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    2020 School Board Candidates

    East Lansing Public Schools

October 4, 2020

Debbie Walton

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:East Lansing

How long have you lived in your district?

17 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes. Erin Graham (President, EL Board of Ed), Chris Martin (Secretary, EL Board of Ed), Jessy Gregg (EL Mayor Pro Tem), David Chapin (Former EL Superintendent), Former EL School Board Members: Kay Biddle, Babs Krause, Rima Addiego, Nell Kuhnmuench

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am running for a seat on the Board of Education because I love East Lansing! When I moved here 17 years ago, I found an incredibly welcoming, vibrant, diverse city, and I fell in love with this place and its community. I began volunteering in the schools in 2009 when my son started kindergarten at Donley Elementary. My intent has always been to support our teachers and help enrich the educational experiences and opportunities for all of our students. Since then, I have volunteered consistently and in many capacities including serving as President & Vice-President of the Donley, MacDonald Middle School and District Parent Councils. I have also worked to create Science and Math events at the elementary schools and middle schools, initiated the creation of a “Needs Closet” at MMS, provided music enrichment to the Early Childhood Special Needs classes, and volunteered weekly in an ELHS Algebra 1 classroom, among other things. I want to be on the School Board to contribute in an even more profound way to this community that I love. I want people to know that East Lansing Public Schools provide top-notch academic opportunities, that our arts and athletics are phenomenal, and that our students leave here ready to be active and engaged citizens. East Lansing Public Schools should be a point of pride for the entire community, and I will work tirelessly to make that potential a reality.

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

Education Justice means focusing on providing an equitable education to every single member of our district. It means allocating resources to students based on their need, whether that is a need for mental and emotional support or a need for advanced curriculum (or anything else that might arise), and engaging fully in the practice of Restorative Justice so that we can disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. The East Lansing Public Schools are fully committed to providing equitable education and, if elected, I look forward to continuing that work. Our schools have a long way to go, however we have made concrete steps in the right direction over the last several years. Our middle school and high school are currently using Restorative Justice practices, and we are working to ensure that our district provides an education that is tailored to each individual child’s needs.

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

If funding were sufficient, I would reimagine our schools as follows: I would begin by providing preschool for all of the 3 and 4 year-olds in the district. Early Childhood Education has been shown to improve educational and life outcomes, and it is the most proactive way to begin to close our achievement gap. As children transition into kindergarten, they would be allowed ample time to play outside, as well as given exposure to music, art, and foreign languages. Their reading curriculum would not require an age-inappropriate 90-minute-block at the beginning of each day (as is currently required), and their elementary teachers would be confident and excited to teach math and science. Teachers who are particularly interested in STEM would provide faster-paced classes for students who are eager for those challenges. Our special needs children would be included as much as possible in traditional classrooms and specials (art, music, language), and our special needs families would feel welcomed and embraced by our community (a reality that sadly is not the case currently). As children transition into middle school, they would be provided anti-bullying training. Academically, the school would tailor curriculum to the different needs of the students, providing resources both for those who are struggling as well as those who require additional challenges. And in high school, all students would be provided Mental Health First Aid training. The counseling staff would be open and available, creative, and willing to think outside-the-box to tailor each student’s educational experience to their individual needs. Students would be informed about career paths outside of the traditional path to college, and training in the trades would be easily accessible on the high school campus. Academic successes would be celebrated equally to accomplishments in sports. In short, I would create an environment where each child is celebrated and provided opportunities to explore their own interests while learning how to live in a community that respects, protects, and lifts up each individual.

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

Every member of our community must have a voice in the decisions that are made in the district. There are several different ways to have a voice, whether it is attending board meetings and making public comments, emailing the School Board and administration, or being a participant as a community stakeholder on any number of various work groups. However, we must recognize that there are barriers to participation. First and foremost, the district must be transparent about the information that is being used to make decisions so that community members do not have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing their own individual research. Information must be communicated in a timely manner to our community. Second, communication with the School Board must be treated as equally important whether it is received via email or in-person at a meeting so as to not penalize community members who cannot attend in person. Third, community stakeholder positions must be allocated in an equitable manner, consciously and intentionally including BIPoC. And finally, there must be time set-aside for community members to have their questions answered publicly, whether this is during Board meetings or as part of a district-wide newsletter. Without an opportunity for give-and-take, it is too easy for districts to ignore community input.

