Tom Topping's Priorities

What are my priorities as a candidate
for Pinellas County School Board?

I believe in a scaffolded approach. The cornerstone of which is to ensure that Pinellas County taxpayers elect a fiscally responsible representative who is dedicated and laser-focused on keeping the needs of students and teachers first. Now, more than ever, the American public understands the value of the teacher in the classroom and the experience of going to school. At the same time, however, public school districts, administrators, teachers, and students will be asked to do more with less. That is why it will be imperative for me, an education and business professional, to consistently frame all decisions around what is best for Pinellas County’s children, teachers, and citizens.

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Equity and Access for All

Equity and access for all means that every Pinellas County school and department is funded fairly, based on the needs of the students and teachers. Access means that every Pinellas County student is afforded the opportunity to attend an amazing school and learn from a great teacher, whether they chose that school or not. In many ways, greatness begins with recruiting and retaining talented teachers. Excellence and opportunity for all Pinellas County Students is the guiding principle.

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Reducing the Achievement Gap

Reducing the achievement gap for black students and continuing a commitment to diversity through culturally relevant instruction is a priority. Strides have been made to reduce academic achievement gaps in our schools but there is still plenty of bold and critically important work left to do. I commit to increasing student achievement, graduation rates, and advanced coursework opportunities for black students, while reducing ESE identification and suspension rates and improving the District’s efforts to recruit, retain, and promote a diverse workforce.

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Safer Schools

Protecting all students, teachers, administrators, parents and other stakeholders from violence and harm, while providing peace of mind at our schools and school property is a priority. As a former teacher and district administrator, I believe there are safer and more effective solutions than lockdown drills and arming teachers. By following the data on violence prevention, technology, safe school design, psychological safety, and reporting and assessing threats, we can fortify our schools and prevent future tragedies.

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Ensuring Academic Rigor

Ensuring academic rigor as a priority in education is nothing new. Calling for students, teachers, parents, and administrators to nimbly adapt to rigorous distance learning, however, was unprecedented. It is safe and fair to assume that many stakeholders were underprepared to take on the task of distance learning. The academic and social-emotional effects of lost seat time and rigor in our schools over the last several months has elevated the 2020-21 academic school year to one of the most important in modern history. Pinellas County Schools will be tasked with closing a wide-spread achievement gap while simultaneously reacting to the changing conditions of COVID-19.

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