Surry School Board Carsley District candidate profile: Roxanne Marr-Shears

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Editor’s note: Roxanne Marr-Shears is running against Sue Fibish for the Carsley District seat on Surry County’s School Board. The Smithfield Times sent the following questionnaire to both candidates.

Age: 55

Occupation: Army veteran, fiscal management analyst, entrepreneur

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Prior elected offices held: Surry County Parent-teacher Association founding member, United Way council member, Genieve Shelter board of directors member

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

Investing in our children should be the priority. It is our responsibility to help them build a world we can all live in and prosper. As adults, they are entrusting us, to set the stage for their future. I am running because I take the education of our children seriously and would like to be a part of ensuring that we give them the educational best we have to offer.

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

There are numerous issues that face school systems across the country, but I believe an overarching issue that should be addressed is school safety. It is imperative that school systems provide a strategic, safe school environment for students, teachers, school staff, and administrators. The lives of our children and school staff are invaluable. We must be willing to mitigate risks, while addressing  issues including the threat of violence and bullying, mental health issues, negative internal and external influences on our students, and even the shortage of teachers. This is a compounded issue because addressing safety in schools requires a real look at root-causes, impacts, and collaboration from all who have a stake in the welfare of our children’s precious lives. Neglecting any of these issues may be a detriment to the county as a whole.

3. Should the pre-Labor Day start approved by the School Board earlier this year remain in place for 2024? Why or why not?

I believe that the pre-Labor Day start of Surry County Schools should remain in place for 2024 for Surry County District students. Although we are a rural jurisdiction, we are preparing our students to compete in a global economy. Many school districts inside and outside of the continental United States have adopted a pre-Labor Day start of schools, which give those school systems more time for preparation and implementation of curriculum. It is my observation that many of the students have willingly returned to school and are doing an upstanding job thus far. I commend the Surry County Board and Dr. Sims, Surry County’s superintendent, on this sound decision.

4. What more can Surry County Public Schools do to attract and retain quality teachers?

Although we live in a rural county where recruiting teachers can be a challenge, valuing our teachers is imperative. It is said that, “valuing teachers attracts better ones, increases students’ success, and society as whole”. How value looks to our teachers in Surry County will vary. I believe we need to seriously assess teacher pay and workloads; regularly recognize their importance and individual achievements; and most importantly, listen to their concerns and needs. Afterall, teachers are the cornerstone of all educational systems.

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

The School Board voted to adopt the updated version of the Model Policies this month. After thoroughly reading them, I am in favor of the guiding principles:

  1. Schools shall respect all students;
  2. Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children;
  3. Schools shall serve the needs of all students; and
  4. Schools shall partner with parents.

For the sake of each student, we must ensure there is an established relationship between teachers and parents. This policy should be at the forefront of all decisions made on behalf of the student.

In the past there has been haste to create policies and laws dismissing the rights of others (e.g., anti-disabilities, anti-women, and anti-race) where personal agendas were enforced. While I respect the governing body of law, we must not retreat to a time of discrimination where we exclude the talents of all, particularly our students.

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

In this current climate, I must reiterate the importance of safety in schools and the implementation of strategic risk management when it comes to protecting our children. With all the external and internal dangers that loom, continuous process improvement must be on the forefront of the safety process. The goal of safety protocols today is combating school violence that permeates schools through the negative impacts of social media, mental illness, lack of parental accountability, socioeconomic disadvantages, and those vital precautions we have ignored  as a society. I highly encourage all schools to consider the Safe Communities Safe Schools (SCSS) model that addresses unsafe activity within schools. It will take community engagement and visibility of all stakeholders to deter such threats in the future. We cannot wait for politicians and bureaucracy when children’s lives and the state of our nation weigh in the balance. There must be a call to action.