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

Jen & Steve Lathom and David Mittleman

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

My top three educational goals are improving our reading and math proficiency levels district-wide, creating a system which provides access to higher-level curriculum to a more diverse group of students, and reducing our class sizes.

First, our district’s reading and math proficiency levels currently stand at 71% proficient in reading and 56% proficient in math (based on the 2019 M-STEP results ). There is no doubt that there is significant room for improvement, and we must make this a priority.

Second, in our district, access to advanced curriculum in math and science at the middle school and high school is primarily restricted to students whose parents advocate for them to have access to atypical curricula. This system is inherently unjust, and we must dismantle it and build a system that identifies students who require additional resources and provides in-district options to them, without the need for family/guardian advocacy. The system we currently have reinforces systemic racism and results in the students who have access to the strongest college preparatory coursework all being predominantly caucasian, which does not reflect the distribution of our student body.

Third, for a variety of reasons (primarily funding), class sizes in ELPS have grown larger and larger over the years. Although teachers receive a small pay increase for each student over the “cap,” the impact on classroom management and content delivery is notable and detrimental. It is practically impossible to provide differentiated instruction for the number of students who are physically in each class. We are asking our teachers to do the impossible. If we want to make it possible for teachers to provide the highest quality education to our students, we must reduce our class sizes.

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

At a state level, I would be thrilled to see implementation of the Great Start Readiness Program for 3-year-olds in our state. I would also like to see our state pursue affordable postsecondary education programs such as the Michigan Reconnect legislation, and I would like to see additional funding for teacher compensation and benefits.

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?

Our district is facing the same challenges as every other district across the country. Namely, how do we keep our students, teachers, staff, administrators, and families safe while also providing equitable and rigorous academics to every student in the district. Our district was smart to start entirely online (we will be continuing online until the end of October, at a minimum, due to the high number of COVID cases in East Lansing currently), and the administration has been doing a good job of surveying the teachers and families separately to get a sense of what measures the different stakeholders see as necessary to keeping everyone safe. Teachers are the heart and soul of our district, and their needs must be heard and listened to. Our district is also working to bring our highest-need learners back in small group cohorts as soon as possible.

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

Our district’s top spending priority is, and should be, our teachers. Their salaries, retirement benefits, and supply needs currently make up the bulk of our budget, which is appropriate. In response to what should not be prioritized, ordinarily I would say that administration should be a low priority, however our district runs extremely lean, and we have been advised not to reduce the size of our administration any further.

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

Standardized testing is intended to be a means to provide fair and reliable assessments of our students and teachers; however, what it actually does is create high-stress, high-stakes events that detract from real education. Standardized testing negatively impacts classroom teaching, decreases seat time, and creates pressure on teachers to raise test scores, both for performance evaluations and to improve the standing of the school academically and financially The anxiety levels of both students and teachers are raised, and the overall goal of providing high quality education is diminished, because the goal changes from learning the grade-appropriate curriculum to learning how to pass the standardized test. I would like to see a reduced reliance on standardized testing across our district, to the extent that it is possible.

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?

In the elementary schools, we are utilizing a literacy curriculum entitled “Reading Street” which requires a solid 90-minute block for our youngest learners. Not only is this large block of time inappropriate for our youngest children, but it complicates scheduling for the rest of the “special” areas. I would advocate for the adoption of a more age-appropriate literacy curriculum.

The math curriculum in our middle school is an inquiry-based curriculum that is being developed at MSU. Although the idea of inquiry-based curriculum is appealing, as a math tutor in East Lansing, I see significant amounts of confusion from the students. I would advocate for a return to a more standard math curriculum for our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math classes as well as Algebra 1.

