LABELLE -- Lake Okeechobee News and Caloosa Belle Independent reached out to candidates running for Hendry County Board of County Commissioners and Hendry County School District in the Aug. 23, 2022, primary elections.
Hendry County school district candidates were invited to respond to the same questions regarding their candidacy.
Below are the responses from Bianca Ross, who is running for Hendry County School Board District 3. Ross is running against incumbent Amanda Nelson.
- What is your position on race in education/critical race theory in the schools including the role of race in curriculum, learning materials and district-specific equity or diversity plans?
Opinions on what Critical Race Theory actually is differ depending on who you ask. I believe that my job is to teach students HOW to think critically, conduct research, and use their voices effectively. My job will never be to teach or tell a student WHAT to think when it comes to social issues. That is a parent's choice. I believe that Governor Desantis' B.E.S.T plan for what civics instruction should be is well done and thorough and I am excited to integrate the wide range of diverse historical texts in my ELA classroom. My mission is to make sure that every student that I come in contact with feels seen, heard, accepted and loved regardless of their beliefs or those of their families. The beauty of our democracy means that when our parents get together, they can direct the education system. I do not agree that equitable treatment is in the same category as providing ideological instruction. Our teachers, students, communities, and staff should have equitable access to education, public information and to meet with and speak to their elected officials. We should be aware of and respectful of the cultures we serve. The school district should be setting an example of how to help everyone including our most vulnerable and silenced populations. I absolutely believe that our staff should be reflective of the population of our county. Every student should have access to an educator they can relate to.
- What is your position to the responses to the coronavirus pandemic - including mask requirements, vaccine requirements and reopening of schools or distance learning plans?
I experienced the impact of pandemic mandates, proposed vaccine requirements and school closures as a teacher and a parent. My first year in the classroom was cut short by covid. Our job as educators is to ensure all students grow academically, socially and emotionally in order to reach their highest potential. We learned a lot. The closures hurt our students in all of those categories. I believe most districts did the best they could, I am also proud of parents across the country who used their voices to express what they felt was the best for their children and for their communities. At the end of the day, these decisions should be made locally, and we should always put the rights of students first. Parents and taxpayers should direct the district, not bureaucrats.
- What is your position on withholding sexual instruction about sexual orientation/gender identity in the classroom per the Parental Rights in Education Bill signed by Gov. DeSantis?
It is the sole right of the parents or guardians to shape the social, cultural and political views of their children. Any adult who is not a parent or guardian has no business discussing sexual orientation/gender identity issues with minor-aged students, especially kindergarten through third-grade students. Parents send their children to school to learn to read, write and develop numeracy skills to provide the knowledge and skills to become successful members of their community and that should be the focus of all schools and school districts.
- What city do you reside in?
Third Generation resident of LaBelle, Florida.
- What is your employment?
I am beginning my fourth year of teaching in the classroom.
- Have you run for political office before?
However, I am excited about this school board race as no one has campaigned for the District 3 seat since 1998. All incumbents have either run unopposed or been appointed.
- What organizations do you belong to, if any?
I have an extensive background of volunteer involvement in our community, most recently my free time has been spent attending my children's extracurricular activities and continuing professional development. I am proud of the fact that my volunteer experience began at a young age before I had any political obligations or aspirations.
Board Member, 2014-2017 - Harry Chapin Food Bank of SWFL
Board Member, 2013-2018 - LaBelle Chamber of Commerce, appointed then twice elected.
President, 2017 and 2018- Elected as the Greater LaBelle Chamber of Commerce's First Hispanic President and served two years in office as the organizational bylaws indicate.
President, c/o 2012 - Leadership Hendry / Glades and 2013 Community Involvement Facilitator
Chair, 2015-16 - Sugar Festival, Inc.
Member, 2013-15 - LaBelle High School Advisory Committee
Member, 2011-2016 - LaBelle Rotary Club
Player Agent, 2018-2019; Volunteer 2014-2021 - LaBelle Little League
- Family information if desired:
My husband, Vince Ross, and I were high school sweethearts. We married in 2007 and welcomed our first perfect little girl 23 months later. Our second daughter was born three years after that. They have been our purpose since Day One.
My pledge to District 3 is to fight and advocate for their children with the same passion and dedication I have for my own. After all, our children are the future.
- Campaign website link:
What are you going to bring to the table as a school board member?
I am uniquely qualified as a working-class parent, teacher, professional and entrepreneur to not only serve in this role but make an impact. I bring a deep awareness of the concerns and values of individuals throughout our community. I get it. I am a parent. My husband, Vince, and I understand what it is to be parents. I am familiar with the T-ball days, the volleyball camps, junior-pro, the pageants, the first day of school nerves, the pride in even the smallest accomplishments, the weight of raising children in the world today and the anxiety parents face when schools across the country are becoming places of indoctrination and terror. We know the measure of FAITH it takes to get us through all joys, griefs, victories, and challenges.
I am a teacher. I am the teacher who has performed monthly lockdown drills for the last three years. I am part of the special group of teachers who have been in survival mode due to covid and post-covid mandates. Despite the overwhelming exodus of educators, the stress and the uncertainties, I never left the classroom. During rising political pressures, common core, conflicting philosophies changing the ideas of what education should be, and the return of high-stakes testing, I never left the classroom.
I am a proven professional. I had a successful and impactful career before I became a teacher. My contributions, initiatives, products and impacts on Hendry County can still be seen today. My unique, tenured and relevant experience in proactive leadership, budgeting, strategic planning, development, training, federal grant coordination, public relations and data-responsive activities makes me well-qualified to help move our district into a brighter future while meeting specific objectives of the HCSB Strategic Plan.
My husband and I both, are entrepreneurs. We understand how to weigh decisions against risks and benefits. We have experience in thinking outside of the box, holding ourselves accountable, and finding and making intentional decisions to design a life that suits us. We are well aware that the school board is funded by our tax dollars and the members are elected to represent us. I feel strongly about elected officials exhibiting a sense of duty to their true constituents and to their roles as school board members first. Under my leadership, parents and taxpayers, not bureaucrats and administrators, will be at the forefront of the decision-making process. Your opinion matters and I will always open my door to constituents, families, students, and teachers to ensure I am representing their values and supporting their needs. My time will be focused on what is most important and effective.
My Student Success First priorities include: • Recruit, Equip and Retain a Talented and Valued Workforce • Proactively Plan for Smart Growth • Pursue a Safe, Secure, Modernized Learning Environment for Every Child • Maintain a Responsible yet Effective Budget