curriculum. I believe we need to have a set of state-adopted textbooks in reading, writing and mathematics. Modules should shore up the deficiency, not be the basis of our curriculum.

The bottom line is, I’ve spent 47 years as an educator and 41 years in this district at all levels.

Q. Are you a Republican or a Democrat, and why?

A. What I am is an educator and an advocate for education for children. Education does not take a red or blue hue. Education is something for all of us. It’s all of our future, not just Democrat and Republican.

I’m not a proponent of division along party lines. What I am is a public servant, and I know a value of a quality education.

Q. What kind of donations and endorsements have you gotten?

A. From friends, community members, church members, from my students. Donations have been from acquaintances from all over Volusia County — after all, I’ve been here for 47 years interacting with all sorts of people, and they’ve supported me with donations and wishes for well-being.

Endorsement-wise, there are two former School Board members, Jeff Timko, Candace Lankford, At-large County Council Member Joyce Cusack, and several more. It’s been growing, from people who know me and understand my career and have watched me serve. Across party lines, too.

Q. If elected, what is your first priority?

A. My top priority is school safety — our learning environment must be safe, and everyone must feel safe. We cannot promote and deliver learning if we don’t have a safe environment. That’s without compromise.

Aside from that, we need to address curriculum issues, funding issues; we must look into our budget and see what we can do for teacher salary and benefits.

We’re using curriculum written by the district, instructional guides written by our own staff and committees. I’m not saying these modules are not useful, but our entire curriculum rests on them. If they are working, why do we have C and D schools? Why do we have so many young teachers leaving? Teacher retention has always been an issue, but I don’t think this is helping.

I am not trying to dampen their work or the heart that went into it. I’m challenging the philosophy itself, of having these committee-created materials and using them instead of using state-adopted base material with modules made according to our process as supplemental materials.

We have standard textbooks we could be using. I served on a committee that helped create these state materials — it’s a thorough process in which a number of programs are sent to every school district and every teacher, who sent back feedback, all of which is taken. The Department of Education may then select three in one category, and offer them to the school districts.

Based on my research, we’re basing our curriculum on district-made curriculums without using state-standard textbooks. I think it’s lacking. However well-meaning, the decision needs to be revised.

Those first three or four years in school are critical. And we have outstanding teachers. It is imperative we give them what they require.

Q. What are concrete ways to effect a positive change in funds available?

A. We have to work with local legislators to empower us so we have a voice in what’s going on in Tallahassee. It’s an uphill challenge.

You know, the DCD has been the stone in the lake that created so many ripples that have hurt us. Those ripples are backing right up into the classroom. That has to change. We must look at our leadership at all levels.

Q. What can you do differently with the money you already have?

A. Right now we’re forced to look inward, to be fiscally self-sufficient and be careful and deliberate how we spend funds. We have to evaluate where we are, and if it’s not working, adopt a different approach, until we get better. As I’ve said, this is a situation I have experience in.

Q. There seem to be more online courses available for high-school students. What do you think is the future of schooling/building schools?

A. I think online is great. Students need that experience for college, as it’s becoming more entwined in courses. I can see a future where we may have adjunct teachers one day.

I can see where a college professor from Duke may want to teach IB, AP English, in the basic curriculum, because he has a depth of understanding on how to present the material. To students who otherwise may not be perceived as good students. I mean, the sky’s the limit to improve education. And we have to make room for these kind of innovative techniques.

I also think we’ve strayed from our vocational programs. Every student shouldn’t have to go to college to be successful. We need carpenters, designers, beauticians, artists, mechanics, skilled laborers. There is a living to be made in these professions.

We are leaving out a whole segment of children with God-given talent in these areas because we don’t have comprehensive programs in the arts and vocational programs.

It’s essential in life, to teach children to be good citizens.


<img class="wp-image-5223 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ce19aef1f79337877123a78290b905df-scaled.jpg" alt="Jamie Haynes — Haynes is the sister of Dr. John Hill, who is vacating his District 1 seat on the Volusia County School Board to run for Hospital Authority instead. A longtime Volusia County school employee who has long worked in the Title I program, she said she is best-qualified for the position. Elections Office records show Haynes has raised $12,480 for her campaign.” width=”680″ height=”1024″ />

Jamie Haynes — Haynes is the sister of Dr. John Hill, who is vacating his District 1 seat on the Volusia County School Board to run for Hospital Authority instead. A longtime Volusia County school employee who has long worked in the Title I program, she said she is best-qualified for the position. Elections Office records show Haynes has raised $12,480 for her campaign.

