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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Ann Arbor Public Schools

October 14, 2020

Krystle DuPree

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
School District:Ann Arbor Public Schools
City: Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

6

Have you received any endorsements?

Linh Song, Eli Savit, Jeff Irwin, Katie Scott, Jason Morgan, Our Revolution National, Washtenaw County Democratic Party, WCDP Black Caucus, UAW Region 1A, Local 499, YDSA University of Michigan, Felicia Brebec, Andy LaBarre, Michelle Dietrick, Ricky Jefferson, Travis Rodina, Anne Banister, Chris Savage, Trishce Duckworth, Joanne McCollum, Nate Frazier, Justin Hodge

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I’m running for school board because I care about our schools and how they impact our community. I am a social worker and a combat veteran. I have dedicated my life to service and advocacy, as a mother of a 9yr old going on 90 here in AAPS who uses special education services. Our experiences led me to join COPAA and invest in a special education lawyer, which was an unnecessary financial burden placed on so many families, not just my own.

If elected, I will be a voice on the board, not only with professional and educational experience but lived experience as an unpartnered parent right here in Ann Arbor. I will be advocating for Single Parents, consistent special education services, and fostering a sense of belonging for BICOC and children of marginalized religious groups. I support the development and implementation of a Discrimination Tracking system in the district. I also support having an independent civil rights investigation of Pioneer high school. For the investigation results to be made public, that community can collaborate with the district to cultivate a culture of equity and inclusion in our district.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

When I think of education justice think of the many intersections that children have and how each one of those intersections affect their education. In the context of this district education justice and assuring an equitable education within our district. Meaning all students have equal access to AP classes, adequate IEP services, equitable opportunities for afterschool learning and participation, quality instructors, equitable opportunities to attend field trips though enhance the learning of each student.

It also means that our district is actively implementing measures that reduces the likelihood of our students being placed on the pre-school to prison pipeline. Some ways to reduce risk factors in this area would be early screening of special education needs in adequately providing the supports. Ensuring that students at schools such as Pathways to Success are not losing core instructors without a replacement and therefore being left behind. Implementing a culturally responsive curriculum, having student representation on the school board and the development of a districtwide mediation group designed to help students and families with issues such as truancy.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

If I could reimagine schools following the pandemic and hybrid option would still be available. What I’ve learned during this pandemic is that some students thrive in the virtual learning environment. We would also counties to provide students access to technology to support their learning. I feel a hybrid option will be ideal for students who are managing concerns that may be exacerbated by overstimulation in the school environment. While still providing them in person learning and connections with their peers and teachers. We would also continue to support measures to keep our buildings safe and our students and staff healthy. We also have an increase of general education so coworkers to support with any social emotional concerns after returning to school.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

I feel the relationship between the district, teachers, students, and families should always be a collaborative one where every voice and every perspective is valued in creating an equitable education. It is the district responsibility to create safe spaces where students and caregivers are able to fully express their experiences and views that directly affect their community. It is also the district responsibility to apply the information that is given to us from our community to the decision-making process.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

None

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

1. Developing a culturally responsive environment where students feel welcome and supported regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status. Which includes but is not limited to having a more representative staff.
2. Advocating for consistent special education services and access to special education information.
3. Developing a student board committee, were students on this committee can appoint in liaison to sit in on board meetings and represent student voices.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

1. Racial equity
2. Equity in education funding, according to education trust Midwest, “unlike most states in the nation, Michigan allocates fewer dollars on average to Michigan’s poorest school districts compared to the state’s wealthiest school districts”
3. Improving Michigan’s rank in education (currently Michigan is in the bottom half for fourth and eighth grade)

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

Presently Ann Arbor public schools has committed to a fully online school platform. When we prepared to return to school is the district responsibility to implement safety measures suggested by the CDC to keep students and staff safe. Particularly when we provide connection plus sites and move into hybrid learning. This would include but not be limited to requiring mask and providing mass to students who do not have them. In addition to investing in adequate ventilation systems with the proper filters. In addition to having a screening process for students, teachers, and staff.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

Investing in building updates and maintenance that ensure safety when we returned to school. In addition to creating the capacity to hire additional general education social workers, increase available services and supports in special education. Ensuring that students have equal access to education by having access equal access to quality educators.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Again, given the current crisis I feel standardized testing should be canceled or delayed for this year. Moving forward I feel that we should find an alternative to standardized testing. Given that every child learns differently standardized testing is inherently inequitable, and often fails to take into consideration how testing anxiety can affect a student’s performance.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

