Candidate Sal Romero, Jr. responds to ForHHS2 survey

Describe your background in education, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and public education.
I attended school in the Shenandoah Valley between 8-12th grade.I attended Broadway High School, BRCC, JMU, and Shenandoah University. I have been working in education since 2004. For the past 12 years, I have worked at Harrisonburg City Public Schools in the following roles: Home School Liaison, Teacher, Vice-Principal, and Central Office Administrator.

Do you think Harrisonburg needs a second high school?
yes

Give reasoning for your answer to Harrisonburg having a second high school.
Working for HCPS and having the opportunity to visit HHS on a regular basis, I am aware of the overcrowding issues we are dealing with and the negative impact this is having on the students and staff. For example, it is unsafe for a building to have 400 students over their capacity as this creates a safety concern if there was ever an emergency and the building had to quickly be evacuated. It is also very clear that given the lack of classroom space for teachers, some of the staff at HHS have to be move from one classroom to the next in order to have a space to teach. In addition, it is critical for a school to cultivate a safe and orderly environment in which students and staff have intentional opportunities to build long-lasting relationships. Having a second high school will allow for students to have more space to get to know each other and their teachers better.

When would you like to see a second high school open in Harrisonburg?
The school should be built as soon as possible for an opening date of 2022.

The current City Council voted to fund a second high school to open in 2023. What are your suggestions to alleviate overcrowding at HHS through the opening of a second high school?
I believe the initial steps to alleviate overcrowding with the addition of a 5th block will give us some good feedback after this upcoming academic year. I also believe there is great merit in continuing to explore other spaces available in the city and potentially find partnerships with organizations, businesses, universities that will allow for some of our students to have an opportunity to have a class out in the community.

Even though Bluestone Elementary is more than 50% larger than our other city elementary schools, our middle schools are near capacity and will become overcrowded during the tenure of our newly elected city council members. How will you address our city’s educational growth while still supporting the other needs of our community?
I believe education is the greatest equalizer and for many of our students the only pathway to success. The state has been reducing their funding to the localities over time. I will continue to advocate at the state level so that our schools are funded more adequately in order to provide our students a quality educational experience.

How familiar are you with the work completed by the Space Study Committee created by the Harrisonburg City School Board?
I was part of this committee and have an in-depth understanding of the process and conclusions reached by this committee.

Please summarize your knowledge of the Space Study Committee and their recommendations.
The space committee, as I recall, first began by identifying the current capacity at HHS and later conducted research and sought feedback from HHS personnel. The second part of the process was to explore different solutions which included an annex, an addition, and a new school. This process took about 8 weeks and the committee hosted a community open house to share with many stakeholders the pros/cons of each option and proceeded to recommend that the best option for our city was to build a new high school.

Please summarize your knowledge of our group, ForHHS2.
As I understand it, ForHHS2, is a grassroots group formed by concerned parents/community members that see the importance of advocating for a second high school and that advocate for the building of HHS2 as soon as possible.

Is there anything you would like the public to know in particular to public education within the city?
We have a great school system, ranking in the top 20 school districts out of 132 divisions in the state of Virginia. I am a passionate educator that has and will continue to advocate for our students in order for them to receive the best quality education we can offer.

You can learn more about Mr. Romero at http://salromero.org. If you’d like to talk more with Mr. Romero about education or other issues, you can reach him at sal4council@gmail.com.

Candidate Paloma Saucedo responds to ForHHS2 survey

Describe your background in education, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and public education.
I began my career as an educator in Mexico. I taught English as a Second Language and English as a Foreign Language at all levels (K-12 and post–secondary) in both the public and private sectors. I was also a teacher trainer for Secretaria de Educacion Publica de Coahuila (Secretary of Public Education of Coahuila). Other areas include my work for Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey (Monterrey Technical School), Instituto Comercial Bilingue (Bilingual Institute of Commerce), Instituto Mexicano–Americano de Relaciones Culturales (Mexican–American Institute of Cultural Relations), among others. When I came to Virginia, I developed a bilingual Early Literacy Program for infants and toddlers at the Waynesboro Public Library called Mama Ganso. I have also volunteered at First Baptist preschool as a teacher’s assistant. I have also served as a substitute teacher in the Harrisonburg City public schools, filling in for teachers, teacher’s assistants and reading specialists. Currently, I work as a Therapeutic Day Treatment Specialist and provide services in the city schools.