JAMIE HAYNES

Q. Why should people vote for you and not your opponent?

A. I am passionate about every student receiving the best education and see this as my life’s mission. I am dedicated to ensuring that our students graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to follow their own path towards becoming a productive and responsible citizen.

I am in my 32nd year of working for Volusia County Schools, with over 20 years of classroom teaching experience at both the elementary and secondary levels. I am current in what is happening in classrooms, our curriculum standards, and the need for aligned materials and resources for teachers to educate students.

I have experience in writing federal grants ranging from $20 to $25 million, managing budgets, expenditures, and the compliance paperwork for federal and state audits.  Along with requesting and obtaining bids, negotiating contracts, and preparing documents for School Board approval.

My team and I currently install, manage, maintain and repair over 20,000 technology devices including computers, and iPads utilized by students and teachers in Title I schools.  

We provide professional learning for administrators, teachers, students, and parents on how to access the supplemental instructional software and applications.

I have also worked with every department, including but not limited to human resources, facilities, finance, transportation, School Way Café, and curriculum.

I have knowledge of how they operate and have a working relationship with the different individuals.

Q. Are you a Republican or a Democrat, and why?

A. The District 1 School Board race is a nonpartisan race. Therefore, I am not allowed to disclose my registered voting-party affiliation.

Q. What kind of donations and endorsements have you gotten?

A. I have received $12,480 in donations as of Oct. 5.

I have been endorsed by the Volusia Building Industry Association and Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors, along with several individuals, including former and current Volusia County school administrators, teachers, parents and students.

Q. If elected, what are your top priorities?

A. Student safety: Ensure that all students and staff are safe on our school campuses. This means that, as a community, we need to work together by partnering with law enforcement to provide safe campuses where students can focus on learning.

Fiscal and financial responsibility: Oversight of all funding to certify transparency of how funds are utilized. Ensuring that teachers have the curriculum, materials and resources needed to provide high-quality instructional lessons for students.

Guaranteeing that the educational needs of students are the first priority, along with strongly advocating for rewarding teachers and staff.

Vocational/technical courses: Offer a variety of learning opportunities in high school that allow students to choose a path towards a career upon graduation.  I believe, “Our goal should be to graduate students that are on the path to becoming contributing and productive citizens.”

Q. What are concrete ways to effect a positive change in funds available?

A. My experience with writing federal grants is to always start with the end in mind, create a comprehensive plan, establish what are the priorities, and utilize the funding to achieve the main goals.

I believe we need to prioritize the funding the district receives by funding our classroom needs first. Our main goal as educators is to educate students. That is the reason each of us is employed.

Therefore, if we start each year by funding what is needed to educate the students, such as curriculum materials, supplies, salaries for teachers, support staff, and school-based administrators first, then I believe we can effect a positive change.

Funding should occur from the bottom up, not the top down.

Q. There seem to be more online courses available for high-school students. What do you think is the future of schooling/building schools?

A. There are more online courses available for a variety of reasons. First, legislation requires that a student complete an online course during high school in order to earn a diploma.

Next, to prepare our students for colleges and universities where a lot of courses are presented utilizing an online format, we need to provide online courses at the high-school level.

I believe that we will continue with brick-and-mortar high-school buildings, since online courses do not offer the complete high-school experience, including hands-on experiences in trades/skills, sports, the arts, clubs, and socialization which students are interested in.


DISTRICT 5

<img class="wp-image-5224 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/e03552cfc124a7fc10d5e08121344dc3-scaled.jpg" alt="Ruben Colón — Political newcomer Colón is challenging incumbent Melody Johnson in the race for School Board District 5, which represents Southwest Volusia, largely Deltona. Colón said he represents a difference in philosophies for the direction of the School Board. Elections Office records show Colón has raised $12,601.27 for his campaign.” width=”696″ height=”928″ />

Ruben Colón — Political newcomer Colón is challenging incumbent Melody Johnson in the race for School Board District 5, which represents Southwest Volusia, largely Deltona. Colón said he represents a difference in philosophies for the direction of the School Board. Elections Office records show Colón has raised $12,601.27 for his campaign.

