Broward County School Board Member Phyllis C. Hope spoke with Scott Spages about the changes she hopes to see in Broward schools and her South Florida upbringing. Hope was born in Pompano Beach, and is now the married mother of two and grandmother of four. She attends Piney Grove Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale.
Scott Spages (SS): Where did you grow-up and what was it like?
Phyllis Hope (PH): I grew up in South Florida and had a great childhood spending time at beaches, parks and playing basketball and kickball with family and friends.
SS: What’s your favorite sport or hobby?
PH: My hobbies now are walking and audio books. My favorite author is Stuart Woods. Growing up, I was a cheerleader at Lauderdale Lakes Middle school.
SS: Who has most shaped you as a leader – your mother or your father? Why?
PH: My mother. She was a single parent. She was also politically involved. I remember handing out political flyers with her as a young girl outside a church. I guess she was planting the political seed, and I just liked hanging out with my mom.
SS: Where and how did you meet your spouse?
PH: I met my spouse hanging out with my best girlfriend. I later introduced that same girlfriend to her husband.
SS: Does your family have a Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday tradition that you’d like to tell us about?
PH: Yes, my family enjoys Thanksgiving and Christmas. The family tradition is to spend Christmas breakfast at my house. It is a joy to connect with family and see children and adults with their new toys. We also connect at my 97-year-old grandmother’s birthday parties over the years. It is more like a family reunion. She was an only child who had 10 children and now numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She still likes to dance. Her parents lived to be 100, and her grandparents were freed slaves. I am really big on family values.
SS: What was your motivation to run for public office?
PH: Instead of complaining, it is better to get involved and make a difference. I wanted to make a better future for our children by being a voice for children and parents.
SS: Can you name a key issue that you are currently working on as a member of the Broward County School Board that you hope to complete?
PH: School safety is my priority, and I was instrumental in having the first safety forum for parentsand students, and I was one of the leaders of the anti-bullying policy that is now becoming a model for the state. We also need nurses back in schools.
SS: To date is there one accomplishment in your public service that you’d like to tell us about?
PH: As I said, I was one of the leaders on the anti-bullying policy. … I also created Math and Science Month in Broward County. We also showcase missing children at every school board meeting.
SS: Can you name a time where your faith was challenged as a public official or in other leadership positions where you knew making a righteous decision might cost you some support?
PH: My relationship with my God is both personal and intimate. The only decision that may have come close to religious was [when] the board opened a “Jewish” school called Ben Gamla in Hollywood. I was one of two board members that did not vote for this school until every religion, race or child was able to attend and no indoctrination would take place on the taxpayer’s dime.
Ideas for change
SS: Finish these sentences. The one thing that I would change about Broward County is
PH: To make our students the best in the country in math and science. We should be a leader in engineering since we have to go out of the state and sometimes out of the country for engineers.
SS: The one thing that I would change about Florida is
PH: More money for education so we can help our children achieve at the highest levels and improve graduation rates. We should make Broward County the place that colleges come first to recruit the best and the brightest. We should also prepare students that are not college-bound in a trade so they can become self-sufficient.
For more information, visit BrowardSchools.com.