District 2 Candidate Theresa Graham

Please Note: All information, photos, video and survey answers are provided from the candidate.

Theresa Graham

Theresa Graham

Theresa Graham
Candidate, District 2

Website: www.Theresagraham.net 

Bio: Theresa’s love of the ocean the ocean brought her to Jacksonville 23 years ago, from the Midwest making Jacksonville her home. She started her Florida career as a Territory Sales Manager, employed for 8 years. Theresa was employed with New Life Christian Fellowship where she served as Nursery Coordinator overseeing 140 volunteers serving children’s ministry. Theresa Graham is currently a Business Owner, Realtor and a member of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. She is also a Board member of the Legislation Committee. Theresa Graham holds a Doctorate in Psychology. She has a BA in Applied Theology from Logos University Jacksonville. She received her Associate of Arts Degree at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. Last Fall she received her PLS Certification from the American Society of Transportation and Logistics. Currently she is attending Florida State University (FSU) working on a Major of Criminology and a Minor in Sociology.

Theresa is committed to the Arts and supports “School Choice”.   She is a strong proponent for a strong ESE program for children with learning differences. We must not leave any child behind. Drop out rates must be dealt with as Jacksonville is now second in the nation second to New York City, for black student drop outs. With hard economic pressures budget dollars can be evaluated for the greatest effectiveness without increases in taxes. Theresa has a passion to help children. We need to protect and watch over this millennial generation, America’s future.

Theresa also holds a Florida Director’s Credential and a C.D.A in Childcare for operating a Pre School. She desires to continue schooling by in Education hoping to Achieve a Doctorate EdD with emphasis on Learning Disabilities, Curriculum and Instruction. She has served as a PTA Board Member chairing the Community/Programs Seat. Theresa has been involved with the “National Center for Learning Disabilities” a voice for children. Also she represented “The National Anthem Project” restoring Americas voice and supporting music in schools.

Theresa would like to see more women elected to serve in politics in Jacksonville. She was appointed by Mayor John Peyton to the Commission on the Status of Women, Currently, she serves as President of North Florida Right to Life. Theresa also serves on the Executive Board of East Coast Ballet Foundation. Arts are so very important to community, especially with the recent school budget cuts.

An active member of New Life Christian Fellowship for over 19 years she has volunteered in several ministries including women’s, children’s, taught Sunday school, prayer, nursing home ministries. . She had served as Coordinator for “Conception to the Cradle” women’s ministry over 7 years. This team served pregnant women and their babies. Theresa has volunteered in many organizations throughout Jacksonville including, Connections downtown for Women and children. Graham’s leisure activities include running, golf, reading, boating and offshore sport fishing with her family.





1. If you had to give the Duval County Public Schools a grade, how would you rate its current performance at educating
High-performing students?                                                    A       B       C       D       F
Average students?                                                                 A       B       C       D       F
At-risk students?                                                                    A       B       C       D       F


Strategic Plan

Duval County Public Schools has a strategic plan approved by the school board in April 2013 that guides the day-to-day management and activities of the superintendent. A copy of the strategic plan can be accessed at http://www.duvalschools.org/Page/11436. When referencing the strategic plan, please cite the strategy number and title.

2. In what respects do you think Duval County Public Schools is doing well in its strategic plan? In what areas of the plan do you think Duval County Public Schools needs to improve significantly?

 [No answer provided.]



3. Please describe how you would differentiate between the governance responsibility of the school board and the management role of the superintendent.

As the Nations 20th Largest School District it is important to uphear responsibility of goverance. As a board member responsibility is placed to up hold and create policy concerning all issues regarding the school system. The Duval county School Board is responsible over seeing a $1.6 billion dollar budget, serving a 125,000 student population, 180 schools and over 14,000 plus personnel. Strategic planning is key. The superintendent is the manager to utilize and carry out established policy. He is the CEO of the Duval County School District. The board is given insight and reportings to occurences within the school system. The School board has the authority to hire and fire the supertindent based on postive or negative impacts regarding the position workings of the superintendent.

4. At times school board members may encounter a situation where the interests of their specific district might conflict with what is best for the entire school system. What is your philosophy on this issue, and what would you do if confronted with such a situation?

Each specific district may have conflict at times what is best for the entire school system. One example is the current renaming of Nathan B Forrest High School in name change to Westside High School. An extra $220,000.00 was budgeted to accomplish the esthtics of this name change in signs and flooring. So the rest of the schools are not given this ability in cash flow to take on a project not needed in their area. I was told of one school in the Beaches today where a Kindergarten assistant who was only paid $8,000.00 a year part time was released due to budget cuts. The Kindergarten teacher will now work alone without an assistant. A School board member of that district could then go to bat to perhaps get extra funding to maintain those personnel needed in certain schools. That position of funding need would be brought to the rest of the school board to assimilate an effective response to maintain the direction the principal of the school was forgoing by having that assistant in the Kindergarten class room to begin with.