If I could have an impact on my district curriculum, I would implement an integrated learning model which has four tenants. The first tenet of the Integrated Learning Model involves designing inclusive classrooms where all students are valued and made to feel like integral parts of the classroom culture. This inclusive ideology continues in the second tenet, providing the framework to set up equitable relationships among students within classroom environments. The third tenet involves implementing change in specific practices, such as teachers confronting their own biases due to language, culture, socioeconomic status, or ability level (or disability label) of students. These biases must be explored among the students toward each other as well. Shin, Daly, and Vera (2007) found that students who reported higher levels of positive peer norms and positive ethnic identity also reported being more engaged in school. The final tenet of the proposed Integrated Learning Model addresses the classroom environment with the idea that to truly facilitate integrated quality instruction, teachers must be highly qualified in their subject areas, the content must be culturally relevant, and the teachers must be skilled in designing their instruction so that it is tailored to be compatible with learners who bring various skill sets and learning styles to the classroom.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

It is the district responsibility to provide our students opportunities for self-care and emotional maintenance. Also, to ensure staff members have adequate healthcare and compensation so that they can access mental health services when needed.
Presently Ann Arbor public schools has a connection with the University of Michigan depression center my goal is to make sure that we maintain partnerships like this one and build other partnerships that will provide additional support.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Disciplinary practices should always be restorative and not punitive. Peer mediation groups and other restorative justice practices have proven to be effective in addressing student discipline while allowing the student to reflect on their choices and giving them an opportunity to make different ones. Using restorative circles as an opportunity to develop conflict resolution skills and restore positive relationships is another effective way to look at school discipline.
In making school a safe place for students the district to seriously consider developing and implementing discrimination tracking system. Some compare micro-aggression micro-invalidation is to emotional and mental abuse as they can make an individual feel disempowered over time. To create a safe environment for black and indigenous children of color it is important for us to set up a mechanism in which for us to hold individuals accountable.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Some of my top priorities is to make sure this special education is consistent across our school district. Also, bring in perspective that the information available on the special education system should be uniformly accessible. For example, ensuring that every school has information on how they decide to assess a child for special education services available on their website. In addition to, the IEP process and available services at that school.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

In my perspective we should always use a combination of community voice and research to achieve equity within our district. Community voice means the voices of the students, families and caregivers, and teachers and staff. The steps we take must be concrete and evidence-based with the intention of closing achievement gaps, providing a culturally inclusive curriculum and school environment able-ism within our district.

Any other information you want to include or share?

In addition to professional and academic experience have been a community organizer and a public policy analyst. Currently I’m a chapter liaison for black lives matter Ann Arbor and I’ve also organize with the poor People’s campaign. As an activist, veteran and as a social worker I have dedicated my life to service and advocacy.

October 6, 2020

Ernesto Querijero

Pronouns:he/him/his
School District:Ann Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

25 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Ann Arbor Education Association, Washtenaw Democratic Party, Huron Valley Area Labor Federation

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to be a school board member to first safeguard long-term student learning and make sure that it is the focal point of the Board’s work. Second, I will support and recommend policies that increase representation, fairness, and inclusion.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Education justice to me means that all students have equitable learning opportunities and access to resources. It also means being included and treated fairly and equally, regardless of race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, etc… In the context of AA Public Schools, this specifically refers to special education students and students of color.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

The ultimate re-imagination of public schools would be to change how public schools are funded, which is the greatest cause of the systemic inequality that surrounds public education at every level. Without this kind of change, these inequalities were persist. A more immediate re-imagination would place those students and families who are most in need of support at the forefront of policy making and rethink how we assess student achievement. This includes special education students and students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

Parents, students and families should continue to be vocal and active in their schools as volunteer parents, PTO members, and parent representatives on hiring committees. This kind of involvement is where real, cooperative change that can influence decision-making vertically, from the playground to the Board meeting.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

My campaign is largely funded by friends and other like-minded community members who see the value of having an active educator in a virtual classroom on the Board.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

1) To safeguard long-term student learning
2) To recommend policies that increase representation, fairness, and inclusion
3) To bring about the kind of systemic change that public education needs to be more equitable, which includes re-imagining student assessment

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

To me, there are 2 focal points:

1) To bring about systemic change in how public schools are funded
2) To protect the rights of any unions in the educational landscape to collectively bargain

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

The biggest challenges for schools this year is to make sure that schools are safe to enter when students do return, which includes updating ventilation systems and reviewing the maintenance routines at the building level. For now, to keep students and staff safe, schools should remain closed.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

Updating ventilation systems for the safety of students and staff is the number one priority.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardized test should not be the only measure used to assess student learning. They create long-term text anxiety, are culturally bias, and have a negative effecct on how students’ relationship to learning.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum, what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

First and foremost, I would propose a K12 focused curriculum that puts environmental sustainability at the forefront so that students are informed about and engaged with the problems that they will undoubtedly have to face as they enter adulthood. In addition, I advocate expanding opportunities for students in skills and trades.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

Our district is responsible and should provide services to support emotional health/wellbeing.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Our district should not have zero-tolerance policies. Schools are made safe through open, communicative, and cooperative relationships among teachers, parents, and school administrators.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

My top priority around special education is to get students the support they need on a case-by-case basis, as it should be. In some cases, this requires some sort of socially-distanced, FTF support.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

As stated earlier, I believe that we can advocate for a more equitable district through both systemic change in public education and providing support to those in our community who need it most.

