Sean Cooper
Sean Cooper

Frequently Asked Questions

The main thing for me is our incredible students—they are a gift to this community. I am committed to pouring my time, my heart, energy and resources into the development of our schools, teachers, and administrators.

Why did you decide to run for SCPS board?

Volunteering in our high schools helped me understand the challenges in the classroom we are facing today. School violence, misbehavior in classrooms, the distractions of cell phones, the burnout that teachers were facing— I saw up close the struggles of our teachers and students.

I also see the resiliency of teachers and students. They all know that they weathered through one of the most unusual time periods in our nation’s educational history. There is hope, inspiration, motivation, determination, and desire that will help us lead students toward their potential.

Prior to my current work with the non-profit, Global Unites, I spent 25 years working with students and families at Northland Church. Over those years, I had the privilege to invest in thousands of students and also partner with hundreds of parents. With strong and dedicated staff and volunteers, we took over 500 students on overseas trips, organized thousands to serve in our community, and launched a summer internship program to train students as servant-leaders in their local community.

My daughter benefited from the great teachers and classrooms of Seminole County Public Schools. She is now at Full Sail University and thriving. As I type this right now, my son is completing his last day of 6th grade at Milwee Middle School. I will attend graduation celebrations this week, including for my niece who is graduating from Lake Mary High School and next year attending the University of Florida. My wife, Addie, and I love Seminole County. We are proud to live here. We understand why so many people want to live not only in this state but in our county!

My desire to run for SCPS board is to take all of that experience and come alongside a dedicated and committed board to achieve the best for our students. I am running for SCPS board to help us fulfill the vision and mission of our nationally recognized county.

I believe that it is our shared responsibility as a community to help empower our students to become all they can be. I believe that my experience and education can add great value to this opportunity.

How will you approach problem-solving as a board member?

I am committed to involving the great strength of voice, input, and skills of our wonderful county. I value collaboration, understanding, and partnership. . It’s imperative to me that we listen well to our community. We have incredible talent, resources, and leadership in Seminole County. The fact that we don’t all view everything the same is a strength for us, not a weakness. We will find solutions to complex issues when we have diverse voices around the table. I believe we can model, both for this county and our country, what it means to approach issues with passion and deep conviction while also showing respect, dignity, and willingness to learn. Involving more voices may at times mean we move slower, but I believe our outcomes will be all the greater.

I strongly believe in bridge building as a leader, and I am convinced that we can do more together than we can alone.

What have you done to prepare yourself to be a member of the Seminole County School Board?

Meeting with parents, new teachers and veteran teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, current and past school board members, as well as community leaders to listen to their concerns and insights. I’m reading, researching, and studying what other school boards in other parts of our country are doing to tackle challenges and identify best practices. I value building relationships and establishing a strong network of people who approach solutions with differing perspectives, therefore I purposefully meet with people in our county with varying opinions regarding our schools.

Do you believe teacher pay should significantly increase? I believe Florida ranks about 47 out of 50. How do we find additional dollars in an already tight budget?

Like many Seminole County residents, I am very proud of the education we have historically provided. It is no easy task to consistently achieve the A-rating that we have with the Department of Education. We must honor the time, energy, resources, and excellent teachers it took to get our county to this level, and we must stay vigilant to keep such a high rating.

Taking care of our teachers is absolutely imperative, and salary strength must be a high priority. I’m grateful for the work already done to help raise the salaries of new teachers. There is still a lot of hard work to do to help our veteran teachers receive a salary that reflects their experience, expertise, and accomplishments. The exodus of teachers across our country is at an alarming rate. We can continue to make Seminole County a leader in our state and country by elevating the value of our educators.

Like every family and business owner has to do with their own personal budgets, the board must comb through an already tight budget to find ways to increase teacher pay. I am committed both to that process as well as finding outside funding help from leaders in our community who are passionate about the education of our children.

While constantly evaluating our budget and spending, together we must petition Tallahassee to release appropriate funds to better compensate our teachers.