5. The Duval County School Board appointed Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in November 2012. Please review the school board’s evaluation instrument at http://ow.ly/yignz. What areas would you highlight where the superintendent is excelling? Where is improvement needed?

Nikolai Vitti took the position of superintendent over one of the most controversial school boards 20th in the nation. I have been told that once a person takes on this school board it will be the last postion of their career in Education. With all of the hard issues that had to be faced expecially in budget issues I believe he is doing well. Is there room for inprovement yes of course everyone should be striving to learn, achieve, and grow as a person and manager. One of the most stratigic decesions would be for Nikolai Vitti to allow for the School Board building to be moved from the Southbank riverfront. The evaluation was incomplete on the post here. Our superintendent must value the Principals and Teachers in Duval County. Children thrive when leaders are valued and encouraged to provide the best Education possible within their world.


Financial Resources and Budgeting

The Duval County School Board is responsible for adopting an annual budget. The most recent final budget can be viewed at http://duvalschools.org/Page/9540 and a recent presentation of the proposed 2014-15 budget can be viewed at http://www.slideshare.net/JaxPEF/042514-dcps-budget-preso.

6. What specific areas of the district budget would you prioritize, particularly if additional resources became available? If revenues continue to be flat or decline, what specific areas would you recommend reducing first?

Budgets should and will be prioritized to provide the best education possible for the over 125,000 student population. Priorities to look at if and when increased resources become available would be to continue to incorporate and in some instances add back in PE , Music, and Art programs. We must continue to research and increase ESE standards, resources, and opportunities for growth for students with learning differences. No child should ever be left behind. Not every child learns the same. and we can accommodate and increases standards of learning and achievement for these special students.

7. To ensure the district has adequate fiscal resources and avoids budget shortfalls in the future, what, if any, revenue sources should the school district pursue and on what timetable (e.g. increased local property or sales taxes, statewide tax increases, etc.)?

None, Utilize current financial utilize the current Budget dollars allocated.


Community, Parent and External Relationships

 8. What would you do to improve communication and strengthen your relationships between the schools and parents and community members, especially when a new program or policy is being introduced?

Utilize every communication resource possible from letter, texts, email to communicate directives to parents. Many single parent families the parent is working up to two jobs to keep food on the table. Have open houses/fairs to invite families, and business partners to view new programs or policies being introduced. Send out notices using all effective communication resources a nd social media to keep everyone abreast on the latest advances within the schoools, districts and the school Board.

9. Conditions for children outside the classroom such as crime, homelessness, lack of parent involvement or other factors can affect a student’s academic achievement. There are a number of external organizations that interact with and work to support Duval County Public Schools to help reduce the impact of these issues. What do you see as the ideal role/relationship between the school district and these efforts so that children are prepared to succeed?

Hard to believe that issues such as homelessness occur within our nation. The sad findings are in our own city there are children who do not have a roof over their head. Many of these are single parent families. Where are the fathers? Homelessness stems from a generational problem of systemic poverty. There are a number of organizations that can assist but the best plan of action is to get the parents employment. Currently there are just under 38,000 Jobless Jacksonville residents seeking employment. Job fairs and other resources to help get these parents working and pursue educational resources to help them grow and assist them into well being for themselves and their children. Taping into the resources making them readily available will be most beneficial. The hard facts are many homeless children are slipping through the system many times leaders and teachers of these students are unaware of the situation. It is shameful and not spoken of. Considerstion is to bring in local surrounding churches to assist in schools that have homesless families. A lot an adopt a family program anonomously to help mentor and facilitate economic gain to put these parents back to work and on a path to independency with a place to house their families to call home.


Major Policy Issues

10. In the 2014-15 school year, schools across the state will implement new English language arts and mathematics standards called the Florida Standards. These standards are closely aligned with Common Core State Standards adopted by states throughout the country. What is your view of the new Florida Standards? How well do you feel that the new standards have been implemented in Duval County Public Schools and communicated to teachers and parents?

Are we really limiting our students in their abitlity to achieve higher levels by simply laying out a snchronized standard? At National Levels Common Core State Standards I feel are a mere attempt to control education at federal levels when it should be left in the hands of the state and local levels. Governement was not placed to take over or control but rather to serve and govern what the people desire, Many parents are not even aware of the new changes. As our tax dollars are utilized to run the Public school system do we as supporters as tax payers really have a say in the type and quality education that are children our receiving? More parents are home schooling to have this opportunity to take back control over a system that has dunbed down society into believing we don’t need to be too educated. You can never have too much education we should strive to be the best in this area as other countries such as Japan and China are offering higher levesls of education expecially in such subjects as Mathematics.

11. To measure the student performance against the Florida Standards, the state will replace the FCAT 2.0 with a new standardized assessment in spring 2015. In addition, the state Legislature has approved a revised school grading formula to go into effect that spring. What are the biggest challenges of the new system? How should the district respond to the changes?