The high school science curriculum is new as of 2017, and is primarily a science literacy curriculum consisting of Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth and Space Science. I would advocate for adding the traditional Physics, Biology, and Chemistry classes for any student who wishes to pursue a STEM career.

The foreign language, English, and math curricula at both the middle school and high school are fantastic, and I would not advocate for any changes in those areas.

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

I believe that supporting the mental and emotional health of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. It is impossible for our community members to do their best work, whether that is teaching or learning, if they are experiencing mental and emotional turmoil. Our district has a Mental Health Advisory Committee which is quite active, and our High School counselors are currently looking into providing a “Mental Health First Aid” course to all teachers and students. I strongly support the district’s efforts to provide mental and emotional support to our community.

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

Our Middle School and High School are using Restorative Justice practices to help make the schools a safer place for our students and staff. I would like to see our school continue to use these practices to create a safer school environment, however appropriate implementation of Restorative Justice practices requires additional staff members to support the program, so I believe we must make the financial commitment to hire additional counselors if we want Restorative Justice to succeed at our middle school. The School Board also voted last spring to remove the East Lansing police “School Safety Officer” from our High School in response to feedback from our students and teachers of color. I believe that listening, hearing, and believing the input from our underserved communities is the first step to providing an equitable education.

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

For the past several months, I have been meeting with Special Needs families in my district to get a better understanding of how our district has served them to this point. My understanding from those conversations is that our district requires a culture shift that must come from the highest levels of our administration. Many families currently feel that our district approaches the students from a legalistic standpoint, attempting to determine which required legal boxes need to be “checked off” as opposed to meeting them as individuals and determining what approaches might best suit each child. However, a new Director of Special Education was hired last Spring, and families are reporting that he has been extremely responsive and proactive during meetings, and they are cautiously optimistic. I would like to ensure that our district follows through on these hopeful changes. Additionally, I would like to see families of our Special Needs students included as stakeholders on hiring committees. When a new Special Education teacher or administrator is hired, the families should have input as to which candidate is selected. This is a relatively low-cost way to get their important input on hiring decisions that will impact their families directly for many years.

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

My district has a strong focus on equity, and I think it is imperative that we continue this attention. My goal, if elected, is to help ensure that every single student in our community is given the resources that they need to achieve to their highest level. We must recognize that our students are individuals and have individual needs. We must tailor the curriculum and resources to meet those needs for every member of our diverse student body.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questionnaire. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions. votedebbiewalton@gmail.com

October 4, 2020

Dorian Prier

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:East Lansing

How long have you lived in your district?

1.5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Ingham County Educators’ PAC, Kath Edsall – Current Board member

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want each student to receive a high quality education that is reflective of the changing world. I think that more money should be spent on staff to ensure that we retain and attract high quality educators. In addition, I want to support ELPS’ work on race, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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

Education justice is when equity is the core tenet of every action, policy, and program within a school district.

As an ELPS school board member, education justice means that a student receives a high quality education and opportunities regardless of where they live in the district. It means ensuring that students of color don’t end up in the school-to-prison pipeline.

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

I think that an increase in the number of staff to make classes smaller would be important considering our current public health crisis. Also, hiring more custodial staff would help with sanitation. I also think having teachers solely dedicated to virtual students would also be necessary. I think assigning students to cohorts or pods would limit the amount of interaction students and staff would have.

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

I think that there should be regular townhalls with ELPS Board members that parents, families, and community members could attend. I think there also should be parent and student liaison positions that would participate in Board discussions.

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

Self, friends, and family

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

– Support and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives
– Support appropriation of resources to expand hiring pool
– Expand partnerships with community stakeholders

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

– Increase in public school funding
– Repeal laws restricting bargaining around prohibited topics (lay off, recall, and evaluation)
– Increase in funding for CTE, STEM, and special education programs

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 one challenge is ensuring that staff have the tools to deliver high quality instruction considering that not every student has access to the internet and many require a device for virtual instruction because they don’t have one at home. I think that making sure that students are having their socioemotional needs met is important since they are not at school right now.