RUBEN COLÓN

Q. What are some of the differences between you and your opponent?

A. The election is about someone who says there needs to be change, and someone who is actually doing it. For five years, I have been intimately involved with the school system.

It began with a teacher inviting me to do a program we call the “guts show.” I bring in props like smokers’ lungs, all kinds of things. From there, it morphed into a partnership with Florida Hospital, where I work, that allows students to do internships at the hospital.

Volusia is a lot behind the eight ball on career and technical, also known as vocational, programs. At Pine Ridge [High School], the graduation rate in the vocational program is 94 percent. Compare that to the 76.6-percent graduation rate countywide.

The east side of the county has far more programs available. Deltona, which serves 20 percent of the population of students in Volusia, doesn’t have the same opportunities available.

I’m already involved in the expansion of vocational programs — win or lose, this is what I’m doing, and what I am going to continue to do.

What being on the School Board would do is allow me to help more students. Right now, nobody on the current School Board is advocating for Deltona.

It’s less about the person, and more about if we’re going in the right direction. We have less programs available now than we did in 2014.

Q. Are you a Republican or a Democrat, and why?

A. Relying on a party platform requires following a party platform, rather than doing what’s right for our students.

Q. What kind of donations and endorsements have you gotten?

A. Seventy-two percent of my donations have come from my district, as opposed to 16 percent of my opponent’s. I have no political PAC, no special interest, no donation made with the expectation of something in return.

I believe it’s unethical to accept donations from current vendors under contract with the School Board.

Q. If elected, what are your top priorities?

A. Curriculum is No. 1. We aren’t using state-standards textbooks, we’re relying on modules. I understand why, in the first year of the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), we didn’t have textbooks available. But in the second year, we did, and we didn’t use them.

In that time, we’ve gone from 19 C-grade schools to 31 C schools with the use of modules. It’s a homegrown curriculum without vetting.

One teacher I talked to said, “It’s like playing a baseball game every week with a new glove.”

We need an evidence-based and proven curriculum. We need to give teachers the tools they need to do their jobs.

Q. What are concrete ways to effect a positive change in funds available?

A. The District Cost Differential is bad. It’s awful, and it’s never going to change. I’ll tell you why — in the Florida congress, 57 percent of the House of Representatives represent a district that benefits from the DCD. Seventy-three percent of the Senate represents counties that benefit. Who is going to cut funding for their schools?

While my opponent is fighting mission impossible, our house is in disorder.

I want to focus on the things we can change. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a noble fight. But we need to focus on our district.

Q. What are concrete ways to effect positive change with the funding we already have?

A. I believe we need to continue obtaining partnerships, like with the Florida Hospital, to continue our much-needed funding sources. There are ways to grow our private-public relationships, more avenues for naming rights, all the possible contributions to make up our deficit.

We do a very bad job at asking. I’ll tell you why: Teachers are expected to find funding sources, after working all day and having extracurricular responsibilities. That private-public partnership and sponsorship is key to closing the gap.

Q. There seem to be more online courses available for high-school students. What do you think is the future of schooling and building new schools?

A. Education is not one size fits all. A 21st-century education includes traditional brick-and-mortar schools, virtual schools, homebound, charter, private, home-schoolers, and hybrids.

Taking advantage of existing programs is the secret to our future success. The Florida Virtual School, for instance. We have a county version — Volusia Virtual — which is a franchise, but it’s poorly marketed. We’re losing out on funding because parents are going straight to Florida Virtual School.

The students that don’t walk [graduate], what is their story? Could we have figured out a better way to serve them? We have to use all of our resources.


<img class="wp-image-5225 size-large" src="https://www.beacononlinenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2b447b06876221b43d16bb02feac509e.jpg" alt="Melody Johnson — Incumbent Johnson is fighting to hang onto her School Board seat for a second four-year term, after falling short — by less than 1 percent — of winning outright among three candidates in the August primary. Elections Office records show Johnson has raised $15,279.86 for her campaign. In this photo are Nathan and Melody Johnson with their three adopted children: Shannon, 20; Nick, 18; and Chase, 14.” width=”696″ height=”680″ />

Melody Johnson — Incumbent Johnson is fighting to hang onto her School Board seat for a second four-year term, after falling short — by less than 1 percent — of winning outright among three candidates in the August primary. Elections Office records show Johnson has raised $15,279.86 for her campaign. In this photo are Nathan and Melody Johnson with their three adopted children: Shannon, 20; Nick, 18; and Chase, 14.

