Joel McDonald began serving on the Virginia Beach School Board on January 1st, 2013, after being elected with 59% of the vote on November 6th, 2012. Since joining the board, Joel has served on the legislative committee, where he is currently chair, and has been the school board’s liaison to the Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities, the digital learning steering committee, and the joint city/schools fiber optic task force.
Joel’s parents met and married in Virginia Beach; however, as his father was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force, Joel grew up in the typical fashion of a military child, living in many different places. Joel was born in Oklahoma and lived in Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Okinawa (Japan). Most of his summers were spent visiting family in Virginia Beach, and he called Virginia Beach his home no matter where he actually lived. In 2002, Joel moved to Virginia Beach just before starting his senior year at Bayside High School, where he graduated with honors with seals in advanced mathematics, career and technical education, and scholastic excellence. Joel also part of the first class to attend the Virginia Beach Advanced Technology Center as part of the Cisco Networking Academy where he successfully completed the academy and also earned certification as a Cisco Certified Networking Associate.
After high school, Joel worked for a year in marketing and technical positions for contracting companies before leaving the area in 2004 to serve a full-time mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For two years, he served in several areas in Colorado and Kansas, including Colorado Springs and Dodge City. Toward the end of his time as a missionary, Joel focused more on service than proselytizing. He served in the church’s employment center in Colorado Springs developing systems to make the center more efficient and also helping job seekers with their resumes and job searches. He was honorably released in 2006.
After returning to Virginia Beach, Joel was hired as the Data Support Specialist at Luxford Elementary School. While at Luxford, he sought to improve systems of data gathering and reporting so that teachers could use data to target their instruction in the classroom. He was a part of the school leadership team where he helped craft the school’s annual continuous improvement plans and helped to facilitate principal advisory committee meetings. Joel worked closely with the school’s computer resource specialist to provide technical support to teachers and training. He helped during the adoption of electronic grade books and learning management systems. Later, he took on the role of school improvement specialist, where he worked closely with math and literacy coaches, guidance, administration, and division coordinators to develop, implement, and monitor improvement plans and track student performance.
While at Luxford Elementary, Joel managed the many after school clubs available to students and served as a coach or director of a few of the clubs, including running, computer, flag football, and drama. He also took an active role in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), serving as treasurer for a year. He was a part of the committee that helped raise funds to install an athletic trail around the school’s field and to establish and manage an annual run/walk at the school called the “Dragon Dash.” Joel served as race manager for the event his final year at Luxford in 2012. This year, 2016, was the 10th year for this athletic tradition.
Joel’s time at Luxford Elementary came to an end as he launched an I.T. business called Comit Strategies. He left Luxford in August of 2012. In the beginning, Comit Strategies provides a wide range of services, including on-call technical support. However, the focus of the business is now primary web development and managed hosting.
Joel earned an Associate of Arts in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix in 2008 and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with an interdisciplinary minor in the impact of technology from Old Dominion University in 2014.
In 2014, Joel was recognized by the Virginia Beach Education Association for his “outstanding service and commitment to the students and teachers of Virginia Beach” by being presented their Friend of Education Award. The same year, the Gay-Straight Alliance of Bayside High School awarded him their Equality Award for “valuable actions of support, determination, advocacy, and acceptance.”