Meet the Candidates: School Board District Eight

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Editor’s Note: Candidates were sent a questionnaire via email.

DEBBIE SCHUM – INCUMBENT, UNOPPOSED

Debbie Schum 

Date of Birth: November 16, 1954

Profession/ Current Employer/Retired: Retired Educator

Why did you choose to run for School Board? I chose to run for school board to lend my time and effort to creating a school system that offers opportunities for all students and provides a positive and safe teaching and learning environment with strong academic outcomes.  I have over 45 years of experience as an educator in a variety of roles (teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, chief academic officer of the RSD in New Orleans, and Louisiana Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of College and Career Readiness). During the last 3 years, due to the Covid Pandemic and Hurricane Ida we have not seen as much progress in our schools as we should have.  We have much to do and now that we have begun making some progress on the curriculum and building issues, I want to continue to be a part of building a quality school system that will offer the best opportunities for all of our children.

What is our public school District’s No. 1 challenge? I think our number one challenge is public trust and communication.  We have to do a better job of communicating with the public and building support for public schools.  I think this can be improved by increasing community awareness of programs that we are implementing and transparency in finances and decision making for our children.

What is our public school District’s No. 1 asset? I believe our students/children are the No. 1 asset.  We have to continue to increase the opportunities provided for our children to be able to succeed in whatever they choose to do and to recognize and reward all of the good things that they are doing.  I am proud to say that all 3 of my children graduated from ESJ High School and are all very successful in their chosen careers ( one is a Dyslexia Specialist, one is a Vice President for Oschner and one is a Lieutenant for St. John Parish Sherriff’s office).

What would you like to see improved or upgraded with our public school district? I would like to see more parent and community involvement.  I thank the public for giving us the opportunity to upgrade and improve all of our facilities with the approval of the 58 million bond issue, and am hopeful that we can make sure that all of our schools offer excellent buildings as well as programs that will benefit our students.  I also would like to see us consider creating a STEAM ( Science, Technology, Engineering ARTS and Mathematics)  program instead of STEM only.  We need to make sure we start at  an early age with Music and Arts integration.  This is another area that took a hit during the pandemic due to the issue of wearing masks and not being able to have students with instruments in a group. I think that this is an area that we can continue to increase participation in and provide additional opportunities to enhance student achievement.

What qualities would you like to see in a new superintendent? I believe qualities of a successful superintendent should include:

  1. A sense of urgency to move our academic ratings in a positive direction
  2. Ability to Effectively Communicate with staff, the community, parents and students,
  3. Knowledge of Strategies to increase academic success
  4. Ability to build morale and create positive school culture
  5. Ability to work with state and federal agencies to assure compliance with education policies and guidelines.
  6. Exemplifies putting students first when making decisions for the district.

How do you plan to make a difference? Recently the school board approved a firm to assist us with creating a 5-year Strategic Plan, with the plan for year one to be complete sometime in March 2023.  The plan will have strategic goals, along with measurement indicators to determine our progress for each goal.  This is the first time since I have been on the board that we have made progress in creating a strategic plan. I plan to assure that we constantly monitor and hold the Superintendent accountable for reaching the goals and measuring our progress for each goal.  The community, parents, staff and students will play a big part in helping us to determine these goals and hopefully this will help to increase parent and community participation. I also currently serve on the Finance, Insurance, Salary Study and Personnel Committees.  I plan to continue working with members of those committees as well as members of the school board in order to assure that we are constantly monitoring the operations of the district.