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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Bloomfield Hills School District

October 6, 2020

Renita James

Pronouns:she/her
School District:Bloomfield Hills School District
City:Bloomfield Township

How long have you lived in your district?

10 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes. 1. Birmingham-Bloomfield Democratic Club 2. Downtown Newsmagazine

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My family and I have lived in Bloomfield Township since 2010. As a former elementary school teacher, I knew early on that I had a passion for education. Making a difference in the lives of youth was, and is still, my top priority. Now, as a proud parent of a thriving 9-year-old daughter, I have kept this same tenacity by dedicating countless hours to ensure the success of her education. As a public servant for the last 18 years with the State of Michigan, fourteen as a Departmental Analyst, I understand what it takes to serve my community-integrity, character, diversified skills and perspectives, compassion, and ability to be a voice for the voiceless. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s in Business Administration. If elected, my top priority will be ensuring that not only my daughter’s best interests, but the community as a whole and being given utmost consideration.

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

•Education justice – means balancing the inequity of access to a high-level education both through competent educators and opportunities that historically have not been afforded to the underserved.
•Education justice, specifically in the context of my school district – means having equal access to all classes i.e., honor classes, AP courses, etc. and representation, at all staff levels, of people of color and other underrepresented classes.

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

•In the future, for homebound students could continue utilizing remote learning.
•One of the silver linings during this pandemic is that virtual learning and connection was leveraged and perfected to meet the needs of our students.
•As we veer into the new century of technological and informational advancement, we know that remote learning can help reach students and facilitate and supplement all kinds of learning. Mastery of this forum is very important now and will be even more so in the future to meet the needs and expectations of societal standard.

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

There are many options to increase parental and care giver involvement, such as gathering information via surveys, transparent sharing of information and being intentional about the time and place of meetings to accommodate all interested attendees.

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

I do not have any top financial supporters for my campaign at this time.

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

Priorities/Goals, if elected:
•Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff during this era of COVID-19;
•Narrowing the achievement gap,
•Promoting more diversity, equity and inclusion within our schools.

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

Priorities/Goals at a state level, I will address, if elected:
•Increase funding for Special Education;
•Reduction in the number of charter schools;
•Making universal Pre-K an option for all students.

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?

Challenges:
•Funding cuts
•Assessing children at various levels of progress following months of irregular learning
•Mental health issues
There is not a definite answer on how to address the reopening of schools, but what remains a clear objective is keeping our community safe. If elected, I look forward to working with the fellow board members to resolute a contingency plan of action.

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

Priorities:
•Increasing mental health resources after COVID
•Hiring more trained mental health professionals in all school building
•Increasing funding for personal protective equipment

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

•We need teacher feedback to ensure that any and all tests are measuring what they purport to measure;
•Reviewing the overly restrictive 3rd grade reading law. This law was passed by the state legislature in 2016. This law requires all Michigan third grade students not scoring proficient on the third-grade state assessment to be retained if they are one or more grade levels behind in reading at the end of third grade. The state department of education granted a waiver of testing mandates amid the pandemic for 2019-2020 school year. However, the federal Secretary of Education has no intention of waiving the testing requirement again for the 2020-21 school year. It is not in the best interest of parents, teachers, staff or administration to retain young children. This can affect a student’s self-esteem as well as impact their future, such as their ability to have careers in various demanding industries. Pre COVID, my district has addressed the literacy issue by placing students into smaller groups based on their reading levels. For students needing more instruction, teachers are supported and able to commit more time to aid in the mastery of grade level reading. If elected, I will continue to support implementing learning tools that address differentiation among different learning abilities.

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?

•Math curriculum – Less initiative fluctuation and more mastery of math skills by committing to one curricular program for a substantial period.
•Increasing transparency in both the positive and negative outcomes.

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

•Reinforcing positive behaviors and decision making
•Focusing on social and emotional learning
•Validating the personal challenges every individual faces.

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

•Continuing Restorative Practices training for staff, students and parents. This training focuses on building favorable relationships while managing/reducing conflict. By shifting to a community building mindset, we repair, rather than punish, and restore the entire community.

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

•Coordinating the needs of special education within the general education setting;
•Increasing funding of this grossly underfunded sector of public education.
•Increasing more general education awareness and training, including departments like transportation and co-curricular coaches and staff.