Any other information you want to include or share?

No.

October 4, 2020

Angie Smith

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictAnn Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

17 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, Ann Arbor Education Association, Huron Valley ALF-CIO, LiUna (Laborers Local 499), Senator Jeff Irwin, City Council Members Linh Song and Elizabeth Nelson, several other informed voters, listed on my website at angieannarbor.com

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As an educator, I get it. I have taught, worked, and volunteered with all ages preschool- adult. I have worked with incarcerated learners, gifted students, kids with traumatic brain injuries, I have been a classroom teacher and worked one on one. As a parent in our district for the last 17 years I have experience interacting with our Board of education and our administration about issues that are of concern to me. I’ve been a weekly volunteer, a PTO president, a part time support staff, and have sat on committees that investigate policy change.
Through this I have learned that we need to invest in what we value, and I am ready for a new role as a trustee to the Board of Education. If elected I hope to reflect and respect the values of our community. My goal is to challenge everyone from teachers to top administrators to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure a more just and equitable future for all students.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Educational justice means we are supporting every member of our school community in the ways they need in order to reach their best potential. Youth are empowered and so are their teachers. Like in so many communities, the pandemic has really laid bare so many issues of injustice for us. This also means we are ripe to examine and reform problems including racial biases, how we support students with non-neurotypical needs, respect for teachers and staff members, carbon neutrality, and so much more. I am particularly aware of communities of color and families with students who have special and specific needs that are experiencing a lack of support and justice. Working to expose these injustices, talk openly about them, and come up with community based solutions are the first steps in addressing the problem. Climate justice also needs to be addressed, but maybe not through the constraints of this question.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

This is a great question, because this pandemic has offered a opportunity to examine the idea of real educational reform.
If this is a true opportunity at imagining, I would imagine schools to be the gold standard for what climate forward planning, implementation and infrastructure look like. Buildings would be teaching tools used by the students who inhabit them and the community that surrounds them for safe and carbon zero gatherings. Schooldays would start later to allow for students to sleep in and get required rest. Class sizes would be smaller. Students would work and progress at their own pace collaborating with teachers and other students and community members in a way that is non-competitive. Students would be empowered to feel like masters of their own educational progress. All teachers would have the time and tools they need to teach, assess, and encourage students. Kids would get outside every day, and have an opportunity for understanding and impacting where their food comes from, how big decisions are made, how budgets are managed, how our health is protected, and how to discern reliable and credible information. Families would be included in the process of education in a way that does not distract from their own work and goals. Paramount, the safety of kids and our community would not be a worry.

If we want to think about more concrete examples of what could be done we would first think about how we define success for our students. It’s not a report card or a test grade that makes a successful student. Last time I asked our district what our measure of successful education is, the answer was a student that is bound for college. Not all students want to or need to go to college, and I have known many successful students who have opted not to go straight on to University. By reexamining the measures of success, we will change the tools that we use for assessing, and diminish our reliance and costs for high stakes assessments as a way to measure student learning. We can also let go of those assessments as measures of teacher success, and instead rely on real goal setting and creative collaborative work.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

I think of education as a triangle: Student, Parent, Teacher, and then as kids grow Student, Community, School. Each of these pieces of the angle needs to be strong and supportive to the other segments in order to create and shape successful education. This means open communication in working towards shared goals and understanding of success. I’ve seen education work best when parents felt like important members of the learning process, and teachers and school leaders act as guides, examples, and caring mentors, and children are empowered to make decisions about their learning. Research supports the need for parent involvement. By focusing on open and honest communication, schools are better able to meet the needs and values of the community.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

I have had many voters support as donors to my campaign, approximately 40 to date. The largest group contribution came from the Ann Arbor Education Association.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

Safety and Equity.

Student and Teacher Empowerment.

Authentic Communication.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

Increased student funding not tied to zipcode.

Ensuring no classroom is under-resourced, with the recognition that the best resource to our students is excellent teachers.

