Name: Christine Dawson
Bio: Christine Dawson has been a resident of Manatee County for 40 years and was employed by the School District of Manatee County for 35 years.
She brings a breadth and width of meaningful educational experience from a 35-year career in Manatee County Schools. Upon her retirement from the district in 2015, her service to the school district included positions as teacher, reading coach, ESE and instructional specialist, assistant principal and principal. Post-retirement, she served on Governing Board of Lincoln Memorial Academy during conversion year and its first year of operation.
In addition, her service to many planning and leadership committees for Title I schools stand as exemplary with contributions still in effect at several schools which demonstrates sustainability in her efforts to improve education in Manatee County.
Dawson raised a family in Manatee County District 3, and both of her children attended schools in District 3 and graduated from Manatee High School.
During her years of employment, she attained a Master of Arts degree with honors from University of Sarasota (later named Argosy University). Also, in living her philosophy of lifelong learning, she attained license from the state of Florida in the professions of massage therapy and facial specialist.
Two standards continue with her into retirement. To her, retirement does not mean that she is no longer an educator and leader. “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” Also, Dawson has always believed: “We are all in this together. There is enough to go around.”
Why are you running for office?
To put simply in context of four words: to boot up change. To move away from the status quo and confront a current crisis never seen before in the modern word demands attention to correct adaptive strategies and development of a new open architecture and framework of instructional delivery to our students. As hard as it is to confront change and our desire to be back in our traditional settings with our students, a board must lead the constituents now in decision-making and crafting policy that respond to the realities, not political ideology that very well can put our students and staff in harm’s way.
I will add that I chose to run this race when the entire county electorate will select a school board member, not just the District 3 electorate. I feel strongly that the size of our district does not favor a five-seat board that corresponds to a drawn five-district geography and that the electing of two at-large members will create an informed and inclusive vote and provides a sufficient number of governing members to cover the time it takes for research and being present in the schools as possible in addition to responding to every communication coming from the parents, students and citizenry. School board district-making in a county can be, in my opinion, the same as gerrymandering to create a political bias or opportunity. I will propose the change of adding two at-large members as a board member. That is a common formula in many districts that have boards divided into districts.
As my platform indicates, the “one size fits all” attitude driving board decisions is inappropriate when directed toward educating all students. Boards are directed to providing “adequate instructional materials” for each student. That goes against any research on the science of reading. Providing an array of “superior instructional materials” for a teacher to choose from and allowing the teacher the authority in the classroom to choose which material to use to match teaching and learning strategies is an immediate part of my platform. Teachers are micromanaged by rigid scheduling and demand that certain materials are used. That is not necessary and a waste of administrative influence.
Collaborative work by the board influencing state statue regarding FSA testing is of priority. All testing and assessment exist to drive instruction, not real estate.
Self-worth of teachers and student is of high priority on my platform for change. This means regarding teachers and students not only for what they do but also for who they are. This includes paying professional teachers a salary that reflects their professional worth to the system. Changing this pay scale thus drives the pay scales for all other instructional and noninstructional employees in the system.
If elected, what will be your top three priorities during your term?
- As already stated regarding implications on education because of the COVID-19 crisis, develop adaptive strategies not based on political ideologies that put students and staff and families in harm’s way;
- Change culture of board. Rid system of either/or partisan politics that flavor decision-making with bullying tactics. Create change by leading with both/and, inclusive transparent decision-making;
- Design policies that promote three keys to dynamic achievement gains in all subject areas; and
- Create an abundance of a most precious resource by regarding and building self-worth of teachers and students.
What is your position on charter schools and the state’s recently expanded voucher-scholarship program?
I favor school choice giving parents/guardians flexible decision-making in choosing the best setting and instructional framework for their child. I believe that charter schools, which are public schools, can expand that choice for parents/guardians. Public schools receive a certain per-pupil allocation from state funds in addition to federal funds earmarked for education. An example is funding for Title I schools. If a student is in a charter school, the money allocation for educating that student follows the child. There is a feeling that somehow this detracts from services provided from traditional public schools. It does not. The choice begins with the parent; and, by law, money follows the students. There is no argument about that until law and statute changes.
I will say that I feel it imperative that a local school board is diligent in the process of reviewing a charter application meticulously and determining by majority vote whether the charter meets all guidelines to participate as a public school in the district.
As a board member of the SBMC, I believe my focus must be responsible for creating the absolute best education that is available in our schools and accessible for all students. I prefer to think that all schools can learn from one another and that, together, equitable educational opportunity can be created that is inclusive for all students and that meets the needs of all students. With an honest and dedicated focus to that, our student population will thrive.
My opinion on vouchers is different. Vouchers are not always the dollar amount of the full per-pupil allocation. But the voucher is still provided through state support by direct payments or tax credits. However, the difference is the voucher is allotted to the parent(s)/guardian who, in turn, may choose a private school and use the taxpayer funded voucher to pay all or part of the tuition required by the charter school. My disagreement lies in the fact that the rights students have in public schools do not automatically transfer with them to private schools, including the loss of procedural safeguards guaranteed by the federal and state government to students in public schools. Therefore, I do not believe that public funds, in this case vouchers, are an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars that can be used for private school funding.
May I also qualify that this belief does not diminish the high regard that I hold for some of the private schools in this district.
Do you feel district leadership is taking the district in the right direction? Why or why not?
Do you feel single-member representation is working well for the school board races?
What would you recommend to help Manatee public schools attract the most qualified teachers?
My take is a bit different on this question. Because I feel the question needs to be different and is reflected in my platform about increasing the self-worth of teachers. Professionally, this can be done by asking this question: What would you recommend to help Manatee public schools keep their highly qualified veteran teachers of 10 years or greater?
Although supportive of a competitive beginning salary for teachers, I believe that retaining veteran teachers of 10 years or more demands that we pay them a salary that is commensurate with executive professional salaries in other business sectors. State-driven initiatives to increase salaries are usually focused on the beginning teacher salary, while veteran teachers are mired in a middle salary cycle for years. As a metric, I will work for a salary scale that starts with a step at the top end of the scale for a 30-year highly effective teacher that is double that of a beginning teacher. I anticipate a beginning teacher by 2022 earning a $50,000/year salary. Thus, a 30-year teacher will earn a six-figure $100k/year. A 10-year, 15-year, 20-year, 25-year veteran teacher will be at a considerable higher pay step than they are at now if the top step is considered first when building a salary schedule. This system is guaranteed to attract the most accomplished teachers to our district and create a competitive hiring scenario while retaining our company’s teachers that have built a 10-plus-year career in this district. Also, these teachers, who are so important to our students, will gladly stay in the classroom longer if the many positions offered outside the classroom on a prorated or administrative schedule do not lure them simply because of the salary difference.
So yes, allocating more toward salaries and infusing our school system with any millage dollars is extremely important to me. As long as it all goes toward building the most extraordinary teaching force in the state of Florida.
What is your position on school impact fees?
As I stated before, I think school grades generated by the FSA impact real estate more in an area than supplying data provided to drive instruction for our students. Developers want to tout an A or B school to attract buyers with children to their developments. That being the case, yes, developers can be fully obligated to paying a school impact fee that goes to capital funds only to build school facilities. The fee is usually tied into the purchase price anyway.
Where do you stand on term limits for school board members?
I think that two terms of service as a school board member is to be the limit that a board member can serve.