Nieves wants to expand SRO program, focus on parents if elected

·3 min read

Jun. 28—Editor's note: The Frederick News-Post is profiling candidates for various public offices in Frederick County leading up to the July 19 primary elections. Each school board profile will include an audio recording of the full interview.

Frederick County Board of Education candidate Ashley Nieves said she would prioritize school safety and parent involvement if elected to help shape policy for the school system that educated her.

Nieves grew up in Frederick and graduated from Tuscarora High School in 2011. She started campaigning for school board about a year ago, she said.

Though Nieves doesn't have children, she said she was inspired by conversations with parents who were dissatisfied with Frederick County Public Schools. She was frustrated with the district's mask requirement and its operations during the pandemic.

"I'm tired of just sitting around and just waiting for things to change," Nieves, 29, remembered thinking before she decided to run. "I just want to step in and be the person that speaks for the parents and the teachers and the students."

If elected, Nieves said she would expand FCPS' School Resource Officer program, which places Frederick County Sheriff's Office deputies in high schools. She expressed concern about potential school shootings. Current SROs are "stretched thin," Nieves said.

She didn't outline how or where she would like to see the SRO program expand or offer other suggestions for improving school safety.

"I don't know if I necessarily have a specific idea," she said. "I think definitely communicating with the SROs and the sheriff's office just to see what we can do."

Besides safety, Nieves said she would prioritize transparency and parent involvement if elected. The board should make its agendas available further in advance, she said.

Currently, members of the public can view agendas and most meeting materials six days before a full board meeting. Nieves suggested that period be extended to two weeks or up to a month.

The school board meets every other week during the school year and less often during the summer.

She opposed recent updates to the state's health curriculum framework, saying schools shouldn't teach elementary schoolers about gender identity or sexual orientation.

"They need to remain as innocent as possible for as long as possible," Nieves said.

She said she'd like to see teachers upload all of their curriculum materials online for parents to browse.

Nieves also said she'd look for ways to reduce educators' stress, which might contribute to the district's recruiting struggles. She'd try to create programs that encourage former FCPS students to return to the district as teachers, she added.

Nieves has aligned herself with candidates Heather Fletcher, April Montgomery and Tiffany Noble. The four women are campaigning together and have produced joint promotional materials, but are not registered as a formal slate with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

To stand out among a crowded field, Nieves said, she was leaning on her own experiences in FCPS and the fact that she is younger than many of the other 15 candidates in the race.

"I think it gives me a little bit of an upper hand," Nieves said. "To see what I went through, and what I would want to continue from my education, and how I felt going into that school every day."

The other candidates in the school board race are: Nancy A. Allen, Olivia Angolia, Liz Barrett, Ysela Bravo, David Brooks, Rae Gallagher, Mark Joannides, Rayna T. Remondini, Cindy Rose, Dean Rose, Justi Thomas and Karen Yoho.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek