Tara Jenkins

Candidate for Putnam County School Board District 5

Age: 41

Family: Married to Charles Jenkins, Jr. ; 3 sons: Charles III, Colton, Caleb

Occupation: Current Teacher with experience in Putnam Schools beginning in 1992

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Education, University of North Florida; Associate of Arts, St. John's River Community College; Certifications with the Florida Department of Education (Science, Physical Education) and Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (Elementary and Secondary Education); Certifies Teacher Trainer

Political Experience: None

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Healthy Schools; I will support the continued improvements and remodeling of our schools; not only for cosmetics, but because our students and employees deserve to enter our buildings free of health concerns. As we upgrade we must plan for today's technological advances as well as for those in the future. We must find a way to move our children being housed in portables into safer, healthier brick and mortar structures. We must build the perceived value of our schools by offering parents and students what they need; including additional vocational certifications, magnet schools, mentoring programs, college readiness courses. We also need to develop a plan to facilitate community/neighborhood schools again, giving the community a feeling of ownership in the success of the school; thus developing a sense of community pride in the school. We must develop a strong discipline policy that addresses the needs of the child yet considers the loss of educational time suffered by other children when that child decides to "shut down" the classroom. We need to establish a comprehensive and far reaching teacher recruitment and retention policy to ensure that we hire only the highest quality teachers.
  • Healthy Students; Making sure our students are both physically and mentally healthy. At the most basic level we must offer a safe place for those at risk and food for those that are hungry. Our lunch program has made changes for the better, yet it still offers items such as pizza and tater tots as menu items far too often. We need to work on this and see to it that our kids are not being "carbed" up to the point they are getting addicted to these types of foods. I am also an advocate for a strong community and school based physical and recreational activity program. I am a strong believer in recreational activities to include sports, arts, and music. We must provide children with the programs that interest them. It is a proven fact that graduation rates will increase if students place a high value/interest on/in their time on campus. We must set high expectations and demand the best from our children. It is my sincere belief that lowering our expectations gives our children a false sense of success, a substandard education, and a set of work skills they can't use, thus leading to their dependence on the "system." One of my chief goals in office will be to work as part of the team that breaks this cycle of dependence.
  • Healthy Communities; We must give hope to our children, parents, community, teachers, staff, and business. We can increase the faith in our system of both parents and students by making sure our schools have role models each student can relate to. Students need to see future images of themselves and what they can be. We need to ensure more positive images are being seen and not just those of drug dealers hanging out on our streets. I will advocate for increasing stronger partnerships with mentoring programs such as Boyz II Men, Boy's and Girl's club, Girl Scouts, Communities in Schools, R.O.P.I., Police Athletic League, Putnam Recreational, and other civic and community organizations to reach this end. We have a lot of capacity and we need to explore exactly what we can do with it.
    I will support the continued expansion and development of the Cambridge Program and other college readiness programs for those students and parents who are interested in a post-secondary education. I will advocate for a true collaborative relationship between the schools and businesses that facilitates a working vocational education program guaranteeing students a much better chance of securing employment after leaving school.
    Saying yes to standards, but NO to Common Core. We must protect our teachers and students from "big government." Education must remain a local decision so that we can provide our children the skills/knowledge most needed by them and the local economy. Most importantly, we must overcome the old system of electing friends and elect someone who is highly qualified and has a belief system based on the strong morals and ethics that have made our country great. Putnam County needs someone who understands the needs of today's children, teachers, staff, business, and community.

  • Why should people vote for you?

    There has been a lot of discussion about what qualifies a person to be on the board. Those that have no educational experience say it is their lack of experience that makes them the better candidate. Others say that it is their business background or parenting experience. My position is that I would never go to the gas station to have a heart transplant or to the heart center for an oil change. I would want a professional in the field who has the knowledge and skills necessary to complete a successful surgery. This statement holds true for a candidate for the school board also. I have over 20 years of experience in education. I have worked with students from pre-k to 12th grade. I have worked in inner city, rural, and wealthy schools. I have certifications from both the FL Department of Education and Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. I am currently a teacher and understand the motivations of today's children. I meet with and talk to those closest to the field every day (parents, business/community members, students, staff, and teachers) about our issues. This gives me insight into the needs within the district and not some ivory tower ideas that have no basis of support. A study completed in 2000 by the Iowa Association of School Boards resulted in acknowledging that school districts with the highest achievement have people on the board "knowledgeable about teaching and learning issues, including school improvement goals, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and staff development..."

    My experience sets me above the others because I also have the business and current parenting experience. I had a role in the operations of our family businesses. After we sold the businesses, I ran my own Mary Kay cosmetic business (which I made inactive to dedicate more time to my children and the children that I teach). I am also a parent of young children who live in a world full of cell phones, xboxes, etc. I have coached many sports and can usually be found at a local public field watching one of my children. I do understand all of their issues.

    Most importantly I am ethical and moral. I will be the example of what a role model should be. My decision to run is truly to improve the system. Of all the candidates, I am the one with the most to lose if this system doesn't turn itself around. My love for my children, your children, and for Putnam County gives me much more motivation than any other candidate.

    What do you hope to be remembered for after you leave office?

    I would love to be remembered as an unwavering advocate for children who constantly searched for ways to improve the educational system in Putnam County.

    Campaign Website:  TaraForSchoolBoard | Facebook | YouTube