Do you think Harrisonburg needs a second high school?
Yes, absolutely! I was disappointed that the current (majority democratic) City Council voted to delay.

Give reasoning for your answer to Harrisonburg having a second high school.
Harrisonburg High School is currently severely overcrowded. This, no doubt, negatively impacts the quality of education our children are receiving and that is a shame.

When would you like to see a second high school open in Harrisonburg?
As soon as possible – preferably by 2021.

The current City Council voted to fund a second high school to open in 2023. What are your suggestions to alleviate overcrowding at HHS through the opening of a second high school?
An intentional/purposeful review of how space is currently being utilized would be a useful step. An important item to keep in mind, however, is to ensure that once the second high school is built and is part of the school system, that both high schools offer the same exact programs to all of the students, in an effort to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to succeed in their education journey, irrespective of family income.

Even though Bluestone Elementary is more than 50% larger than our other city elementary schools, our middle schools are near capacity and will become overcrowded during the tenure of our newly elected city council members. How will you address our city’s educational growth while still supporting the other needs of our community?
As your city council member, I will work with city and school officials to project growth and collaboratively determine the most efficient ways to address growth in ways that ensure both a high quality education, and an overall better quality of life for all our community members. As your council member, I will also advocate for a review of unnecessary expenses and projects as well as work toward reducing mass incarceration; so that we can redirect those resources to instead focus on education.

How familiar are you with the work completed by the Space Study Committee created by the Harrisonburg City School Board?
Very familiar — I participated in the Space Study Committee.

Please summarize your knowledge of the Space Study Committee and their recommendations.
Early last year (2017), Harrisonburg Public Schools began a process that engaged the city in matters of high school capacity and ways in which to adequately address growing enrollment. The Space Study Committee of about 30 various stakeholders embarked on a careful study of trends and projections and developed a recommendation to build a new high school. In late 2017, the School Board – through vote – chose a design for a new high school by Grimm & Parker and presented the proposal to City Council on December 12th. Unfortunately, in January this year, the majority democratic City Council didn’t vote to have a new High School by 2021, but instead delayed the process by two years.

Please summarize your knowledge of our group, ForHHS2.
I was invited to the group by parents with children at Harrisonburg High School, and have been an avid supporter of the efforts by ForHHS2 to improve the quality of our children’s education in Harrisonburg. I proudly display the yard sign at my house!

Is there anything you would like the public to know in particular to public education within the city?
Yes — as your city council candidate, these are the issues I am most concerned about, and would tirelessly advocate for, if elected:

  • Build a new high school NOW!
  • Ensure that the two high schools offer the same programs and/or guard against having one school that caters more to the privileged and the other to the less privileged among us. Opportunities must be equally accessible to all.
  • Expand the capacity and facilities in Harrisonburg to increase accessibility to high quality education that is safe and adequate to the needs of our students.
  • Protect the right to education of Harrisonburg city schools’ students regardless of immigration status.
  • Implement community prevention strategies that mitigate risks of gun violence, drug use, sex trafficking, bullying and low graduation rates; understanding the disproportionate effects of these issues on communities of color and the poor among us.
  • Create incentives for the pursuance of technical and/or higher education opportunities for our youth.

You can learn more about Ms. Saucedo at http://palomasaucedo.org. If you’d like to talk more with Ms. Saucedo about education or other issues, you can reach her at friendsofpaloma@gmail.com.

Candidate Carolyn W Frank responds to ForHHS2 survey

Describe your background in education, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and public education.
I attended public schools in Rockingham County, graduating from Elkton High School in 1971. I attended the current Massanutten Technical Center as an adult student at night to prepare myself for an opportunity to advance my career with Verizon phone company.  My two sons graduated from HHS in 2001, 2003 then VA Tech and JMU. My sons went to a very overcrowded Spotswood Elem. School while the decision was being made to build Stone Spring Elementary School. My son’s 4th grade class was held in a mobile classroom (trailer).

Do you think Harrisonburg needs a second high school?
Possibly

Give reasoning for your answer to Harrisonburg having a second high school.
Harrisonburg clearly needs additional space for students to learn and thrive. There may be other alternatives to address overcrowding for the next several years without stressing the city financially.