What are your plans to deal with the staffing shortages?

While many states across the US are dealing with this critical question, we have an incredible opportunity to shine bright. Florida continues to increase as a very popular destination for many Americans. We rank only 2nd to Texas in population increase. This certainly creates an additional challenge when we are already facing teacher shortages.

How can we turn this tide?

  • Create and maintain a value proposition that makes Seminole County stand out as a premier employer that offers fair and competitive pay.
  • Carefully evaluate the true impact of standardized testing on students and teachers.
  • Provide creative incentives to recruit retired teachers to help us close this gap.
  • Continue creating relationships, pathways, and scholarships with our incredible local colleges and universities to encourage new teachers into our public schools.
  • Work strategically to determine long-term solutions that alleviate overcrowded classrooms and provide greater opportunities for teachers to work with each individual student.
  • Create a culture within the district for honor and respect for our teachers who sacrifice much to achieve so much for our students.

We have a challenge before us and we must work together to provide appreciation and incentives for teachers and employee’s to build a career within Seminole County Public Schools.

Do you think the subject of sex and sexuality should be taught in school?

I believe the subject of sex and sexuality is best taught in the home. As a country, we pride ourselves on a beautiful mosaic of diversity. This includes diversity in religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural heritage, perspective on sex, how we see and value character, and many other important nuances of who we are as a people. Our homes, cultural centers, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and many other civic spaces are the best places to help our families develop their value framework.

In situations where a home life brings pain and it is unsafe to talk about these issues, teachers should be equipped with basic tools and guidelines to support students. I encourage students to find a safe mentor or teacher who can provide some support to them.

I believe that conversations about sex and sexuality are best handled in a loving context between parents or guardians and their child.

Do you believe in banning books in schools?

I believe the board should work closely with our community when these decisions are needed. The subject of censorship requires ongoing, local evaluation. Pornographic literature, overtly vulgar material, or other concerns over what our K-12 children should view must be carefully thought through.

There is a long history of book banning across our country, some cases that remained at the lower court level, others that were taken to the Supreme Court. Past cases have shown a strong desire for individual communities to work together to ensure there is no violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech while still allowing for reasonable limitations.

I believe that before any censorship takes place we must embrace our responsibility of stewardship. We must constantly seek to learn better ways for developing and nurturing our children.

What is your position on teachers carrying guns on campus? How can we avoid what we just saw happen in Texas?

The safety of our students needs to be a “main thing” for all of us. I’m grateful for our community partnerships with the Seminole County Sheriff's office and other local law enforcement municipalities to ensure that our students are safe. Campus security is an urgent topic that needs to take place between the school board and our county sheriff’s office. In partnership with our law enforcement, we must evaluate the size of schools and consider how to add a second resource officer as campus sizes increase.

I am not a proponent of teachers carrying guns on campus. As a veteran local high school teacher shared with me the day after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas: “We are not at war with our students. Teachers with guns elevate concern on many levels. Let teachers teach, and let the trained professionals keep teachers and students safe.”

What should be included in the subject of school safety is the increase in fighting and behavioral issues. We must find alternative ways to educate and build life skills for conflict resolution. I believe we must do more in the areas of prevention and intervention. In the area of prevention, we need to train our students on how to practically stop and process a conflict before a situation escalates. From minor misbehaving to physical violence, we must help our students learn alternatives to brute force. As we come out of the last two years of a national pandemic, we need to provide better preventative training as well as intervention solutions and mental health support to help our students avoid a destructive path for themselves and others.

I believe that we should let teachers do what they do best—teach! And let Law Enforcement do what they do best—keep us safe.

How do you believe schools and teachers should be evaluated?

First and foremost, we want our teachers to lead with confidence and do what they do best: develop every student in their academic journey. Teacher evaluation is important in the same way all of us are evaluated in our job performance. It is only through reflection, evaluation, and a commitment to grow that we get better. I believe we need to build into our processes better ways to encourage and provide teachers with specific, helpful, and immediate feedback loops.