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

I believe Bloomfield Hills Schools should be intentional in creating policy and programs that support the diverse make up of our community. Hiring, class selection, honors, teams, and all areas of academia should reflect the entire community. We need to change narrative of disenfranchisement. Our district needs to have annual training on anti-racism within our schools, communities, and organizations. Dialogue should be encouraged through role play, via presentations and participations.

Any other information you want to include or share?

My prior education and experience as a mentor, tutor, and elementary school teacher brought me to the realization that our young people are our future. Since my community desires a healthy, educated, caring and connected community, it is my goal to use my platform on school board to help facilitate a community for all students that prepares them to become leaders in their own communities one day.

October 6, 2020

Siva Kumar

Pronouns:he/him
School District:Bloomfield Hills School District
City:Bloomfield Hills

How long have you lived in your district?

5+ years

Have you received any endorsements?

Downtown magazine, Birmingham Bloomfield Democratic Club

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Public education is the foundation of democracy and these are time of stress for democracy. I wish to offer my diverse perspective and a) give back by driving performance among students of color, low income, Special Education and ELL students b) help to refine and finalize the Strategic plan for students in the district c) help the administration execute the $200 mil school transformation project flawlessly

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

Fair and equitable access for all students, irrespective of financial ability, whether it be for universal Pre-K, free tutoring or waiver of fees for extra-curricular activities

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

Underperforming students with performance gaps have caught up

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

Parents should have transparency to how appointments are made, I would recommend curriculum nites and open-houses

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

Self funded

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

My top three priorities are 1) minimize performance gaps in mandated testing among people of color and low income students 2) setting achievable and measurable SMART goals

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

1) equitable funding model across districts, 2) growth in funding for public education 3) accountability for scores

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?

My main concern is that we will see a significant decrease in funding allowance in future years

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

We need to focus on mental health funding and resources to ensure kids and staff are not being left behind due to COVID related challenges in instruction

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

I am not a fan of standardized tests, but it does provide a common base for accountability. I would consider it to be one of many tools, and definitely should not be the only tool used.

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?

Work on continuing to improve equitable inclusion, Focus on ability based classification rather than age based classification.

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

Now more than ever, it is key to support student and staff mental and emotional health and wellbeing

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

Discipline should be transparent and sensible. There has to be equity in discipline

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

For Special Ed, we need to ensure practice meets policy and initiatives are properly staffed and appropriately trained

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

These are challenging but exciting times. I believe that the first step is acknowledgement. The BHS board just passed a resolution to eliminate racism and clearly takes this seriously. I think we also could take other steps like subsidizing field trips or funding afterschool activities for economically challenged students.

Any other information you want to include or share?

My name is Siva Kumar and I’m running for a seat on the non-partisan Board of Education at Bloomfield Hills Schools. I’m driven by a simple goal; to do my part in making BHS a better and more inclusive place for all, regardless of gender, race or orientation. My wife and I have been fortunate that our children received a great education going through Bloomfield Hills Schools and I chose to run because I would like to give back to the community. My priorities are:

1) equitable education for all, including students of color, economically disadvantaged students, Special Education and ELL students

2) ensuring prudent investment of our $200 mil bond recently approved by residents. We need to prioritize spending wisely in a post-Covid world

3) preparing our students for the future by effectively implementing the BHS strategic plan with a focus on mental well being and post high school readiness.

I’m strategy, operations and finance executive with over 30 years of experience in large manufacturing and service organizations where I successfully managed large projects and built up businesses while working with boards to manage interests of multiple stakeholders. I attended Wayne State for an engineering degree and I have an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

I pledge to bring my skills in finance and strategy as well as my skills in driving alignment to the BHS Board of Education. Thank you for your vote !

Please reach out to me with your questions at skumar.bhschoolboard@gmail.com or on my website at https://www.skumarforbhschoolboard.com/

October 6, 2020

Michelle Southward

Pronouns:She, Her, Hers
School District:Bloomfield Hills School District
City:Bloomfield Hills

How long have you lived in your district?

10 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am interested in supporting the district in assisting black and brown families in overcoming the recurring challenges of the achievement gap. My nearly 20 years of experience working in higher education and serving in numerous leadership roles has subsequently prepared me for being a school board member. I am confident that I can be successful working with Bloomfield Hills schools, because I have a background in strategic planning, diversity affairs, retention, and academic advising that will go a long way in bringing forth systemic changes. I believe that my skill sets will complement our current leadership and bring a different perspective.

