Lisa Ownby was elected chairwoman of the Williamsburg-James City County School Board in January. First elected to complete an unexpired term in 2016 to represent the Powhatan District, Ownby won a full term in 2017, and previously served as vice-chairwoman. Her four children attended district schools.
We recently sat down with Lisa to ask her about her goals for W-JCC Schools.
As newly elected chairwoman of the School Board, do you have any major goals for W-JCC schools for your tenure?
First, let me say I am proud to serve as the School Board chair. I hope to work alongside my board colleagues to support rigorous and engaging learning opportunities for all students in W-JCC.
My goals are the same as when I ran for School Board: teacher compensation, equity, transparency and handling growth.
When you first ran for School Board, your platform addressed redistricting, as well as calls to expand the high schools and build a new elementary school. Now that you are chairwoman, do you have any plans to address these?
When I ran in 2016, as well as now, my issues continue to be a teacher compensation, equity, transparency with the broader community and our funding partners and making inroads with the achievement gap, which really is an equity issue.
To that, I’m pleased that the board continues to participate in liaison meetings with our funding partners to ensure that we are on the same page with short-term and long-range goals. Likewise, I’m ecstatic with the division’s new strategic plan, which has a separate and distinct equity goal. The board also plans to take a multi-year approach to teacher compensation.
Bullying continues to be a major concern brought up by parents at James Blair Middle School and others. Do you have any plans to address this?
The board’s role is to allow staff in operations to do their job while setting the strategic course. The newly launched strategic plan will guide the division — Goal 4 is safety and security — the board will support the division in ensuring a fully-integrated approach to safety and security that encompasses both the physical environment and the social and emotional needs of all students.
I know a major focal point for the next several weeks for the school board is finalizing the school budget for the upcoming year, with areas of concern ranging from the growing special education population to governor’s proposed teacher pay raise. Has there been any area of the budget that’s drawn your attention specifically, or would like to see given more attention?
It is paramount to the board to be able to continue to make strides in teacher compensation, thus the discussion of a 4 percent increase. We made small inroads last year, but the division must take a multiyear approach in order to begin to be competitive regionally with teacher compensation, as I mentioned before.
And W-JCC demographics are changing, and some line items are mandated based on student numbers, things like special education. And in other areas, like ELL, we must increase teacher positions based on student numbers and best practice.
What do you consider your biggest challenge looking ahead, or issue facing W-JCC schools? Do you have any plans to address it?
We continue to be a growing school division, so working with our funding partners to meet those capital needs will continue to be a board focus. So long as we can match the growth rates, everything else will fall into place.
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.