Tracy White will have to quit her job if she’s elected to the Kanawha County Board of Education.
White, 43, of Cross Lanes, is a substitute teacher and autism mentor for Kanawha County Schools, meaning if she wins one of the three open seats on the board next month, she’ll have to resign to avoid a conflict of interest.
“That’s a tough decision for me because I love working in the classroom with kids, but I feel strongly enough about it that I’m willing to give up my day job to do it,” White said.
White is a mother of three sons who attend or have attended Kanawha schools -- all of whom are on the autism spectrum, sparking her passion for improving special education.
On the side, she works as a Christian life coach and hosts a social skills group every two weeks for teens struggling with anxiety or in need of confidence-building.
White, who grew up in the area and graduated from Nitro High School, will also receive a degree in psychology from Liberty University in December.
Her youngest son has autism and is taught in a self-contained room at Dunbar Intermediate School; her middle son has Asperger’s and attends Andrew Jackson Middle on a specialized education plan that includes some time at home and online; and her oldest is a Dean’s List student at Marshall University, also with Asperger’s.
While White’s focus is on improving special education in the school system, she doesn’t want that to sway voters who think it may be too narrow of a platform.
“Special ed” doesn’t just mean students with disabilities, White said, and her focus will be on any student above or below the average who doesn’t “fit in that standard, cookie-cutter classroom setting.”
About 20 percent of county students have Individualized Education Plans that could be for anything from ADHD to dyslexia. That doesn’t include students who are pulled out for some sort of intervention or have another specialized education plan.
“There are kids who are getting left behind because they don’t conform to the day-to-day stuff. We need to do something,” White said. “Special education is my main platform but it’s not my only platform.”
White said she is also passionate about school safety and wants to become more involved in better organizing mock emergency drills in schools.
She’s been involved with a slew of school and community activities over the years, recently helping build a new playground in Dunbar.
White raised about $2,500 for her campaign so far and that’s all she’ll raise. She said she was only worried about financing yard signs, and instead is directing voters to donate to Autism Awareness Month.
“Kids need free therapy more than I need pens,” she said. “It may not be the smartest move, but morally, I just can’t do it.”
Election day is May 13. Early voting starts April 30.
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