The newest member of the Pasco County School Board believes the perspective she brings to the board will aid in its deliberations.
Colleen Beaudoin, a career educator, said her background in the field, coupled with the experiences she’s had as a mother of children in the system, will help her to ask the right questions when issues come before the board.
“I didn’t set out with this goal of being on the school board,” said Beaudoin, who was unopposed in her bid to replace Joanne Hurley. Hurley, who has served eight years on the board, retired from her post this week.
Beaudoin said she felt encouraged to run because of some experiences she’s had in the past couple of years.
“In the spring of 2015, there were two different things going on,” she said.
“My youngest has Tourette’s Syndrome,” she explained. “I started getting involved with the national association. I’m on the educational advisory board. That was when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was up for reauthorization,” she said.
She encouraged people to write their lawmakers.
“People responded. I started meeting with different people, advocating for kids,” Beaudoin said.
“At the same time, there were some changes at the (Pine View) middle school that I was concerned about,” she said.
That was when Pine View was getting ready to seek to become an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme Candidate School.
“It’s a good program,” Beaudoin said. “I was concerned about the implementation of the program.
“I had some questions. I went to the school board meeting, just as a mom, and spoke and was well received. We had meetings. We worked together with the school. I felt like I was able to make a positive impact,” she said.
“Then, I found out that Joanne Hurley was not going to run again. I spoke to her and started asking more questions and talking to different people. A lot of parents that I’ve known in the community said, ‘You should do this.’
“So, I started looking into it more,” said Beaudoin, who has two sons who are graduates of Land O’ Lakes High School and one son who attends Pine View Middle.
“I think it’s helpful that I bring that perspective to the board — of a parent with a student that is currently in the system,” Beaudoin said.
After she decided to run, Beaudoin began regularly attending school board meetings and workshops.
“I know I still have a lot to learn, but I know it’s been a luxury to have this time to prepare myself,” she said.
As she assumes her seat on the board, Beaudoin has identified some key issues she wants the school system to address.
She’d like to see better communications between the district and families.
“I think we have a lot of great programs in Pasco County, and parents don’t know about them. We’ve got to make sure that people can make informed decisions about their children,” she said.
She’s not sure exactly what should be done, but one possibility might be to hold information nights in each of the county’s three areas to give parents a chance to come and learn about the wide variety of programs the district offers, she said.
“We have all of these Career Academies now. We have magnet programs. We have magnet schools. We have a lot to offer. I don’t know if everyone knows,” she said.
She said she is advocating for all students, to be sure the district keeps “the doors open as long as possible for kids to make choices and see what’s out there.”
As an educator who joined the teaching profession in 1988, Beaudoin said she knows what questions to ask. But she added: “Not everybody does.”
She thinks the district needs to provide additional support for classroom teachers.
“A lot of teachers are disheartened. They’re working really hard. We need to find a way to support them in the classroom,” she said.
“I want to see what we can do. We have got to do something so our teachers can focus on teaching our kids. We’ve got to see what we can take off their plates, so they can focus on teaching our kids,” she added.
She also like the district to work harder on identifying more gifted and talented students in its underrepresented populations. “I think a lot of kids slip through the cracks, and we need to make an effort,” she said.
“We need to inspire people. We need to inspire our kids,” Beaudoin said, noting, “I’m trying to focus on things that we really can do.
“I really want to get in there and speak up, and ask questions. I do know what questions to ask,” Beaudoin said.
Published November 23, 2016