Brooks would focus on mental health, family engagement on school board

Brooks would focus on mental health, family engagement on school board

Jun. 17—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.

The Frederick News-Post —In the Booth with David Brooks, candidate for Board of Education

Behavioral health and substance abuse counselor David Brooks said he would focus on mental health, especially among students with special needs, if elected to the Frederick County Board of Education.

Brooks, who owns Brooks Behavioral Health Services in Frederick, said he’d find ways to serve children in Frederick County Public Schools who are often overlooked, including those with behavioral or academic difficulties.

“I just wanted to help children that were kind of like me growing up,” he said. “The ones that struggle.”

Brooks attended an “alternative school” as a child, he said, and had an Individualized Education Plan because he stuttered.

If elected, he said, he would prioritize training for special education teachers and work to provide students with easier access to mental health care. The issue has gotten more pressing in the wake of the pandemic, he said.

“These are things that I know I can come in and help repair,” Brooks said.

Before beginning his career in counseling, Brooks worked as a teacher for students with autism in his home state of Texas. He’s worked in behavioral health services for the Frederick County Health Department and is an adjunct professor at Mount St. Mary’s University, according to his campaign website.

He said his experience managing his own clinic would lend itself well to the responsibilities of a school board member.

“I know how to look at the future and plan for the future financially,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he is concerned about staff members’ mental health, as well as students’. He’s seen teachers struggling with substance abuse at his clinic, he said — some of whom said the stress of working in education during the pandemic had worsened their problems.

Though boosting compensation could be one way to improve staff recruitment and retention, he said, he would also look for ways to reduce workload.

As a board member, Brooks said, he would try to reduce class sizes. That would help teachers form closer relationships with their students, he said, which he hoped would benefit kids’ learning and behavior and lessons teachers’ stress.

Brooks said he would work alongside FCPS’ incoming superintendent, Cheryl Dyson, to rebuild trust between the district, the board and the community. He suggested board members could hold office hours to allow parents to ask questions about their decisions and receive timely answers.

“The most important thing is just being available,” he said. “I think that’s what the problem is, is that a lot of people just don’t talk anymore.”

Brooks has prioritized conversations with voters since he filed, he said.

Though he entered the race later than most other candidates, Brooks said he’d learned a lot in the roughly two months he’s spent campaigning. He contrasted himself and other candidates in the field, some of whom he said were politically motivated.

“I’m not a politician,” Brooks said. “I’m just a concerned parent.”

Brooks’ wife is a substitute teacher in FCPS and his four sons went through the district. One of his sons was bullied at school, Brooks said, citing the experience as another factor that inspired his run.

“This is about passion. I don’t know why other candidates are running. I don’t even care, honestly,” he said. “I’m running for one seat, and one seat only.”

The other candidates in the school board race are: Nancy A. Allen, Olivia Angolia, Liz Barrett, Ysela Bravo, Heather Fletcher, Rae Gallagher, Mark Joannides, April Marie Montgomery, Ashley A. Nieves, Tiffany M. Noble, Rayna T. Remondini, Cindy Rose, Dean Rose, Justi Thomas and Karen Yoho.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

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