According to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development report on fiscal stress of localities:

  • HARRISONBURG IS THE 19TH MOST FISCALLY STRESSED LOCALITY out of 133 Virginia cities and counties.
  • MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME IS THE 37TH LOWEST AT $41,636 in 2016. MEDIAN INCOME HAS RISEN ONLY 1.35% FROM 2007-2016

According to the most recent UNITED WAY “ALICE” (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project, over 60% of Harrisonburg is considered working poor.

Borrowing $79M to construct a new school immediately will require exceeding the city’s own Financial Management Policies for several years which could negatively impact our bond rating when going to market for any other needs.

When would you like to see a second high school open in Harrisonburg?
2023

The current City Council voted to fund a second high school to open in 2023. What are your suggestions to alleviate overcrowding at HHS through the opening of a second high school?
The City Council is charged with funding school operations and construction, not the daily operation of the school system. After speaking with personnel at the school, I am impressed with how the school board and administration is working to make the most of a crowded and challenging situation.

Even though Bluestone Elementary is more than 50% larger than our other city elementary schools, our middle schools are near capacity and will become overcrowded during the tenure of our newly elected city council members. How will you address our city’s educational growth while still supporting the other needs of our community?
If growth projections are accurate and the city will need another new school in the next 4 years, it is absolutely necessary to have City Council, School Board and the community come together to do strategic long-term planning. At this time I see no way the city could take on additional debt in 3 or 4 years if it borrows for a high school to open in 2023. We must have options that work for everyone in our community. City leaders cannot ignore the city’s other major financial needs, ex. the eastern water line completion, need for additional public works and safety personnel to align with the growth in the city and any other needs identified and those unexpected.

How familiar are you with the work completed by the Space Study Committee created by the Harrisonburg City School Board?
I continue to study the Space Committee report, the City’s financial analysis, any other related documents and meet with community members and leaders to hear their opinions, suggestions and concerns. This is a community wide issue.

Please summarize your knowledge of the Space Study Committee and their recommendations.
The Space Committee was put together after the School Board had made public they wanted to build another high school. The committee should have been given the time and information to investigate every available option, their benefits and deficits, and their costs relative to taxes, debt and the financial health of our city. It is has become clear to me that our citizens continue to have many unanswered questions about the new high school in a community that values education and students.

Please summarize your knowledge of our group, ForHHS2.
The group believes that the only solution to overcrowding is to build a new high school right away with a campaign to gain support for their position. ForHHS2 members will support and promote candidates that favorite building a new high school sooner than the recommendation by the present council. I appreciate being given the opportunity to state my concerns.

Is there anything you would like the public to know in particular to public education within the city?
HHS has many wonderful programs for students and their families which enhance the educational opportunities but are not required for public education. I would like to see these opportunities continue for our students and their parents. After reviewing financial documents and having conversations with educators, city leaders and community members of all ages, we must explore the best way to maximize the usage of the existing facilities until a long term solution is viable and the city is able to take on additional large debt for school buildings. There are over 3000 schools in the country operating year-round schools, including Virginia. Could this be a solution for HCPS overcrowding? I think it’s one possibility that should be researched. We must work together to protect the financial health of our city, address the concerns of taxpayers, while helping our students get a quality education.

The fiscal burden of a new high school has an extremely high probability of forcing elimination of some of the exemplary programs HHS now offers. Examining alternatives and solutions can help to guarantee that these programs continue.

You can learn more about Ms. Frank at http://www.carolynwfrank.com. If you’d like to talk more with Ms. Frank about education or other issues, you can reach her at carolynwfrank@gmail.com.

Candidate C.B. Jones responds to ForHHS2 survey

Describe your background in education, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and public education.
I am a parent of 4 children, all of which attend public schools. I have served on the school board & city council liaison committee for two years. I have a close working relationships with the school board and superintendent. Moreover, I attended public schools and graduated a year early with an advanced diploma. I am a graduate of JMU, a public university.

Do you think Harrisonburg needs a second high school?
yes

Give reasoning for your answer to Harrisonburg having a second high school.
The current school is overcrowded and in my opinion, unsafe. In case of an emergency evacuation, maintaining calm would be a major issue. In addition, it’s more optimal for children to learn in smaller class rooms; currently, classes are too large at HHS. Lastly, teachers and staff need more space to prepare, plan, and engage with our children at HHS. There is not enough working space for teachers and staff.