MELODY JOHNSON

Q. What are the major differences between you and your opponent?

A. The major differences between myself and my opponent would be outlook, temperament and record. At a recent forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, my opponent says he is “angry.”

We don’t need an angry person to represent our students or district on the School Board.  What we need is someone who is thoughtful, offers concrete solutions, and who will listen to all sides. That person is me.  

When I was elected, our graduation rate in 2014 was 67 percent. The current graduation rate is the highest ever for Volusia County Schools! This is very exciting and what we all work towards.

Each time that my opponent insults our statistics, he is insulting every graduate, every teacher, every volunteer, every staff member and leader in the district because he is looking to score political points by saying this is not accurate in relation to some other county in Florida?

Now, being a School Board member requires action. Someone cannot just talk, criticize or complain. In fact, one of the larger media outlets has said that I am the “leading force” on the Volusia County School Board.

For instance, I fought to bring in the Cambridge International Academy to both of my high schools. I have also recommended successfully to decrease unnecessary paperwork and also pushed for a transparency link for anyone to see what we spend and how we spend.

I have been an active and vocal supporter of the need to protect our students and found solutions to do just that. I was chair when the private negotiations began for our exclusive partnership with Florida Hospital along with the executives and district attorneys and staff with the Sheriff’s Office.  

I have worked with bringing partnerships with the Speedway and now with VBIA to be more involved with the west side. I have also traveled the state to speak to other school board members, members of our Legislature, spoke with numerous media outlets and went before the Constitution Revision Commission to eliminate the funding formula known as the District Cost Differential, which has cost our district over $150 million since 2004.  I have shown my commitment by going to each of my 16 school sites every four to six weeks, and I have been actively engaged with our students.

Q. Are you a Republican or a Democrat, and why?

A. This is a nonpartisan election.

Q. What kind of donations and endorsements have you gotten?  

A. The endorsements that I have received come from people and organizations from all walks of life, both political parties, different political views and from different backgrounds. The one thing that they all have in common is that they believe that I am the best to represent District 5 and Volusia County Schools.

Q. If elected, what are your top priorities?

A. Become No. 1 in Florida and a leader for the nation. I want people to look at our district as a model in ALL areas! Continue to work towards the “A” by supporting our teachers and staff and, of course, our students.

I would like to take the DCD to the 2020 ballot if elected. I’d like the voters to decide if they want local dollars leaving their district, and this would bring the monies needed to give our teachers better pay, which is always what I strive for in leading a school district: paying our best asset our very best.

Q. What are concrete ways to effect a positive change in funds available?  

A. Most don’t know this, but we at the local level control less than 12 percent of the school budget. We should have only three high-stakes tests in the student’s career: Iowa Standards in third grade, ACT/SAT in 10-12th.

Let’s bring the fun back to teaching and learning that we’ve taken by the chokeholds of legislation. We must streamline the bureaucracy and watch our procurement closely.

The main issue is the District Cost Differential. Again, this formula was instituted by the Florida Legislature in 2004 to fund public schools. Today, over $10 million in taxpayer money annually leaves Volusia to fund wealthier school districts like Miami-Dade or Broward County. It is time for this to change — after all, you don’t see fire or police department tax dollars leaving their district.

Q. What are concrete ways to effect positive change with the funding we already have?

A. I was the third vote that decided to use “pay as you go” for our half-cent sales-tax monies. This will save our district $51 million just in interest by not borrowing.

I will continue advocating for the end of DCD and equal per-student funding. This would bring $10 million or more each year back to our base student allocation, and that is what we can use to pay our teachers.  

Q. There seem to be more online courses available for high-school students. What do you think is the future of schooling and building new schools?  

A. Education is no longer what it once was. Currently we have Volusia Virtual and Florida Virtual as options. Every high-school student must take one online class as part of the requirement to graduate. There are currently opportunities for middle-school students to take courses at the college level. I’d like to give our fifth-graders an opportunity in the spring to take a sixth-grade class if desired. It will build confidence, I believe.

As for buildings, there is still the need and desire to build them. Online courses do not offer the hands-on and personal interaction that are also critical to learning and can never replace the relationship of a teacher with a student.


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