Promoting carbon neutrality in a way that honors the needs and values of our global community.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

The pandemic has already been such a wildcard for how to safely ensure a free and appropriate education for all. I think it’s important for the district to be able to trust science and state leadership in creating a plan for safely educating children. Once the plan is created, the district leadership needs to feel and show confidence in adopting it and adapting it as needed. Then the plan and rationale need to be clearly communicated to the community.
Challenges to this are difficult: Continuing evolving standards from the state health and political leaders make setting on and trusting an agreed plan tough. Ensuring appropriate resources from PPE to PPE safe and well-ventilated learning spaces is another challenge. Leadership also has to overcome the challenge of helping the community and staff feel confident that the place they will be is safe. There may be people not comfortable with a return to in-person learning for a very long time. As leaders we need to be able to acknowledge and accept that, we need to figure out a way to accommodate that.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

We’ve got a billion dollar bond that will need to be carefully managed and spent over the course of many years to come. That and other funds of the district need to be spent in ways that prioritize equity, environmental protection, and the needs and values of our community. Our biggest resource as a district will always be our teachers. Teachers deserve our respect, and this should also be reflected in our spending priorities. One of the best ways we can support equity and excellence in our district is ensuring that no classrooms are under-resourced or over crowded.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardized tests play too big of a role in our schools. These high-stakes tests are expensive biased ‘snapshots’ that do little to measure student learning and less to reveal the effectiveness of teachers. The fact that they are relied on to prove either is a great disservice to what authentic education should look like. Studies have shown that success on standardized tests is tied heavily to the socioeconomic level of the student. This means that the test scores are not revealing where the ‘good schools’ are, they are revealing where the high socio-economic neighborhoods are.

Assessment and feedback are a very important part of education, and targeting and measuring goals is a crucial part of the learning process. But any full reliance on standardized tests for teacher assessment, state funding, college entrance, and real estate comparison is a harmful way for kids to measure their self-worth.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

There is a lot of good learning going on in AAPS. So many teachers are giving their all and inspiring students in ways that they remember for their lifetime. I would both keep that the same and change our district to allow more space for that. More student-led, project-based, goal-driven place-based opportunity that motivates a desire for lifelong learning and meaningful engagement. Personally, my education is in teaching science and social studies, so I have a deep respect for outdoor education, understanding of the world around us, inquiry-based learning, hands-on exploration, and giving children the opportunity to wonder. But I know that this is a question best left to teachers who are interacting with the students in their classes and are passionate about their subject matter. Allowing qualified teachers professional control of curriculum and pacing gives students the freedom to master skills at their own pace.

I would also inquire about more opportunities for choices or specialty learning within the district. As a large public school district, we can foster some of the creative and varied options that are available at choice schools and magnet schools. Ann Arbor has seen continued success in some of its strong magnet programs–Open, Community, STEAM. At the district level, IB, highpoint, and the college alliance courses are also successful options.
By supporting specialized magnet programs in some community schools, students have a unique opportunity to learn in a way that can be motivating and gratifying. If this can be accomplished in a way that is financially equitable, I would support the growth of these programs.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

A tremendous amount. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center states: Mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association. Schools are where youth spend the majority of their waking time (in non-pandemic times) and so the responsibility to identify and and support these barriers to wellbeing must be addressed. And if at all possible, they must be addressed in a way that does not drain the funding for academic wellbeing. How we treat who we hire (and how we hire) is a lesson to students, whether we think they are paying attention or not. Our values speak volumes when we put them to practice (as good employers).

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Restorative Justice is an effective way for schools and communities to repair harm, injustice and conflict. It gives power to victims, holds offenders accountable, and disrupts the school to prison pipeline by seeking to restore and repair the harm instead of using penalties, shame, and punishment to teach a lesson. Student safety and equity are a school’s first and most basic responsibility.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

As someone who works with students who have suffered traumatic brain injury, as a parent of a child who went through school with a legal 504 document to ensure her health and safety, as a candidate who has talked with many parent who feel their special needs child has been left behind as part of the plan for pandemic education, I have learned that the top priority needs to be communication and goal setting. The safety and success of these students who have been identified as needing further supports are a great responsibility. Open and respectful communication can lead to appropriate goal setting which in turn can lead to successful students. How we measure success bears mention here as well. Last time I asked how our district measures a successful student the answer was if the student goes on to college. For many students (including my own) a direct move to University studies is not the best option. Measuring student success in ways that are not test scores, GPA, or college entrance is an important part of honoring and supporting kids with unique challenges or goals.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

This needs to be the backbone of public education, the idea by which all decisions are considered. This is not only a responsibility to our students, but to our community and culture.

Any other information you want to include or share?

These questions were remarkably thoughtful, and challenging. I wholeheartedly appreciate the time to reflect on and share my answers to them. I hope that a conversation about these priorities can continue with all school board members, and I truly hope to hear more about your groups priorities in public education. Thank you for the opportunity to be considered for endorsement.