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

Justice to me means equitable representation and fair practices throughout every educational practice. Education justice means that we educate our students and staff on what is and how to respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination to disband systemic racism in our schools and curriculum.

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

I would imagine that we would establish a place where we can practice good citizenship and respect the differences of our neighbor. Be it where socioeconomic status or disability does not place greater distance between our opportunities, but brings us closer together as a district of diverse learners to foster a deeper understanding of and commitment to inclusive and equitable practices.

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

I believe that leaders infuse the right people into conversation with enthusiasm. Therefore, as a leader I believe that the voices of the parents, students and families are what makes us thrive as a district and invokes a more diverse perspective. Ultimately the decision rests with the board of education, however that does not mean that we eliminate the platform for our district’s family to be heard and make valuable contributions to the process. I think that it is important for us to learn more about our students and teachers’ direct and indirect needs, advocating for programs to support the social and emotional well-being, as well as maintaining smaller class sizes for more direct personal connections, inclusivity of learning styles, and to increase the social comfort relating to peer to peer relationship development

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

My family, friends, and families in the district! I am thankful.

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

My top three priorities would be (1) to support a robust mental health education program for our students and staff expanding social and emotional well-being, (2) increase our equity and inclusion district practices throughout schools and curricula to directly address the achievement gaps with established tiered interventions and targeted services for all learners, (3) improve our community relations and communication across the district through intentional initiatives.

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

(1) Enrich the educational focus in the classrooms to include more realistic depictions of history and contributions of all Americans to be cited properly in our textbooks and literary selections within all districts across the state and our nation. (2)Additional financial resources from the state to support fine arts (STEAM) curriculum within the district, so students and teachers don’t have to be concerned about budget reductions to programs. (3)Work to support equitable and competitive wages to retain the best educators for our students.

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 things that some of us may find to be simple are not so in some low socioeconomically disadvantaged households. For example, access to printing documents for assignments, internet in the home, materials for art projects, are all of the items your student’s school would usually supply, may not be as easily accessible and may become financially overwhelming for families. These barriers to education are not only disadvantages, but may create more systemic issues for our students. Some students may fall behind academically, or develop new stressors all because of the lack of resources readily available. As for the second part of the question, to keep students safe, no protocols should be taken lightly or missed. We would also need to maintain communication with a district representative that maintains the surrounding data to keep track of state progress. It is important for us to establish an environment that supports continuous communication between students, staff, parents, and administration to keep everyone safe.

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

With the loss of parents to homeschooling and transferring, our districts need to manage unnecessary spending in our budget and account for all of the unexpected expenditures the district ensued during the pandemic and forecast future state cuts in order to not have reductions to our workforce, to prevent an increase in classroom sizes, or unnecessary reductions in programs and services for our students and staff. We have to also be good stewards of the additional bond funding that was allocated to the district by our community.

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

I would advocate for the inclusion of course textbooks that have true historical depictions that highlight the varied views of historians of our country, infusing into our curriculum valid depictions of times like during the Antebellum period and understanding contributions to our nation made by African-Americans, Latinx, immigrants, etc. and not just Eurocentric.

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 am a strong advocate of mental health and well-being, working to remove the stigmas associated with mental and emotional health and well-being. We need a plan that helps to educate students and staff on how to practice wellness and self care. I am a mental health first aid trainer, and I understand the importance of learning about how to stand in the gaps and support others when in need. I believe that the district should have a commitment to providing resources and support to students and staff as it relates to mental health and well-being.

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

I am a strong advocate of mental health and well-being, working to remove the stigmas associated with mental and emotional health and well-being. We need a plan that helps to educate students and staff on how to practice wellness and self care. I am a mental health first aid trainer, and I understand the importance of learning about how to stand in the gaps and support others when in need. I believe that the district should have a commitment to providing resources and support to students and staff as it relates to mental health and well-being.

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

Disciplinary processes should be uniform and followed accordingly based on the nature of the incident (grade level appropriate). All individuals associated with said incident or behavioral infraction should be reprimanded and sanctioned with unbiased judgment according to the act(s) or action(s) whereby a regulation established by the district’s code of conduct has not been upheld. The restorative model should be utilized to decrease the effects of punitive responses with excessive suspensions.

