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Verland Coker

District 4 Candidate

Candidate Questions and Answers

Why do you want to be a board member for Albuquerque Public Schools?

I want to be a board member because APS desperately needs a clear, definable, vision of success and proactive leadership in order to improve. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life examining educational systems and exploring 21st century educational practices. I offer not only a new perspective, but one acutely tuned to improving education.

What is your interest in education?

To me, this question is hard to answer. It’s like asking what is my interest in clean air or public safety. Even though I personally exist outside of the public education system, it still matters very deeply for me. It’s not just a belief in education’s value to society, it’s an intrinsic belief in it’s worth and how it affects our youth. Learning is a fundamental joy for every person alive and we don’t always remember that. Education is one
of the most noble of institutions and to invest in it is as essential to human progress as breathing.

In what ways will you support the mission and vision of the district?

I have a vision for APS as an educational leader, not only in the state but in the nation. We have all the tools and talent available to do so we just need to be able to act. From my engagements with the community there seems to be a lack of accountability within APS, at least in the public’s eye. What I can do to support APS is to reestablish community involvement and to give a sense of hope and improvement back to the
public.

How will you work with the superintendent?

As an employer of the superintendent there is a certain “micromanagement” issue in answering this question. Rarely do I see APS’s mission statements and policy improvements give a definable impact on the classrooms. This means that there has to be something wrong with our administrative pipeline which in turn, means that the pipeline must be closely followed and critiqued if we are ever to improve. I will work
with the superintendent both as an advisor and as an evaluator, ensuring accountability to the best of my ability.

What is your past and current involvement with Albuquerque Public Schools?

I attended and dropped out of APS from 4th grade to 12th grade with a 5th year in highschool. Currently I do student advocacy and tutoring on a pro bono, volunteer basis and attend every board meeting I can.

What should be the relationship between the superintendent and Board of Education?

Generally speaking, it should be an employee-employer relationship however due to the severity of APS’s struggles and the need for decisive and immediate change that relationship may need to develop into something more collaborative. Time will tell but I am optimistic about developing a working relationship with the superintendent for the betterment of APS, whoever they may be.

What qualities and skills would you bring to the Board of Education?

Eight years of focused system analysis and educational research brings me a forward thinking perspective that focuses on results and definable improvement. My educational pedigree is very much removed from the usual candidate and I am not here as a politician building a resume, nor am I a retiree seeking a hobby. I have a passion for education and seek to improve APS for all students, not just the ones I could reach in a
classroom as a teacher. With a holistic view and a clear and definable vision for the future of education I believe I can bring APS the leadership that it needs.

What school or community volunteer activities have you participated in related to the community?

I’ve done tutoring and advocated at disciplinary hearings, IEP’s, and general parent teacher meetings all around APS. Student Advocacy is what I offer to anyone in Albuquerque who needs it and my services will not stop as a school board member.

How do you plan to work with constituents?

I will have a direct point of contact with constituents and transparency will be paramount for my time as a board member.

What do you see as opportunities and challenges to the district?

I’ve outlined sections of this question in previous answers. Due to my holistic view of education, it's difficult to simply list what we need to work on and what we have that's a positive already. What I can do is say that we have everything we need to be the tip of the spear on education reform. The american education system as a whole is broken and in crisis, and we have a particular opportunity here in Albuquerque to
radically change how we educate and prepare our youth for the future.
“Big breakthroughs come when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately needed”

What do you think is the best way for the district to accomplish the Superintendent’s Big Five?

In my opinion we have been doing very well in early childhood education as of recently so it isn’t so much as a concern as a point of continuation. However, most of the other 5 is where we are really lacking. The only realistic solution I can see is wholesale reform. Anything short of a radical change in our systems will just lead to us playing catchup with the rest of the nation as we have been for decades. We need more than just change, we need improvement.

  1. Early learning
  2. College and Career Readiness
  3. Attendance
  4. Developing the Whole Child
  5. Community and Parent Engagement

If elected, how will you work with the current board?

By educating as much as the administration as possible on what the future looks like. Just by being a part of the discussion I can help bring out what is truly required for improvement at APS. Communication and Collaboration will be key.