Programs such as NEST (New Educator Support Team) provides new teachers with a cohort and an experienced, veteran teacher to help with best practices and teaching development. The program not only pours into our new teachers but also helps deepen the skills of the veteran teachers. In turn, this creates an environment of collaboration, sharing of best practices, and enhancing teaching skills that is invaluable. We need programs like NEST to provide more peer-to-peer evaluation and improvement strategies that can complement the evaluation that each principal does on their campus.

I believe that with the right evaluation, everyone improves and gets better.

What about Mental Health?

We must invest in improving the mental health of our students as well as our teachers. While the addition of school counselors is necessary, we must also look at mental wellness activities, programs, and resources to help our children and families going through a difficult time. I’m committed to working as a board toward a county-wide strategy to help every school improve over the next four years.

How are you going to deal with the national politicization of K-12 education?

Civic engagement is paramount for our country. Our county only benefits when we have more input and participation from our parents and volunteers. Coming out of the immense challenges of the last two years, I believe we have a powerful opportunity for Seminole County Public Schools to maintain our high academic status that is nationally and internationally recognized. It is imperative that we avoid the pitfalls and distractions that will surround us over the next two years.

I will always come back to what I believe is the main thing for SCPS’s student academic development. Whether our graduates go onto college or step into the many incredible trades available, our purpose is clear:

“The mission of the Seminole County Public Schools is to ensure that all students acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be productive citizens.”

I believe that in order to set our students up for success we need to remove the distraction of politics.

When you say let’s focus on the main thing—what is your main thing?

My main thing is student education development—the primary purpose of our K-12 programs.

What is your position on charter schools and/or voucher schools?

Charter and/or voucher schools provide parents with options and additional choices to choose what they feel is best for their children. A school board must ensure that charter and/or voucher schools:

  • Maintain high academic performance.
  • Do not drain away critical dollars from our public schools.
  • Include the proper resources for our students with disabilities.
What practices and policies can the School Board use to raise attendance rates, increase graduation rates, and close the achievement gap between the different socio-economic groups?

Chronic absenteeism is a problem, especially coming out of the last two years. School attendance review teams must catch early indicators and warning signs that a student is drifting into absenteeism. We need greater care for each student and interaction with parents to help identify the reason for absences and provide practical solutions in collaboration with the parents.

Seminole County Public Schools have posted the highest four-year graduation rate at 95.5%. The school board must stay vigilant and focus on the 4.5%. Behind that number are the faces of our students and their parents. We want to help every student make strides to get back on track. Seminole County has incredible programs and resources to help parents and students.

Regarding achievement gaps, we have so much to be proud of in our county, and we must continue to work hard to improve. The Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools continues to raise funds to help with mentoring, scholarships, and other support programs. Now is the time to intensify our efforts to care for and help every student no matter their socioeconomic situation.

We must provide EVERY student with the tools needed for them to succeed and fulfill their potential.

What can local School Board members do about the erosion of local control by the Legislature and by the Department of Education?

School boards across the US are essential in ensuring the quality of education at the local level. The best way to maintain healthy oversight in our county is to engage the voices and volunteer help of our local community. The board has the responsibility to work towards win/win outcomes that help meet both the macro-goals of the state as well as the micro-goals of our districts. Working closely together and maintaining clear and open lines of communication must remain a priority.

By creating a culture of listening to one another and understanding a variety of perspectives, we are better able to decide what’s best for our children.

Florida meets only two of the ten quality metrics set by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Education experts agree that Early Education is critical to school success. What would you do to support more funding for Pre-K Programs?

As a parent, I am very proud of the commitment Seminole County has made to early education. From Voluntary Pre-K to Great Start— Pathways to Success, providing quality early learning experiences that support a child’s developmental growth is a high priority. Should more funding be needed, the board will work with The Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools and other funding sources to make sure every child and parent can participate.