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

The top priority of my candidacy will be to provide awareness on all fronts. In the classrooms, the boardroom, and in the Bloomfield community. My focus on special education would include reviewing the quality of the models that we have established and the efficiency of our current systems that guide our staff. The laws around special education are extensive, which highlights the importance of being compliant, while at the same time addressing each and every student’s unique needs daily. Furthermore, it is important that we maintain knowledgeable stakeholders among our staff in order to continuously improve upon the processes by which our district provides services to students who receive or who are evaluated for special education services.

As a parent of a special needs student, I understand the importance of the Individuals with Disability Education Act being appropriately implemented.

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

We have to be able to collect and interpret the data, and find strategic approaches to share the information with families with support systems. The next step will be establishing a rapport with the student(s) that have fallen behind academically and implement grade level based tiered interventions district wide. The first step in this process to me is transparency and accountability.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I am looking forward to having an opportunity to work alongside our current board of education members, superintendent, teachers, staff, and students as well as in support of a finalized strategic plan that outlines clear goals, tactics, and outcome measures.

October 4, 2020

Jonathan VanGemert

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictBloomfield Hills School District
City:Bloomfield Hills

How long have you lived in your district?

4.5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No formal endorsements to date

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

The two reasons I am running are (1) to give back by volunteering my time, experience and energy to the learning community that has helped guide my children to be good students and citizens; (2) with three trusted members of the Board retiring, I want to be sure that the Board continues to be stewarded in a way that values student education as its highest priority.

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

Education justice means equity in education funding and addressing the school to incarceration pipeline that continues to plague our schools especially our BIPOC population. To my district, it means that in order to advance our whole community, we must advocate for equity in funding, or at least equity in budget cuts, which would place a higher dollar burden for cuts on my district, but a more equitable burden across districts based on total funding per pupil. Further, we must continue to foster an inclusive an open atmosphere where discussing race, racism and systemic advantage/disadvantage is considered an important part of the curriculum.

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

Education would begin in the offices of our OB/GYNs with educators meeting with soon to be parents/guardians and educating the on the benefits of reading to children everyday, and the resources available in the community related to education and childcare. I would allocate funding for pre-school education beginning at age 3, so that children have the best chances for beginning kindergarten on an equal footing. I would allocate funding so that no more than 20 students are in a class until after 3rd grade. We must lay a solid foundation from birth to 8 years old.

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

This question is fairly broad, but I think parents, students and families should be encouraged to be engaged in decision making. When we feel ownership or partnership in the process, then we feel ownership and partnership in the outcomes.

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

Friends, family and citizens.

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

(1) Mental wellness curriculum. (2) Continued efforts to infuse the contributions, perspectives and opinions of people of all backgrounds in all of our curriculum throughout the school year. (3) Setting short and long term specific goals for improvement in students’ achievement as is unfortunately often measured by standardized testing.

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

(1) Expand access to early childhood learning opportunities and pre-schools. (2) Expand access to early intervention programs for students struggling to read. (3) Improve health and safety by improving access to extracurricular activities.

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?

Education and student safety are always 1(a) and 1(b) on the list of priorities. This year we must consider that student safety is 1(a). In order to keep students safe, our school district must follow the guidelines set forth by the State of Michigan, the CDC and Oakland County. As of right now, that means social distancing and masks while inside and when social distancing cannot be maintained outside. Collectively, Michigan has done well over the last several months, but we must listen to the experts and follow guidelines, so that we do not endanger members of our learning community that could be hospitalized or die if infected.

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

The top spending priorities should always be with regard to those expenditures that directly affect students. With that said, a pet peeve of mine, with students, teachers and families increasingly using and communicating using technological platforms, especially now, there needs to be some focus on adopting a learning platform that is easy to use, comprehensive and which effectively facilitates communication between teachers, students and families. It is not that communication is not happening. Education professionals at all levels ARE communicating on multiple platforms simultaneously. The system for communication is disjointed, redundant, and in the end, confusing. Frustration related to communication is a momentum killer for students and parents. We cannot afford to lose engaged students, because their frustration with their education platform is greater than their excitement for a content area.

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

In my opinion, the vast amount of testing is unnecessary. however, standardized testing will likely always be a requirement. If we are going to require our students to spend 2 – 5% of their learning time taking standardized tests, the least we can do is attempt to analyze and utilize that data to help our current students achieve at a higher level, and to understand where deficiencies may lie in our curriculum so that future students can achieve at a higher level.