Teachers have already been trained and operating under the old system. A new system will mean training for principals first then roll out to the teachers and staff. Costly training and appropriate resources must be utilized to bring everyone on new board with the new inititives of the Legislature approved revised school grading formula.

12. What is your view of the discipline-related initiatives that the district has undertaken in the last year? What is the role of the school board in ensuring a positive school climate and culture throughout the district?

I agree with an in school suspension policy for students who are start fights on school property or on buses. Turn the cheek takes on a whole new meeting. If a student is being verbally abused and or bullied they can turn and walk away. Sometimes the better person is the one who igores the words and walks on. If a student is abusive physically toward the student that walked away the terms would be a 1 day in school suspension. I believe students should have a right to defend themselves as in Florida Stand your Ground policy. First option is to walk away, but if attacked I feel the student should defend themeselves in some cases they could be hurt violently if they didn’t defend. But as far as just hitting someone because of words that would put it back onto the student that first made the hit. So now the victim verbally can potentially become the bully. We should not enable enable and encourage strong students to hurt other students. They should know in the Code of Conduct that there is and will be consequences for your abusive actions towards other students. But on the side of the victim there may be times that they must defend themselves if injured by another student who continues. Words hurt but they should not be a reason to hurt another child.

13. Duval County has a complex school choice environment: There are numerous magnet schools and new public school models such as single-gender classrooms and K-6 elementary schools, as well as 9,000 students attending charter schools in Duval County. What is your view of the current school choice environment and how does it impact student achievement? How should the district respond to the impact of charter expansion?

A a school Choice activate I believe it imparitive to offer to students and parents different options for their education. One size does not fit all as one school does not accommodate very student. Howver, too many charter schools out with out of reach organizational structures could be debilitating to the Duval County school family. Student acheivement is key. For the over all success of the student and the whole child having “choices”. With checks and balances this goal can be accomplished without out of control charter growth. Face the reality that charter schools are still public schools as they are funded. Make sure we have the same quality edcuation for students in charter schools that are being offered on the main campus.

14. Over the past couple of years, Duval County Public Schools have expanded opportunities for families to enroll their children in Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs at select elementary schools. What role do you feel the Public School system should play in promoting and expanding quality pre-kindergarten programs within public school?

What you put into a child from 0-5 will determine many times the type of student you will have from ages 14-17 years of age. Many of the students who were not afforded a Pre school or Early education education will end up dropping out at legal age of 16. Basic reading, arithmitic and science many times skills were laid in foundation excellence for children who received Early Education. I like seeing the partnerships with Pre schools around the city that offer Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs. Where space is capable we could enter and put into place Voluntary Pre Kindergarten programs within elementary schools. The voluntary program is excellent and much needed for our youngest of students. It allows these students to have the very best educational start made available to secure success for their futures.

15. Duval County Public Schools has grouped Raines, Ribault and Jackson high schools and 33 feeder pattern elementary and middle schools under a new Duval Transformation Office. These schools will benefit from the Quality Education for All Fund, a philanthropic investment of $50 million of private funding. The goal of this effort is to improve the pipeline of great teachers and leaders in Duval County Public Schools, especially at the 36 Transformation schools. Do you support these efforts? In your view, what else should the district do to support the high-needs schools within the Transformation region?

We must Hire the Best Teachers in the Transformation Schools circle Raines, Ribault, and Jackson High Schools. The benefit of a philanthropic investment of $50 million dollars should go to improving the education standards. Many of the student population in these areas are already falling behind. Many will drop out of school bcause they are so far behind by the legal age to leave of 16. Already here in Jacksonville Floirda we in Duval County are second in the nation just under New York City for African American male students to drop out of school. This coupled with an already higher than average crime rate and released criminals in the area contribute to ever increaseing crime numbers and opportunities for these students to leave school and prosper illegally taking a chance of getting caught and for many a life of jail and or death.

16. Career and technical education is an important component of the school district’s programming. In your opinion, what should be Duval County Public Schools’ biggest focus when it comes to career and technical education?

One size does not fit all children as choices are offered in schools career paths must allow for students. These students who do not plan to take the college or university path but rather technical career path.

17. What is your view of the role of technology in preparing Duval County students for the future? Should Duval County Public Schools increase the use of technology in classrooms, and if so, how should it be funded? How big of a priority should it be?

Technology in the class rooms will be imparative for continued progress of growth in increasing performance for Duval County schools. Just as the I phone has replaced the blackberry advances must be made in technology to keep competive . Most issues faced with advancing technology as systems, computers ect become so out dated that they are more costly to maintain than to replace with newer more innovative technology resources. Priority must be made to keep current in technology so our students do not lag behind the ever changing employment opportunities to allow for students to achieve independence, financial stability and contribution to society.

18. If you have children, what type of school do/did they attend?
(mark all that apply)

__X__ Public (inside Duval County)
____ Public (outside Duval County)
__X__ Private
__X__ Charter
__X__ Home Education
Other: ______________________________________________________________________