Flagler County School Board

Nonpartisan race

Sally Hunt defeated an incumbent Flagler County School Board member in the August primary to be elected to the District 1 seat. Challenger Christy Chong also defeated an incumbent in the primary to win the District 2 seat.

In District 2, Courtney VandeBunte and Will Furry got the most votes in a three-way primary race, but since neither got at least 50% of the vote, they advanced to a runoff in November.

News4Jax sent a questionnaire to each candidate running asking about their background and their views on several issues. Scroll down to read the responses of those seeking your vote -- in their own words.

Note: Responses are sorted alphabetically and are presented exactly as submitted, with no editing by News4Jax staff.


Will Furry

This candidate has not responded to email and telephone invitations to submit the News4Jax candidate questionnaire.

Courtney VandeBunte

Occupation: School Curriculum Designer

Age: 35

Your family: Married to an educator and I have three kids ages 5, 7, and 9 that attend Flagler Schools

Education: B.S. in Education

Political experience: (No response)

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. Getting our students back on track academically after the challenges of virtual instruction due to COVID.
  2. Reducing the number of teachers leaving the profession due to the increasing demands and historic lack of support...I plan to amplify teachers’ voices so we can create a plan that leads to higher staff retention so our students can excel.
  3. Unifying our parents/families with our teachers and staff. All groups have had a challenging few years and politics are dividing us. We need to unite together with the common goal of creating a safe and positive learning environment for students so they can reach their maximum potential as citizens in a diverse community.

News4Jax asked each candidate three additional questions to help voters determine which most agrees with their views:

“Parental rights” has recently become a law in Florida and a political buzzword. What does that concept mean to you and how would it affect your decisions on the school board?

I believe, and have seen firsthand as a former educator, that when parents are involved in their child’s education, that child is successful. I want parents and families to be involved in their child’s education. Parents have the right to know what is going on in their child’s classroom and school and what they are learning. I will invite and welcome parents and families in reviewing any new or modified curricula within our district, and I will also engage with my fellow Board members on how we can increase parental involvement and awareness of the happenings within our schools. I would also look for ways to celebrate the professionalism and knowledge that our educators possess and how appreciative we are of their hard work and dedication in teaching our students important topics in accurate and objective ways and from multiple perspectives and lenses.

How would you balance new state laws and guidelines restricting how history, gender identity and civics can be taught in public school classrooms with the need to educate children in a complex 21st Century society?

No parent wants their child to feel “anguish, guilt” or other negative feelings while learning, but there are certain historic facts that we must know so we do not make the same mistakes. That doesn’t mean that we should make a 9-year-old feel guilty for things outside of their control, but what it does mean is that our students need to be informed, as informed citizens are the backbone of democracy. Students should not and will not feel personal guilt if they understand the context of historical events. If teachers teach these important historical events in objective and accurate ways, then students are more likely to internalize them in ways that are meaningful and push society towards a more just future. To ensure that this happens, I will advocate for increased opportunities for teachers to continue to develop professionally in their efforts to teach accurate history in a meaningful and objective way that includes important and relevant perspectives.

With regards to gender identity and HB 1557, let me start by saying that I do condone the teaching of sex of any kind to k-3 students. The bill does not define “instruction” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” “appropriate” or “third parties.” If a teacher who happens to be gay mentions her wedding with her wife, does that count as “instructing” students “on sexual orientation”? What if a first grader with two dads draws a family portrait and shares it with her peers, does that constitute a “third party” providing the “instruction”? We need clarification from the state and/or Dept. of Education because it is not acceptable for teachers and families to have to hide their identity. There is a difference between sharing a story from your life, whether you are an employee or a student, clearly these do not qualify as instruction and are not age-inappropriate for k-3 students.

Outline your ideas to address teacher shortages and morale.

When I started teaching at Old Kings Elementary in November of 2018, I was the 3rd teacher that my students had. I stayed till the end of the school year and gave them the consistency they needed, but it is still an issue that needs to be addressed.

More efforts to identify the variety of causes of teacher shortages need to be addressed–whether through more frequent confidential surveys or trusted conversations with established leadership chains. If staff know that the district is working towards a goal of supporting them, boosting morale, and reducing turnover, then they are more likely to offer input and solutions, and therefore, the students and families benefit from having consistent and happy teachers.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I was a teacher here in Flagler for 9 years and I grew up attending Flagler Schools. I am a born-and-raised candidate that has deep roots and a strong passion for improving our schools. I know many of the staff members and what they’ve experienced during these difficult years, and I have three kids that attend Flagler Schools, so I want to improve schools for them, in addition to every other student in Flagler.

My opponents are dedicated to continuing the divide between families with differing viewpoints. I am dedicated to unifying different groups under the common goal of creating a safe learning environment for all students so students can graduate as happy and successful citizens.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

I would hope to be remembered for beating the state average in passing rates, raising the achievement level of student groups that have historically underperformed, and reaching an “A” grade rating as a district. One way to achieve this goal would be to increase the school culture between students, families, and staff. Students of all ages need consistency from their teachers to reach their maximum potential. Currently, our district is experiencing high turnover and our students are paying for that. Four years from now, I hope we can look back and say that my experience as a Flagler educator provided essential and meaningful insight to the Board and resulted in a significant reduction in staff turnover and a significant increase in a school culture that directly impacted student achievement.

Campaign website: courtneyforflagler.com

Campaign’s social media site(s): @court4flaglersb