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?

Dima El-Gamal, Michelle Southward and I plan to work with the Board and Superintendent Watson to share our goal that students receive education in mental wellness and mental health awareness. Mental well-being and awareness of mental health and strategies to improve one’s one mental health not only lead to higher quality of life, but reduce violence, and increase self evaluation of ability, which s the number one corollary to student success. As well as continued efforts to infuse the contributions, perspectives and opinions of people of all backgrounds in all of our curriculum throughout the school year.

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

As described in response to the previous question, increased mental and emotional well-being correlates to increased self evaluation levels, which meta analysis of multiple studies, indicates is the #1 predictor of student achievement.

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

Our school district has been utilizing restorative justice practices for quite awhile. I am in favor of continuing that practice.

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

Our special education teachers do an excellent job. With all that is happening in our world today, trauma-informed teaching is something I would like to focus on regarding special education. In addition, I would read surveys of our parents regarding special education, and work with Superintendent Watson to determine how the concerns of our parents are being met.

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

Equity is often looked at utilizing the cartoon with three people at a baseball game, where equality is shown as each of three people – a short person, a medium sized person and a tall person each standing on a box. The short person still can’t see over the wall. Equity is then shown in the next frame of the cartoon with the short person standing on two boxes and the tall person, the medium sized person standing on one box and the tall person without a box. They can all see over the wall…equity. In education, I see this analogy slightly differently. Each student has a box of tools that is appropriate to their needs, and each student has a wall/obstacle that is appropriate to their abilities. Equity is achieved through appropriately rigorous coursework along with the appropriate tools to complete said coursework, according to each students needs and abilities.

Any other information you want to include or share?

October 4, 2020

Dr. Dima El-Gamal

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictBloomfield Hills School District
City:West Bloomfield

How long have you lived in your district?

since 2004

Have you received any endorsements?

Fem 4 Dems, EMgage PAC, West Bloomfield Township Treasurer Teri Weingarden, West Bloomfield Township Trustee Diane Swimmer

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a resident of the Bloomfield Hills School district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November.

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

I believe in equity, which is different than equality. For example, instead of giving everyone a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving everyone a
shoe that fits. That is how I look at education justice. We need to cater to the specific needs of our students and tailor our educational means and methods to
help each student based on his and/or her needs.

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

After this pandemic is over crisis, I foresee districts capitalizing on the investments in their responses to the pandemic and emerging stronger and more resilient. The school systems becoming capable of catering to all preferences and possibly to new cliental. A virtual school would be a common and acceptable option to those who choose it including the formerly known as the homeschooled community. While the in person model continues to be offered to the majority of student population. I also foresee, districts less hesitant to announce snow days for example. Students will switch to distant learning on snow days. Students will not miss a beat when traveling or sick ( if desired and able) as they can log into their classroom remotely.

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

The Bloomfield Hills School district offers and encourages various ways that allow stakeholder involvement. Our district trains parents and students to become global champions and be involved in each school’s decision making. Volunteering on committees, serving on task forces, and establishing open line of communication with teachers, staff, administration , and Board are key to collaborating with the
district.

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

all my financial supporters were parents in the district or close friends

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

District-wide Mental Wellness/ Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum/safe and
effective COVID 19 teaching environment

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

Improve School Funding/ Provide better guidance during crises such as COVID 19/Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum

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 commend the administration and staff for the tremendous effort that was put into planning for this school year. The District will need to continue to refine its plans as the dynamics of this pandemic continue to change. It is sad that lack of leadership at the State level is forcing local school Boards to make tough decisions that impact families and students. While I sympathize with families with working parents or parents of Different Learners, I cannot underestimate the burden of safety or risk to public health that comes with the in-person option. Leadership is using the trust that people give us to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions in the best interest of all. I do understand that the implementation of the hybrid model has started. Unfortunately, with changing dynamics the district will continue to balance the risk and weigh in the benefit keeping in mind that one lost life in the district is one too many.

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

Top priority in the budget should be to maintain excellence in educational programming , to engage teachers in professional development , and to recruit and retain high quality teachers . Least priority spending is the spending that does not address the direct needs of the district’s most important assets “teachers and students”.