October 4, 2020

Jamila James

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictAnn Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

19 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Eric Sturgis , Katie Scott, Linh Song

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to prepare our children to be functional adults in this swiftly changing world we now find ourselves in. Our children need to have communication skills,financial literacy , social emotional learning and the ability to navigate life, if college is not a viable option. I want to be the voice for those who’s voice is currently unheard.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Education Justice is the acknowledgement that everyone can learn and it it up to us to make sure the conditions are accessible to make that a reality. One major way we can do this is to make sure to communicate what resources are available within our community. Such as tutoring, our community centers, the hot spots being offered to families. One problem that I noticed with in my community is that there are resources out there, but they are not widely known. Also, within the schools we can utilize our resources to make sure children that are struggling get the support they need –from reading specialist to looking at what’s going on in the home that can be making learning difficult. Going in with a solution based mindset of how we can make learning better for each child is real education justice.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

It would look like a space that is building/ encouraging/ educationing a child holistically. We would have social emotional learning that teaches children to critically think, not only about themselves but others. We would have restorative justice, that would teach children to be self reflective and to take accountability for their thoughts and actions. We would have a place where every child is valued and encourage to thrive, be it going to college or skilled trade. It would be a place where we as administrators put the best interest of the students, based on research, ahead of the financial bottom line.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

I think that everyone should have an opportunity to express there opionions and thoughts and have them actually be taken into consideration. You never know where solutions to problem can come from. We all have such different perspectives. It is only through seeing the problems through different spectrums that you can find solutions that help us all.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

none

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

One of my top priority is to bring equity, restorative justice, social emotional learning to all of our schools. My second priority is to bring back life skills, soft skills and skilled trade back into the schools which goes with equity. My third is an anti-racist, inclusive curriculum.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

Anti-racist, inclusive, curriculum. Equal funding, not based on how much money a community earns. Equity, restorative justice and social emotional learning.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

I think the challenge is keeping everyone safe and I think Ann Arbor is doing the right thing. Online learning with the goal of bringing the younger kids back to in person learning as soon as its safe too. However, we also have to make sure those that have additional services, such as IEP’S and 504’s are getting the support they need.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

I’m not sure because I have not seen the numbers. I can say that our budget shouldn’t be top heavy. Most of our money should be focused on what will yield the best results for the children.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

None. They are cultural bias and only shows how well a child can take a test.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

I would make an anti-racist , all inclusive curriculum mandatory.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

I think that it is a vital part of our responsibility. We know that according to Maslows Needs that if your basic needs, such as safety is not in place then learning and growth is not possible. We can not address educational learning without addressing the mental and emotional well being of all involved in the process.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Restorative Justice

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Making sure humanity is a part of the solutions. People tend to think of people with special needs as others. My top priority is to look at what is needed both, in general and individually and making sure the funds and the people who actually care about the needs of the students and families are in place. We have the resources. The real question is if we have the will.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

My perspective is it is not an option not to work on equity. We can’t expect our children to thrive without equity. In a world where low income people and people of color are often not taken into consideration when decisions are made, while at the same time are the ones often struggling with having basic needs meant, it is near impossible to get quality education for all children. We need equity in order for all our children to thrive.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I am human. I don’t know everything and will not do everything perfect. However, my priority is to help all of our children thrive. I’m open-minded , and have the ability to put my ego to the side and just listen and hear. I am also unafraid to to be uncomfortable in order to get through change. Knowing that the discomfort is just a temporary thing, but the payoff will be worth it. I think this is the most important thing needed to be on the School Board.

October 4, 2020

Jeff Gaynor

Pronouns:
School DistrictAnn Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

45 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Washtenaw County Democratic Party, Ann Arbor Education Association, Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, LiUNA, Local 499, Ann Arbor Indivisible (focusing on Climate Neutrality)

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a 38-year classroom teacher and nearly 4 years as a Trustee, the issues I have first hand experience with still aren’t resolved effectively. Of primary focus, I still care about how we educate our kids.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

While we are an affluent, highly educated district, there is still a significant gap in achievement, suspensions, drop outs and other measures that indicate we are not serving all students properly. We have attempted, with only small measures of success to lessen these differences, but at times it is more rhetoric than reality. For example we have begun instituting what we call Restorative Justice practices, but it is often far from authentic or meaningful.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

This is too big a question. Throughout my teaching career, well, even before it, I have advocated for a progressive student centered approach.