During this COVID-19 emergency, distance learning was heavily tested. How do you propose to bridge the technology gap with online learning and fund the necessary digital needs (such as laptops and internet costs for both students and teachers)?

Like in-classroom education, the integration of technology with learning will need continued evaluation. We continue to live in a transitional space in how to effectively maximize distance learning. While some students thrive, others have the opposite experience. In the meantime, we must make sure every student and teacher has a device to use and determine better access to the internet. Where funding is available from the state we can lean into those dollars. Where there is a shortage, I have confidence in the great commitment to education from our local community in Seminole County. We will work with The Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools to make sure no teacher and no student is left ill-equipped for successful academic development.

Online learning is very helpful for some students while in-person learning is best for other students. We must help students decide the best learning option for them to grow into well rounded citizens.

How do you propose to bridge the learning gaps of special needs children with online distance learning?

Situations like a pandemic bring immense challenges. We can and need to do better with online learning, and until online learning is fine-tuned, we need it to be the exception, not the rule. It’s important for school boards to work with schools with special education support services. We must reach out to families first rather than wait for them to ask for help. It’s important we assess the primary language spoken in the home in order to best help them. We also need to simplify the online tools, make it easy to log in and help parents get comfortable using the platforms. It’s imperative to help families who do not have the internet to get the resources they need to connect easily.

Every student matters in Seminole County and we must listen, learn and work together to ensure that ALL students have the opportunity for success.

How do you feel about the separation of church and state?

I am for the separation of church and state and believe both operate best apart from each other. As a board member, I am committed to representing every child, family, and teacher no matter their religious background.

Did you advocate for masks during Covid (or at the beginning of Covid)? Are you open to masks in schools should Covid spike to dangerous levels again? Would you advocate for masks today?

The spread of Covid-19 created very difficult and intense challenges for every family. In our home situation, we found ourselves deeply conflicted. As Americans, we very much value the need to protect our freedoms. In the non-profit work I do, we operate in the US as well as twelve other countries. I see every day the challenges many of them face with limited freedoms.

In our own home situation, we watched multiple news outlets provide conflicting information. We have close friends and family members who work in pharmaceuticals, hospitals, doctors, nurses, educators, lawyers, and everything in-between. Every day there was conflicting information.

Last year I checked in early one morning to volunteer at one of our local public high schools. When I walked past an administrative desk, I had to stop and ask why there were 15-20 bright red three-ring binders lined up. The response: “Each of those binders represents a substitute we need today, and there aren’t enough substitutes.” For our family, that was a game-changer.

I am for eliminating disruptions to our students when it comes to their education. Many of our teachers are rotating 4-7 classes per day. When we have healthy teachers we are able to give our children the best opportunity to stay on course. When our teachers are absent due to illness, and there aren’t enough substitutes, the education of the next generation is severely impacted.

We have learned a great deal over the last two years and we all have more information now. I am against politicizing the question of masks and for keeping our classes on track to perform at the highest level. I am for that which will protect the health of our students and teachers and will make any future decisions based on the medical science around this desire.

While I was not on the school board in 2020-2022, it is my philosophy that we need to listen and take counsel from medical experts regarding what threats there are to our student’s health and then do all we can to keep them physically and emotionally healthy.

Do you believe CRT is being taught in our K-12 public schools?

Governor Desantis signed a bill on April 22 banning critical race theory (CRT) in schools. In every county, school boards exist to work with our state legislator. When a law is put in place, board members have the responsibility to abide by it, regardless of where they stand personally on a particular legislative issue.

Is CRT being taught in our schools? If cases are found where CRT is being taught, it is the responsibility of the board to work with the superintendent to address that issue. There is much “common confusion” around what CRT is and I encourage all to understand better what it is, as I do myself.

As we uphold the law of our state around CRT, I am committed to building bridges and eliminating perceived and/or actual racism—because that hurts our students, teachers, school culture, and broader society.

I believe that we must follow the laws of our state and not teach CRT within our school districts.

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