I think that ELPS is doing the right thing for student and staff safety by makin instruction virtual. I think that when students do return, ELPS must have appropriate safety protocols in place and work closely with the county health department. In addition, I think that ELPS must communicate safety measures to the parents and community.

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

I think that retaining and recruiting the highest quality staff should be one of ELPS’ top priorities. When staff are compensated well, they are more likely to stay. I also think that each student should have a laptop or IPad assigned to them at the beginning of each year that they can use throughout the school year.

I don’t think ELPS should waste money on consultants when often they have experts in house.

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

I don’t think that standardized tests should play any role in a school district. They are not a true indicator of what a student knows or how well a teacher can teach.

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 think that all students should be required to take a course on implicit bias in addition to what they are already learning. I think ELPS has a rigorous curriculum that could be adapted to students’ needs and recognizes varying cultures and backgrounds.

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

I think ELPS has a great responsibility in supporting students’ and staff’s mental and emotional well-being. School can be a very stressful place for students and staff alike and providing those services at and through school can be very beneficial for everyone.

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

– Training for all staff in conflict resolution
– Training for all staff in implicit bias
– Teaching students meditation skills and have a dedicated space for meditation

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

– Staff directed special education professional development
– Increase funding to recruit and retain high quality special education staff
– Invest in training for parents to facilitate understanding of special education programs

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

ELPS has done much work around addressing inequities. There is more work to done, specifically around race. East Lansing Public Schools needs to hire more teachers and administrators of color.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I am a former middle school teacher. I have a Master of Education in Educational Leadership. I am a union representative for the Michigan Education Association.

October 4, 2020

Elizabeth Guerrero Lyons

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:East Lansing

How long have you lived in your district?

3.5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Dr. Terah Chambers, VP EL BOE, Dana Watson, EL City Council Member and ELPS Parent, David Chapin- Former EL Superintendent, Mark Meadows- Former EL Mayor, Kath Edsall- EL BOE Treasurer, Teresa Dunn, Associate Professor of painting and drawing at MSU & ELPS Parent, Christine Shafer, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Leslie D. Gonzales, Associate Professor of Higher Education, MSU, Wenona Singel, ELPS Parent, Dr. Emily Sorroche, Liesel Carlson, ELPS parent, Ariel Robbins, Assistant Director of Charles DREW science scholars, EL resident, Dylan Miner, ELPS Parents, Mauricio Franco, MSU CHM M.D. Candidate, Jennifer Edwards-Johnson, DO, EL resident, Aninikwam-Galdamez Family, ELPS Parents, Joel Maurer, M.D., Assistant Dean of Admissions College of Human Medicine, Lauren Gaines McKenzie, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion MSU College of Communication, Arts & Sciences, ELPS Parents, Dr. Charles Cotton III Senior Director of Admissions at Alma College, Estrella Torrez, ELPS parent, Tali Faris-Hylen, ELPS Parent

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am running for the East Lansing Board of Education because I believe in an engaging, relevant, and active learning environment that celebrates the diversity of our students, teachers, and community. I believe I have the personal and professional experience to be an effective advocate and leader for our East Lansing families, students, and teachers, along with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It is imperative that a school system continuously works on building a sense of belonging, promoting equity, and protecting our students’ wellness and mental health. If elected, I will lead by a family-driven and community-focused approach.

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

Education justice means all students have access and the ability to utilize resources that can help them become successful in educational endeavors. Within the East Lansing school district education justice means the district’s resources are fairly distributed as well as accessible to all families regardless of socioeconomic status, nationality, and ethnicity.

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

I think this current public health crisis can help us reimagine how we teach our students and the curricula being taught. I think our curriculum should be adjusted to avoid teaching strictly to standardized test and conducted in non-traditional school settings. We can explore how to support better student/teacher ratio, small group work, flip classrooms and allow teachers to be more creative in their approach to teaching.

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

I believe we must take a family driven and community approach. Families, students, and community members should be able to voice their concerns and ideas with the board and administration. Family involvement within school districts is vital for a vibrant, welcoming and progressive school district.