One of the most disheartening things I’ve witnessed as a teacher is to have a student enter the new school year glad to be back among his peers and anxious to please his teacher. One can see he is kind, affable and eager to please. But as the school year progresses, and he is being judged on test scores, homework completion and grades, rather than being perceived as the whole person he is, his demeanor changes; he withdraws or acts out. He is labeled a failure and the school exacerbates the problem rather than taking responsibility for it. This dynamic occurs at all grades and the cumulative effect is devastating.

As a teacher, I had high standards for every one of my students, but the approach was holistic. I first understood and appreciated the student as he was, and then promoted growth. I did not start with an arbitrary grade level standard, which would be sure to fail many students.

I would promote a radical shift in why and how we are educating students. As a teacher at our Open Elementary School for 10 years, I was more able to teach with a progressive student-centered model, without grades, yet still producing extraordinary results. In fact, when students in middle school were polled, former Open School students did not rate themselves as high as others who were used to getting A’s – but they performed better.

We must make sure our curriculum is expansive and inclusive. Representation must be embedded in all grades and subjects, not just relegated to Black History Month, or a high school African-American humanities class. Restorative Justice practice must serve the needs of students, not be a pretense so that the district can report fewer suspensions, though that too is part of the needed reforms. Reinvigorating curriculum options – such as vocational education – will also help many students find their place in our schools. And we should expand our work with community groups, Community Centers, etc., to support families and students most at risk.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

This three-way partnership was always significant while I was teaching. I would establish a relationship with parents early on, and inform them regularly not only about how their child was doing, but what was happening in the classroom, early in my career by sending home weekly letters and later by setting up a class website, long before it was common.

I tended to create units and projects that allowed students many options to show what they knew and could do. Cooperative learning activities were a fundamental feature. Expectations were designed to meet individual student abilities and needs – and often in consultation with parents – rather than arbitrary ‘grade level’ standards. Well, as mentioned, this was less so in the waning years of my career as top-down decision making restricted my ability to teach to my students’ interests and needs.

When I was elected to the School Board I bid on and was voted in as Secretary, as the responsibilities included replying to everyone who wrote to the Board. Openness, transparency and Communication have always been a priority. I would post Board agendas and other relevant information on a dedicated Facebook page. I have had open meetings with the community, and others by request.

Is this standard for the district? I would say not. Pre-Covid, there were not many emails written to the Board. I’d like to think that this is because problems were dealt with at “lower” levels as appropriate. But it may also be that the community felt that the Board has not been very responsive. While this is disheartening, it is also true that teachers and other staff feel like they can’t speak up about issues; their experience has been that if they do, they get chastised by their principal or other administrator. This does not set up an environment of trust in which everyone can contribute their thoughts and opinions to the betterment of the district.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

The Ann Arbor Education Association endorsed me, and promised that they would contribute $1,000 to my campaign. Otherwise I have received individual donations mostly in the range of $5 to $100, though I did receive one donation from a current teacher for $150 and one from a retiree and former School Board member for $250.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

* Openness and transparency about issues and process;
Fostering community input and discussion;
Critical thinking and problem-solving.

* Decision making in support of equity and social justice.

* Enabling and supporting teacher professionalism and decision making.

While not “educational per se” – also:

* Monitoring the $1 billion bond spending; supporting carbon neutrality measures.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

* Equitable Funding
* Adequate Funding
* Reversal of the laws that stripped teacher unions of their organizing power (Right-to-work) and that limited items that are subject to collective bargaining.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

There is a strong demand from families – especially those with single parents, or both parents working, those with young children, and those with vulnerable students to reopen the schools. We are looking at metrics carefully to reopen as quickly as possible but only when it is safe to do so. This is quite subjective so raises a lot of conflict in the community. Funding for all of the safety requirements is problematic; the Board just approved close to $1million for safety measures which will get us just through a couple of months of the school year. Yet safety of the students, staff and community must be our priority.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

With Covid, we have to keep everyone safe.

We need to prioritize educational equity – resources to the students and schools which need it most to support especially vulnerable students.

While we have to attend to technology due to the demands of virtual learning, I have been concerned about over spending for technology “because we can” not because we should.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Through much of my career as a teacher, standardized tests were limited, both in time and in consequences, and the benchmarks they provided had some value. Now, high stakes testing has disrupted authentic teaching and is being used in invalid ways to evaluate not only students but also teachers. Furthermore, they don’t tell teachers anything they don’t already know about their students. They are also inherently inequitable, being more a measure of parents’ education and income than they are of student ability. So ultimately the current standardize testing regimen serves to solidify a hierarchy of student success and failure rather than helping teachers to support their students. This teachers can and do adjust their instruction and support their students with their own relevant and timely assessments.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

This year the administration is mandating what every teacher teaches, in every subject, every day, and it’s uniform across the district. While this is being done in the name of ‘supporting’ teachers while we transition to virtual teaching, it is the logical and ultimate culmination of a trend over the last decade of top-down decision making that has been robbing teachers of their professional autonomy. Instead of lessons based on the unique interests and abilities of their students, teachers are having to spoon feed lessons based on some arbitrary standards.