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

I am not a firm believer in standardized tests being a true indicator of students’ academics levels. Per NICHE Bloomfield hills school district ranked the 3rd best district in Michigan. Our students reported an average 29 on ACT score, an average 1230 SAT, and 58% of the students scored above proficiency level on their state assessment tests. I think that there is some inherent unfairness to the students and teachers nationwide in the standardized testing process in general that is not really in our control to change. The results can likely be a general screening tool to gauge needs and identify areas for improvement.

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 believe that there are always areas for improvement. However, we do not need to reinvent the wheel; we have a great system in Bloomfield hills , some examples are the Primary Years (PYP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. It is important to continue improving the PYP program and to make use of the IB program by conveying its availability and its importance to the students. An area that needs more support is addressing Racism in the curriculum. Racism is a cancer that eats communities from the inside and impacts the overall vibrant and healthy practices within. Unfortunately, it sometimes can make its way into the school environment through many avenues. For many years, the Bloomfield hills school district has been actively involved in debunking racism. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. It is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens.

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

Mental Wellness is critical to achieving a safe and inclusive environment throughout the District. Working with school administration on developing a curriculum and hiring professional staff to support mental wellness is one of my goals. All these actions are key to nurturing a healthy environment for the students that reduces stress, solves problems and is sensitive to students challenges. I encourage my District to plan for a road map to incorporate mental wellness into the high school curriculum as core requirement for graduation. My Goal is to work with the Board ( and candidates Southward and VanGemret, if also elected ) and Superintendent to have Bloomfield Hills District pioneer incorporation of mental wellness as a graduating requirement. I hope to make BHS District as one of the first Districts in the nation to have a graduating class that has gone through mental wellness programming. With this programming we prepare our students and teachers to face life with all its challenges.

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

Our District already implements restorative practices with students that has proven very effective. I do believe in mental wellness education and it being a path for reducing possible internal threats and for providing a safer environment for student
and staff.

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

On the different learners topic, I do believe in education equity which as I mentioned earlier is different than equality. For example, instead of
giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a shoe that fits. We need to cater to the specific needs of the different learners and tailor our educational means and methods to help each student based on his and/or her needs. There are always opportunities to improve the educational services to better meet the needs of different learners. My priorities include reaching out to experts and districts locally, nationally, and internationally to find out about cutting edge advancements in teaching methodologies as they continue to evolve. Furthermore, I support constant communication with parents and open dialogue on the specific needs that we have in our district. In a nutshell, my priorities are to listen more, research more, and implement.

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

As I mentioned earlier, equity is different than equality. For example, instead of giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a shoe that fits. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. In my opinion, it is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens

Any other information you want to include or share?

As a resident of the district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. In addition to my over 25 years of engineering expertise, if elected I plan on focusing my energy on mental wellness and inclusion. I learned the hard way that I needed to work with allies to promote equity and inclusion in every aspect of life. My 21-year-old son was called a terrorist in third grade! To me the phrases such as privilege and unconscious bias spark action that should be associated with measurable outcomes for every organization. I actively work as an education liaison on combating racism and debunking misconceptions through interfaith work and have been active in the various committees in the Bloomfield District by working with Global Education Teams, Multicultural Committee, Bloomfield Youth Assistance, Scope and Design, and many more. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November. For more information please visit my Facebook page @Elgamal4BHS

October 4, 2020

Dima El-Gamal, PHD, PE, LEED@AP

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictBloomfield Hills School District
City:West Bloomfield

How long have you lived in your district?

since 2004

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, Fems for Dems.

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a resident of the Bloomfield Hills School district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November.

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

I believe in equity, which is different than equality. For example, instead of
giving everyone a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving everyone a
shoe that fits. That is how I look at education justice. We need to cater to the specific needs of our students and tailor our educational means and methods to help each student based on his and/or her needs.

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

After this pandemic is over crisis, I foresee a resilient school system capable of catering to all preferences. A virtual school would be a common and acceptable option to those who choose it. While the in person model continues to be offered to the majority of student population. I also foresee, districts less hesitant to announce snow days for example. Students will switch to distant learning on snow days. Students will not miss a beat when traveling or sick ( if desired and able) as they can log into their classroom remotely.

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

The Bloomfield Hills School district offers and encourages various ways that allow stakeholder involvement. Our district trains parents and students to become global champions and be involved in each school’s decision making. Volunteering on committees, serving on task forces, and establishing open line of communication with teachers, staff, administration , and Board are key to collaborating with the district.

