School Board–Alexandria District C: Ramee Gentry
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School Board–Alexandria District C: Ramee Gentry

Question & Answer

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Ramee Gentry



Town of residence: Alexandria

Age: 41

Family: Married to Mike, mother to Nicholas and Nora, both in 8th grade

Education: BA in History, MA in Museum Studies

Offices held, dates:

  • PTA President, Samuel Tucker Elementary 2011-13
  • PTA Vice President, Francis C. Hammond Middle School 2013-14
  • Chair, School Board’s Talented and Gifted Advisory Committee 2013-2015
  • Co Chair, Superintendent’s Honors Review Committee 2014
  • Occupation and relevant experience: Exhibitions Coordinator, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Community involvement: Decade volunteering for young adults with intellectual disabilities, volunteer at local Food Pantry for low-income families

Website: rameegentry.com

Email address: rameegentry4schoolboard@gmail.com

Twitter handle:

Name three favorite endorsements:

Teachers! [Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education]; also community leaders including Gwendolyn Lewis, Dak Hardwick

QUESTIONS:

What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?

Communication. I am frustrated by communication breakdowns among school staff, families, and the community. Parents don’t know who to contact with questions or concerns, or worse are rebuffed after an initial query and disengage. Teachers that create effective classroom strategies don’t have the opportunity to share their ideas with colleagues. Alignment of expectations and curriculum from elementary to middle to high school is compromised. Fortunately, I’ve also been able through my work in schools to help bridge communication divides and see positive outcomes as a result. I have a passion for this kind of work and will strive to bring all of us together. We all want the same thing — excellent schools for our city.

What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?

Leading division-wide committees and PTAs has taught me how to reach out to the wider community and build consensus. My volunteer work has given me knowledge of the unique needs of students with disabilities, ELL students, low-income families, and students identified for gifted/talented services. ACPS staff and families consistently name our schools’ incredible diversity as our greatest strength and I concur. However, with this diversity comes the challenge of meeting the needs of many different students, and that includes the so-called “average” student. My dedication to all these different types of learners will guide my decision-making. I want every student to succeed and I want no family to feel neglected.

How can Alexandria address overcrowding within the current budgetary confines? What ideas and skills do you bring to solving this?

We must complete redistricting by the start of the next school year. Redistricting will not resolve our overcrowding issues, but it is a crucial step in identifying where the most urgent capacity issues will be. School Board and City Council must have more frequent and earlier discussions regarding budgets. Education funding makes up the bulk of any city’s budget, so we must have consensus about our needs. It will require a combination of creative short term (renting vacant office space, installing temporary classrooms) and thoughtful long range construction planning. In my professional life, I am responsible for all projects in an exhibition space that sees over a million visitors a year. All work must be phased, due to budget constraints and the requirement to remain open to the public while work continues. Identifying needs, establishing priorities, tracking progress, and evaluating programs are the kinds of skills I can bring from my job to the board.

While the majority of Alexandria schools remain accredited, what can be done about continuing problems facing Jefferson-Houston? For incumbents, what lessons have been learned from the problem? For non-incumbent candidates, what would you have done differently?

Jefferson-Houston was hobbled by a building with outdated features that hampered learning. It also suffered from a lack of urgency when scores initially began to drop. Once we reached “crisis” mode, the school experienced so many new programs and administrators it was impossible to identify which systems were working and which needed to be removed. In addition, some programs were allowed to continue despite less-than-favorable results, and/or evaluations were timed too late in the school year to implement course correction. With the significant gains we’ve seen in the last year, the best course forward for Jefferson-Houston is to hone in on the programs, personnel, and policies that can be tied to this success and ensure that sufficient supports are in place to maintain and expand these accomplishments.