While broad curriculum should be established in terms of scope and sequence – and be much more inclusive and representative than it has been (we’re making slow progress with this) – teachers must be allowed to make decisions based on the their knowledge of their students.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

This is hugely important, especially this year. However, this must be done authentically, by supporting student autonomy and decision making and providing the knowledge and skills for them to be successful by showing achievement – not by judging them based on arbitrary grade level standards. And certainly not by subjecting them to canned “Social-Emotional Learning” gimmicks and slides.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

This has to be done by setting up a positive environment of trust and shared responsibility. Students must be respected and this will only happen if they know they are respected by given individual and collective ownership of what happens every day. It will not come from an authoritarian structure and enforcing strict discipline measures. This is especially true for students who have felt alienates. I am not saying to go easy on students who misbehave. In fact, restorative justice practices must be deep and well structured. It is not enough to wrap traditional ‘punishments’ or to go easy on kids, under the guise of a restorative justice label.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Our district has a vast amount of improvement to make in meeting the needs of students with IEP’s and 504 plans. Simply holding meetings on time and following through with the promises made does not happen near enough. We had a major Special Ed Improvement Plan done by an outside organization. Board members received a draft in May, 2019, and yet this still hasn’t been made available to the public. We have to increase our commitment to providing services for the most vulnerable students.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

My perspective is that the administration is very good at rhetoric about equity, but so far the reality has not matched up. One example of this is due to our in-district transfer policies. In order to retain families in the district we have seen an exodus of families from more diverse schools to more increasingly homogenous schools, increasing school segregation within the district. So while we make a show of providing more resources to schools that have greater need, either due to lower student achievement, or less funds available to their PTO, we are not taking a look at how systemically we are increasing the inequities. It is still true that privileged parents get their way more so than underrepresented groups. While we are making small scale efforts, overall we have made little progress.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I have been a life-long activist, protesting against the Vietnam War in high school, joining in on the Black Action Movement protests at the University of Michigan, advocating for Feminism and Gay Rights in the 70’s. Last year I engaged in an all-day climate change protest, getting arrested for my convictions.

This year, after the detainment of Black Lives Matters protestors by Federal agents, I organized a protest at the Federal Building here in Ann Arbor, one that drew hundreds of people to hear 14 speakers, including Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, Rep. Yousef Rabhi, civil rights attorneys, local officials, and activists.

In between, during my 38-year teaching career, I was told that I was the teacher who spoke up during staff meetings when others were hesitant to do so. I bring the same level of critical thought and conscience to my work as a trustee.

October 4, 2020

Maggi Kennel

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictAnn Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

36

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, Ann Arbor Indivisible

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am eager to draw from my experiences as an AAPS parent, volunteer, equity advocate and as a medical researcher to help guide the policies that will make the School Board a more effective force for our children’s education.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Achieving educational justice is when students do not have to conform to feel successful and when educators become adept at responding to student needs. Our school district needs to focus on the marginalized students and create an environment that will allow them to flourish. This includes creating more opportunities to keep kids in school, have aids and tutors to there to keep students on track to achieve their potential, work to understand implicit bias in our school district, become culturally empathetic towards our students, and co-create a classroom culture where every learner feels inspired to participate.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

Schools will be looking for ways to incorporate the investments that have been made due to the pandemic to create a new vision of school. Many school districts have purchased computers for all students, new software that will allow students to learn beyond the classroom and the ability for more students to be reached, even when at home. There will need to be a review of what works and doesn’t work in teaching students. This will include reviewing all of the changes that have been implemented over the last year, the training of staff and outcomes that are seen as schools work to transition back to in-person learning. The ability to close achievement gaps by utilizing the best of the changes to help reach more students in more ways would be the ultimate goal while retaining the best that in-person connections bring to schools. There will also be the ability to see and better understand which areas did not work during this pandemic. A combined hybrid of this learning review will result and create a new vision for schools moving forward.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

Parents and students should be directly involved in providing ideas and feedback to the school board. I would like to see a student advocate at each school that reports to the school board members. For the younger students, this would be families and for the secondary schools, this could be designated student per grade. This would allow for better insight directly into the school experience of students and families. I would also like to see a teacher representative from each school that is anonymously able to report to the board as well. This would give better insight the Board to provide areas of improvement that the teachers believe need to addressed by taking out the fear of ramifications. This will create a more complete picture for the board to direct school decisions from.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

I have a community based campaign with supporters from many areas in the district.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