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

I have received small individual donations.

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

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion: The school board should clearly define what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean and have policies that reflect this understanding. The pandemic has amplified issues of historical trauma felt by communities. We must put policies in place to change systemic structures that prevent and hinder our children’s success in the classroom. I think this is the time to look at our curriculum while making sure that our educators are given the training to teach and continually enhance culturally relevant coursework.
Mental Health/Trauma-Informed: I believe mental health is strongly linked to educational outcomes. These circumstances with the pandemic have compounded already existing issues many of our families and educators were dealing with both within the classroom and outside. We have to make sure our teachers/social workers/ administrators receive support, quality access to training, and other resources.
COVID 19: With school starting back virtually in East Lansing, there has been a learning curve for students, parents, teachers, and administration. With technology issues and lack of computers among some students in the district, along with the fact that our children have very little social interaction, this transition has been very tough. I do believe our educators are working hard to give our students a quality education, but it is very hard to do so when they cannot easily interact with and nurture students.

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

We must ensure that Michigan’s public schools are equitable for all students by funding students based on their needs. Too often our students with special needs, ELL learners, and students living in poverty are left out and underfunded. We should also incentivize our teachers working in underserved and high need areas and provide more teacher development. Michigan has some of the lowest taxes on recreational marijuana sales, and levying greater taxes on marijuana could be a good revenue source. We could also more efficiently deliver mental health and wellness services by creating “one-stop-shop” partnerships with local health departments.

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 we are in midst of these challenges. The challenges are accessibility to technology, parent support while working full time, student support while parents are working, child care needs, assessing student learning growth, social interaction, and mental health and emotional health of students and families. I think the school district needs a community driven planning process that provides clear metrics and road map for returning to in person schooling.

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

I believe East Lansing Public School district should prioritize spending on curriculum, developing innovative partnerships through engagement, staff recruitment and development (curriculum, training and instructional support for teachers) Instruction (teachers, instructional aides, supplies, technology), health and safety (social workers, nurses, security measures to keep students and staff safe (PPE). Resources are finite as a result prioritizes need to be made based on needs. The school board members should work on gathering as much information and work collaborative to identify funding prioritizes.

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

I do not believe we should be teaching to a test. I believe standardized tests are inherently bias. I think standardized test should have a very limited role in assessing student progress.

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?

Curriculum must be addressed to ensure we are teaching culturally appropriate history as well as taking into account the connection between diversity and trauma-informed practices to increase mental wellness. I believe our district taking the right steps in finding ways to make dual enrollment more accessible for our students.

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

I believe a school district has a major responsibility to support student and staff mental and emotional health. We must provide resources, trainings, and counseling for all who need these resources to be successful either as staff or student. The pandemic has highlighted the inequity in our health care system. Emotional and mental health are an important part of our health care system. School districts can explore innovative partnerships with integrated health care agencies that could develop a one stop shop for families. The Pandemic has taken a toll on us all and we must take care of each other so that learning can take place in a safe and healthy way.

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

If we take mental and emotional health seriously then we will be able to utilize social workers and professional staff to help our students/ families/and staff create a safe space. Student discipline should be handled with conversation and using the appropriate resources and tools. Taking a community approach to get to know our families and what their needs are is crucial in helping students develop and help with discipline issues. Not only do teachers need to get to know families and their needs, but principals, and office staff, the board, and superintendent must also work to get to know our families, and not just when a problem arises. We as parents must also be willing to take the initiative and talk to school personnel and get involved as much as we can.

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

Too often our special education students and families are left out and underfunded. They can feel isolated and at times not part of the school community. We must have open communication and be transparent with our families and take the time to truly understand their needs. We must provide the resources and services that are needed for our special education students down to transportation, accessibility and activities that are thoughtfully planned for all to participate in.

