District 1 School Board candidate profile: Brandi Perkins

Published 1:38 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Editor’s note: Brandi Perkins is running against Denise Tynes for the District 1 seat on Isle of Wight County’s School Board. The Smithfield Times emailed the following questionnaire to each candidate on Sept. 5 with a Sept. 22 deadline for responses. Tynes did not respond to multiple contact attempts.

Name: Brandi A. Perkins

Age: 46

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Occupation: Golf Shop Attendant

Prior elected offices held: None

1.Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for School Board?

My children started out in the number one elementary school in Kentucky—an honor that was well deserved. People moved to that area because of the schools. I spent the last several years homeschooling my children while remaining active in the community. I have kept myself informed of current events regarding our local schools, and I have watched parents opt for private school or homeschooling because the public schools were straying away from their primary purpose. Last November, we began a transition back to a school board that focuses on education and financial transparency. I want to be a part of helping them achieve that goal so all the parents in this county feel they can send their children to our public schools, for which they pay. My children are now becoming successful adults, and I would be honored to help other children become the same.

2. What should be the School Board’s top priority right now?

The School Board should help make sure that teachers have the tools they need to educate students, spend taxpayer funds wisely and with total transparency, and that schools teach academic subjects that students can use to build their future while leaving social issues for the parents to teach.

3. Has a March policy change that now prohibits educators from teaching students about “systemic racism” had a positive or negative impact on Isle of Wight County Schools? What changes, if any, would you make to the policy?

Policy INB does not prohibit teachers from teaching anything. This policy does prevent teachers from promoting their own personal ideologies or agendas. Teachers teach to produce productive citizens; they do not teach to instill any particular point of view. Teaching a child that they can be anything they want to be should not be controversial. The conversation should never start out by telling a child that the deck is somehow stacked against them; that is simply discouraging and divisive. The limited amount of time teachers have with their students is best spent encouraging and lifting them up in an effort to promote advancement in academic studies. When our children succeed, we as a community succeed.

4. What more can Isle of Wight County Schools do to attract and retain quality teachers?

IOW is actually doing a great job retaining teachers, as evidenced by our low number of vacancies compared to nearby communities. As a community, we need to make more of an effort to let them know they are valued and appreciated. Sometimes, a heartfelt “thank you” is what keeps people going on rough days.

A recent statewide survey conducted by the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that the biggest reason teachers left the profession was “inadequate support”. Steady, consistent discipline that creates a classroom where a teacher can teach and not referee is a benefit that costs nothing. Benefits and salary, as in every job, are important, but discipline in schools is equally important.

5. Should Isle of Wight County Schools adopt the new transgender student model policies Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration released earlier this year? Why or why not?

Governor Youngkin’s Model Policies are not a suggestion but state law; the Virginia Attorney General has issued an opinion to that effect. No person or organization has the option not to follow the law. IWCS has a policy in place that, if it complies with the law,  should be followed. If not, the school board should revise it until it does comply. This is not a matter of opinion. A school board cannot ignore the law and then tell students they must obey the law and rules. 

6. What more can be done at the school division level to keep students safe from shootings?

All that can feasibly be done to keep schools safe should be done – keeping in mind that there is a balance between a school becoming a prison and a secure school that remains functioning for students. SRO officers, direct communication to law enforcement and emergency services, secure doors and lobby areas, metal detectors, classroom doors that can be locked from the inside, an active shooter protocol, drills practicing the same so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency, and training teachers how to recognize students with issues that could lead to deadly behavior are all beneficial measures that should be taken.

7. Should sitting School Board members endorse political candidates? Why or why not? 

Like every citizen, school board members should not be denied their right to voice their opinions – including the ability to endorse political candidates – on a personal level. Citizens should know what kind of person they are electing to the school board and what beliefs that person has. There is no better way to understand this than to know which political candidates they support. Knowledge is power, and learning everything possible about who you vote for is critical in electing the person most closely aligned with your beliefs. 

8. Are board members doing enough to keep track of Isle of Wight County Schools’ budget and spending? What, if anything, more can be done?

The recently elected members have been doing a great job on this issue. As they gain experience, they will continue to make beneficial changes. 

The school board needs to be transparent with the BOS regarding school funds. Since the schools spend 50% of the county budget, they should do whatever is feasible for the BOS to have a part in formulating the budget. The school board must trust and make sure its CFO is trustworthy and competent. The school board must ensure transparency so that they or citizens can go on the website and find details on how taxpayer dollars are spent. The budget should be detailed, clear, and easy to locate.

9. Should Isle of Wight County Schools continue its membership in the Virginia School Boards Association? Why or why not?

I do not believe that IOWCS should remain a Virginia School Board Association member. The VSBA was created to be a nonpolitical agency. Yet, it lobbies the Virginia Legislature for transgender policies, students picking their sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, and other issues with which many taxpayers disagree. Membership dues are thousands a year, and this money could be spent in better ways.