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

I have not started any fundraising yet

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

District-wide Mental Wellness/ Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum/safe and effective COVID 19 teaching environment

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

Improve School Funding/ Provide better guidance during crises such as COVID 19/ Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum

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 commend the administration and staff for the tremendous effort that was put into planning for this school year. The District will need to continue to refine its plans as the dynamics of this pandemic continue to change. It is sad that lack of leadership at the State level is forcing local school Boards to make tough decisions that impact families and students. While I sympathize with families with working parents or parents of Different Learners, I cannot underestimate the burden of safety or risk to public health that comes with the in-person option. Leadership is using the trust that people give us to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions in the best interest of all. I do understand that the implementation of the hybrid model is forthcoming. Unfortunately, with changing dynamics the district will continue to balance the risk and weigh in the benefit keeping in mind that one lost life in the district is one too many.

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

Top priority in the budget should be to maintain excellence in educational programming , to engage teachers in professional development , and to recruit high quality teachers . Least priority spending is the spending that does not address the direct needs of the district’s most important assets “teachers and students”.

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

I am not a firm believer in standardized tests being a true indicator of students’ academics levels. Per NICHE Bloomfield hills school district ranked the 3rd best district in Michigan. Our students reported an average 29 on ACT score, an average 1230 SAT, and 58% of the students scored above proficiency level on their state assessment tests. I think that there is some inherent unfairness to the students and teachers nationwide in the standardized testing process in general that is not really in our control to change. The results can likely be used gauge needs and identify areas for improvement.

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 believe that there are always areas for improvement. However, we do not need to reinvent the wheel; we have a great system in Bloomfield hills , some examples are the Primary Years (PYP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. It is important to continue improving the PYP program and to make use of the IB program by conveying its availability and its importance to the students. An area that needs more support is addressing Racism in the curriculum. Racism is a cancer that eats communities from the inside and impacts the overall vibrant and healthy practices within. Unfortunately, it sometimes can make its way into the school environment through many avenues. For many years, the Bloomfield hills school district has been actively involved in debunking racism. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. It is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens.

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

Mental Wellness is critical to achieving a safe and inclusive environment throughout the District. Working with school administration on developing a curriculum and hiring professional staff to support mental wellness is one of my goals. All these actions are key to nurturing a healthy environment for the students that reduces stress, solves problems and is sensitive to students challenges. I encourage my District to plan for a road map to incorporate mental wellness into the high school curriculum as core requirement for graduation. My Goal is to work with the Board ( and candidates Southward and VanGemret, if also elected ) and Superintendent to have Bloomfield Hills District pioneer incorporation of mental wellness as a graduating requirement. I hope to make BHS District as one of the first Districts in the nation to have a graduating class that has gone through mental wellness programming. With this programming we prepare our students and teachers to face life with all its challenges.

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

Our District already implements restorative practices with students that has proven very effective. I do believe in mental wellness education and it being a path for reducing possible internal threats and for providing a safer environment for student and staff.

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

On the different learners topic, I do believe in education equity which as I mentioned earlier is different than equality. For example, instead of
giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a
shoe that fits. We need to cater to the specific needs of the different learners and tailor our educational means and methods to help each student based on his and/or her needs. There are always opportunities to improve the educational services to better meet the needs of different learners. My priorities include reaching out to experts and districts locally, nationally, and internationally to find out about cutting edge advancements in teaching methodologies as they continue to evolve. Furthermore, I support constant communication with parents and open dialogue on the specific needs that we have in our district. In a nutshell, my priorities are to listen more, research more, and implement.

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

As I mentioned earlier, equity is different than equality. For example, instead of
giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a
shoe that fits. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. In my opinion, it is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens.

Any other information you want to include or share?

As a resident of the district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. In addition to my over 25 years of engineering expertise, if elected I plan on focusing my energy on mental wellness and inclusion. I learned the hard way that I needed to work with allies to promote equity and inclusion in every aspect of life. My 21-year-old son was called a terrorist in third grade! To me the phrases such as privilege and unconscious bias spark action that should be associated with measurable outcomes for every organization. I actively work as an education liaison on combating racism and debunking misconceptions through interfaith work and have been active in the various committees in the Bloomfield District by working with Global Education Teams, Multicultural Committee, Bloomfield Youth Assistance, Scope and Design, and many more. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November. For more information please visit my Facebook page @Elgamal4BHS