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

It is essential for the school board to clearly define what diversity and equity mean and have policies that reflect this understanding. The pandemic has amplified issues of historical trauma felt by communities. We must put policies in place to change systemic structures that prevent and hinder our children’s success in the classroom, along with promoting healthy mental awareness. I believe East Lansing Public Schools is taking positive strides in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. However, more can be done. I also believe that the current board and school administration are taking the right steps in hiring teachers and administrators of color. We must continue to extend our equity programming team to ALL schools, and training on anti-racism and anti-bias.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I think we are entering a time that can help spark innovative and visionary ideas on how we organize various elements of our society, education being a very important element. I am hopeful that through this public health pandemic it has highlighted so many inequities in our systems, education can become a major source of progressive thinking and action. I hope to earn your vote so that I can work to advocate for all students!

October 4, 2020

Monica M. Fink

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:East Lansing

How long have you lived in your district?

7 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes. Mayor Pro Temp Jessy Gregg, Council woman Dana Watson, Trustee Kath Edsall, Trustee Chris Martin, Dianna Erickson, Melissa Fore, Ana Cardona, Katy Larson, Crystal Award Recipient Ginger Ogilvie, Executive Director of RDC Erika Brown-Binion, Marble food service staff Teia Johnson, Marble Equity Team Treasurer Rachel Layne, ELPS parent James Rosinski, ELPS parent Micah Veith, Marble School Community Council Communications Director Ann Siegle, ELPS parent Cara Wegener, Marble Kitchen Manager Melba Bledsoe, Marble School Community Council President Tali Faris-Hylen, Marble School Community Council Treasurer Tanya Paslawski, Marble Equity Team Vice President Simon Perazza

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I believe in quality public education and have a personal investment in preserving, promoting, and improving the quality of our school system. I have a wide breadth of knowledge pertinent to each level of the educational system. I have 19 years of involvement in elementary school, middle school, high school and early college systems in a multitude of ways and in many different states that gives me a unique insight and perspective that will augment the necessary oversight needed by the school board. Additionally, my work within our school buildings gives me daily communication with our staff and families to get quick firsthand knowledge on what issues are being presented, experiences, needs and desires of our staff and families.

I feel called and summoned to continue my meaningful and exciting work within the to make things better within our school system and community. There are so many needs plaguing our schools and families that it is time for us, as a community, to double down on our supportive efforts aiding our teachers, staff, and families while continuing to make a positive impact on our children.

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

I believe education justice is the collaboration between our schools and community to provide every student with equitable, quality, and accessible educational resources that accommodate and assist in their specific needs. In practicing education justice, we must acknowledge the opportunity gap, privilege, history rooted in oppression and the understanding that if afforded the same opportunities the achievement gap would not exist. We also need to acknowledge and identify the forms of racism that shape our community, schools, and classrooms, begin addressing and dismantling the racist structures of internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and structural racism in each of these settings.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and the reduction of social and economic barriers that limit academic and economic advancement are critical implementations to move toward educational justice. Ending zero-tolerance and exclusionary discipline policies that disproportionately effect Black and Brown children sending them into the school-to-prison pipeline. Implementing restorative justice practices are not only more humane, they are essential to moving a school district towards education justice.

East Lansing Public Schools has already taken the first step toward educational justice by implementing restorative justice policies. I believe the next step to continuing education justice in our district is through the hiring of more people of color for teaching and leadership roles within our schools through equity-driven hiring practices that intentionally seek out diverse candidates. The experience young children have of authority and leadership in school not only impacts their view of education in general and their own educational success, but it influences the views they carry out into the world with them about how things should be and what they can achieve. I believe that hiring more people of color is the first step because it is imperative that we have the voice of people of color to ensure that the important conversations that address the issues that happen almost exclusively to Black and Brown children happen through an antiracist lens.

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

We have all had months to watch the world going through an ebb and flow of Covid-19 responses and still have yet to make it to the other side of this pandemic. Each of our families have had to make difficult decisions on how to navigate education during this time that best fits their family needs. Before Covid-19 we were used to tasking our schools, districts, and most importantly the staff members to take on more than just the academic aspect of our students lives. In large, all the societal failings, through inequitable policies, that have negatively impacted our community have been shouldered by our schools in an attempt to bridge the gap.