When would you like to see a second high school open in Harrisonburg?
As soon as possible (2021)

The current City Council voted to fund a second high school to open in 2023. What are your suggestions to alleviate overcrowding at HHS through the opening of a second high school?

  1. Open the school in 2021 or ASAP
  2. Build an annex to alleviate some of the pressure now! There are dozens of ways to repurpose an extra building on the campus or across the street of HHS.
  3. Have a public meeting with school board to get their top solutions on how to operate between now and HHS2 being built. Fund the top ideas from that meeting.
  4. Fully fund the school board budget presentations between now and the completion of HHS2.

Even though Bluestone Elementary is more than 50% larger than our other city elementary schools, our middle schools are near capacity and will become overcrowded during the tenure of our newly elected city council members. How will you address our city’s educational growth while still supporting the other needs of our community?
We have to be willing to build annexes to make room for our students. If new construction is more feasible and fiscally sound in the long run, we need to build more. We need to be willing to meet often as a community to tackle the tough questions. When it comes to public education we have to become more proactive versus reactive. We cannot be cheap when it comes to our children.

How familiar are you with the work completed by the Space Study Committee created by the Harrisonburg City School Board?
Very familiar — I have an in-depth understanding of the process and conclusions reached by this committee.

Please summarize your knowledge of the Space Study Committee and their recommendations.
I served on the committee. The major take away was that the majority of the group would like to see HHS2 built. Many other options were vetted and explored.

Please summarize your knowledge of our group, ForHHS2.
ForHHS2 seeks to gather information and disseminate information from all parties involved in the pubic education circle in our city. In addition, ForHHS2 seeks to create awareness about the needs at the current high school. Moreover, ForHHS2 seeks to solve overcrowding by advocating for the building of a new second high school as quickly as possible.

Is there anything you would like the public to know in particular to public education within the city?
Greater participation from parents at city council meetings and at school board meetings is needed. We need more parents to put pressure on our elected officials, our superintendent, and our city manager to see that a proactive plan is in place for public education. I understand that many of our parents are working during meeting hours and are very busy. Please reach out to me so that I may stand in the gap and voice your concerns to ensure our children have the best public education possible.

You can learn more about Mr. Jones at http://votechrisjones.com. If you’d like to talk more with Mr. Jones about education or other issues, you can reach him at chris@votechrisjones.com.

Candidate Frank McMillan responds to ForHHS2 survey

Describe your background in education, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, and public education.
I am a product of public schooling and graduated at Spotswood. My boys graduated from HHS. My Step daughter graduated to JMU, and my wife works at JMU.

Do you think Harrisonburg needs a second high school?
Yes, I am in support of a second Harrisonburg high school.

Give reasoning for your answer to Harrisonburg having a second high school.
Student Safety and to ensure students have what they need to succeed. We also want a better student to teacher ratio.

When would you like to see a second high school open in Harrisonburg?
2023

The current City Council voted to fund a second high school to open in 2023. What are your suggestions to alleviate overcrowding at HHS through the opening of a second high school?
Add trailers for classrooms and teacher space and a 5th block to the day. They can look at a staggered schedule to help as well.

Even though Bluestone Elementary is more than 50% larger than our other city elementary schools, our middle schools are near capacity and will become overcrowded during the tenure of our newly elected city council members. How will you address our city’s educational growth while still supporting the other needs of our community?
The needs of our community should always be placed first and crowded schools is a safety problem that must be looked at.

How familiar are you with the work completed by the Space Study Committee created by the Harrisonburg City School Board?
Very familiar — I have an in-depth understanding of the process and conclusions reached by this committee.

Please summarize your knowledge of the Space Study Committee and their recommendations.
The space study committee was made up of local community leaders who concluded that a need for a second-high school existed, which I support.

Please summarize your knowledge of our group, ForHHS2.
A group of concerned parents, educators and community leaders who care for the wellbeing of Harrisonburg students and their education.

Is there anything you would like the public to know in particular to public education within the city?
I am a product of public schooling. My children have graduated from Harrisonburg public schools. Public education holds great importance to me because it is the foundation for a better society. We need to invest in our future and our children to build a strong and sustainable Harrisonburg.

You can learn more about Mr. McMillan at http://www.McMillan4CityCouncil.com. If you’d like to talk more with Mr. McMillan about education or other issues, you can reach him at frankmcmillanforharrisonburg@gmail.com.