Opinion | School board candidate Vanessa Agee: Supporting teachers, helping students will be my priority
School board candidate
I am running for Summit School District’s board of education because I have a deep interest in supporting every student and ensuring that they have the educational experiences that will open up opportunities.
Occupation: Director of communications for the town of Frisco.
Years in Summit County: I have lived here since 1995.
Family: I am married and have one 14-year-old daughter, who is a freshman at Summit High School.
Civic involvement: I sit on the board of the Summit Chamber and regularly work with nonprofits such as Building Hope and the Summit Foundation.
I experienced the impact of a great public education when I was in elementary school and was having significant issues with reading and writing proficiency because English was not my first language. I was subsequently placed a grade back during that school year, and that intervention changed the trajectory of my education and life, making me profoundly aware of the power of a high-quality public education and the value of having teachers who understood exactly what I needed in that moment to be successful in the future.
I moved to Summit County 28 years ago, and I faced many of the challenges that are typical to mountain town living, including working three to four jobs while I found my professional and personal footing and becoming a working parent. My husband and I have a 14-year-old who started kindergarten at Summit Cove Elementary and who is now a freshman at Summit High School, so my interest in Summit schools is both personal and universal. I also understand what it looks like to be a working parent with limited time and a deep desire to do my very best to support my child and her future. The reality of the pressures and stresses of surviving and thriving in a county with a high cost of living and housing challenges have made me very aware of the need to make our educational system easy to understand and navigate for all students, parents and guardians, especially those whose primary language is not English.
Priority No. 1
My first priority is academic opportunity and excellence since this is the most important goal of any educational system and means that reading proficiency is a core focus from kindergarten forward, as this skill is foundational to acquiring math and writing skills.
This also means that our educational system needs to accommodate students who learn in different ways and at varied paces, which is why small classroom sizes and ample teaching resources are key. I would continue to trust the experts, our teachers and librarians, to determine and provide age-appropriate materials and teach history with accuracy, even when the past is uncomfortable or unflattering. The strength in any education is not in withholding difficult information but in providing it for critical evaluation and discussion.
Priority No. 2
My second priority is to aggressively encourage teacher, support staff and leadership retention and recruitment with competitive salaries, ample opportunities for high-quality continuing education and training, and affordable housing. I believe that the school will need to engage in partnerships with other governmental entities and/or nonprofits to start providing teacher-specific workforce housing so we can retain and recruit exceptional teachers.
Priority No. 3
My third priority is to foster compassion and safety in our schools for the benefit of all of our students.
At its core, this is about empathizing with students, parents, and guardians and acknowledging that not everyone experiences the world or educational system in the same way. It means that you don’t deny the reality of being black, brown, struggling with language, LGBTQ+, or differently abled. Compassion is the basis for creating a safe, responsive, and supportive learning environment for all students, where differences are respected and not hidden. Compassion is not threatening or guilt inducing and does not take away from learning resources. Instead, it creates a space where academics prevail over personal opinion and outside pressures.
Vanessa Agee is a candidate for Summit School District’s board of education. For more election coverage, visit SummitDaily.com/election.
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