My top three goals for the Ann Arbor Public school district are an equitable education for all our students, responsible leadership and inspiring academic achievement for our students. We need to minimize resource disparities in our district and proactively plan support resources appropriately. Our leaders need to increase the transparency and accountability with regards to school funds, while implementing change to protect our environment. We also need to inspire students with teachers that are not heavily weigh upon with testing and metrics but can create imaginative content that engages the students to learn.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

My top three goals at the state level are to increase the resources for social and emotional health, better partnerships with teachers to create clear evaluable learning goals and change the funding at the state level in how tax dollars are distributed to districts. These goals would work in concert to generate a more complete process in education with the student learning goals as a priority, not a metric.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

Currently, during the pandemic, we are seeing issues that we thought were small fissures in our the academic system but will lead to the greatest educational disparity that we have ever seen. These include the lack of resources for our most vulnerable population, our students. My district needs to focus on creating sustained access to resources for our vulnerable families. The plan to re-open schools will need to be clearly laid out and expectations understood by families. Schools will need to create floor plans that direct traffic, socially distance the students in classrooms and have masks/hand sanitizer/sinks available for students and staff throughout the day. The ventilation in our schools will need to be addressed as many of the buildings are old and in need of upgrades before the pandemic. Every angle of the school day will need to be reviewed to create the best plan to ensure safety for all.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

With our current school status of virtual learning, this allows the district to focus on creating change in areas that were already approve with the passing of the $1billion dollar bond. Many of the promised changes included better ventilation, lighting, open spaces and more. These focused changes can be started on now with little to no people in the school buildings. This prioritization would decrease disruption when schools re-open and help facilitate the return to school. There are also the redistribution of targeted projects that the bond was going to focus on that will not be the priority now. For example, we will not need to replace our bus fleet that quickly with less use over the last year. By redirecting funding to projects that both need to be done and have a higher priority due to COVID, projects that were promised to the voters through the bond approval can still be delivered but in a different timing.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardize test are a metric that has been long discussed. Many parents fee, understandably concerned about their children being judged on the basis of tests that, in some cases, don’t seem to reliably correlate with actual learning or with successful college and career outcomes. These tests also favor those with the access to resources to successfully study for them or work towards improvement, increasing the inequities of the educational system. Freeing teachers of the constraints of a testing-focused curriculum will help teachers to inspire each student to meet their full potential and decrease inequitable standards for college bound students.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

Our schools offer a wide-variety of subject matter in many forms. The one thing I would work to improve is the basics of the human experience. Students need to come out of public school with an understanding of what the world expects out of them as an adult, so teaching increased understanding in civic duty, tax structures, job opportunities and other roles and responsibilities would create a better foundation for functioning in society. There should also be a bigger push for problem solving learned behaviors. Problem based learning exists now but to a limited degree so increasing access to it across different topics would help build confidence in students moving forward.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

We have seen the last few years that social/emotional wellness is becoming the cornerstone of what we need in education. The ability to support the whole student and teacher, will increase their confidence, ability to learn/teach and will create a better sense of community for the school school. Students and teachers have the ability to recognize when their limits have been reached. If we can’t build in space in our curriculum for mental and emotional health and well being, then we are failing to teach how to be a well balanced person. This is a crucial skill for life.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Schools in Ann Arbor have been installing monitored entrances to the buildings for many year. We do not have police officers in our schools. Our schools should work to create a district that looks for root causes of behavior changes and assist in solving these. Discipline needs to be compassionate and not be a reason that sets a student back from learning. Creating a caring culture in our schools with counselors that work to help student thought tough times will lead to less serious problems in the long run. Schools can also partner with community resources to assist with alleviating root causes if needed.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Special education needs to become a more proactive process. Parents are not always the ones to identify that there student is of need and schools need to be better funded to have more resources available to assist in diagnosis and implementation. Creating tools that help families understand the needs of their student better would be a priority. This could mean partnering with local groups that already exist, creating a network of families to support each other and working to advocate for appropriate resources at each school. We need to be able to support our most vulnerable at every step, to ensure an equitable education that allows students and families to thrive.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

Increased inequity is one of the biggest issues in the district and drives our achievement gap. Equity through education affirms that every student’s educational experience matters. We need to work so that students of color can enter school as their most authentic selves and feel supported and safe. Partnering with community organizations and leaders to better understand the realities that students are facing will allow the Board to put into place better policies to work with families and students. Creating a cultural that welcomes input from all students will lead to a trust and partnership with the school. As many of these issues are not unique to Ann Arbor, working with our neighbors in Ypsilanti School district to create better support models would benefit both districts and unify our schools with a common goal, increasing accessible education for all students.

Any other information you want to include or share?