Our families have had and will continue to have to make difficult decisions that best fit family needs. While supporting our students and staff with online learning we are seeing that the one-size fits all education strategy is flawed. I think that in the wake of this public health crisis we will have to reconsider the purpose of school and the inequities within them.

My hope for what schools will look like after the public health crisis is that our community comes together, and we take steps to move away from the one-size fits all education method. This method has good intentions but offers our students, families, and staff a grave disservice. This approach assumes that all students learn in the same ways. In our focus for supporting the whole child, our curriculums need to be differentiated to suit the unique and individual needs of our students so that we are providing the best possible education for their success.

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

I think parents, students, and families are essential pillars in the educational process. Having a voice in making decisions in the school promotes feelings of belonging and a personal investment in the outcomes of the educational process, the school and the community. I believe it is vital to have input and participation from many diverse voices and ongoing parent, student, and family participation supports a collaborative learning environment with many positive partnerships and outcomes.

Increased parent, student, and family involvement increase achievement through ownership of the process. Students involvement in their educational path will increase motivation and a belief of control and confidence over their success. I believe that for us to ensure our students are globally competent, can knowledgeably and confidently navigate the world, and can weigh perspectives while interacting with diverse audiences we need a large intersectionality between the school, families, and students.

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

Supportive neighbors in the community.

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

Leadership and transparency-Covid: The lack of clear directions on how to handle this pandemic from our nation’s leaders has shifted the responsibility for how we navigate the return to school during Covid-19 to local superintendents and principals creating a lack of unity with neighboring schools, dissention and chaos. With the sole responsibility for planning falling almost exclusively to the local educators the lack of guidance is fraught and inadequate. The reliance on processes, procedures, and protocols from above while dealing with rapidly changes requires leaders to act swiftly, with foresight, careful consideration of options and consequences of side effects. While there are no precedents to leading schools in a pandemic the transparency of what actions are being taken, what structures are being put in place to take planning to the next stage and identifying problems, to name a few, need to be communicated to the stakeholders and those affected so that we can increase information to make informed decisions, increase accountability and increase the potential of finding a solution. We have a responsibility to ensure we create a welcoming, nurturing and safe environment for all and transparency and communication are the key to making our families feel welcome.

Diversity, equity and inclusion: I would continue prioritizing the diversity, equity, and inclusion work I started with the Marble Equity Team. Priorities must be established, and budgets need to be allocated to respond to these priorities. It is important that we not only identify the forms of racism that shape our community, schools, and classrooms but also begin addressing and dismantling the racist structures of internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and structural racism in each of these settings. We also need to identify where we stand in relation to those destructive social forces and continue to evaluate effective ways to influence changes that will lead to better outcomes for all our students and families. This work needs to continue with progressive, aggressive, mindful and targeted practices that require the voice of people of color to ensure that the important conversations that address the issues that happen almost exclusively to Black and Brown children happen through an antiracist lens. Children of color seeing themselves in authority figures they encounter in school will promote pride, feelings of being understood, and combat the real and consequential implicit biases of those with privilege and power.

Educating and engaging all students: I would prioritize actively focusing on mental health and special education as imperative to educating all students. It is important that each child receives a well-rounded experience that will support their success. We should make every effort to ensure that students with disabilities and mental health needs have access to the opportunities that will foster their success. We must provide each student with the resources that accommodate and assist in their specific need while acknowledging the opportunity gap, privilege, the history rooted in oppression and the understanding that if afforded the same opportunities the achievement gap would not exist.

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

Diverse hires: I advocate strongly for a diverse body of ELPS employees that represents proportionally the make-up of the ELPS student body, and that this includes hiring more people of color for teaching and leadership roles within our schools. I support deliberate, equity-driven hiring practices that intentionally seek out diverse candidates, including posting positions widely in venues likely to reach a diverse audience and creating hiring committees that include diverse members and employ equitable and culturally relevant systems for evaluating job candidates.

Systemic inequity: It is important that we not only identify the forms of racism that shape our community, schools, and classrooms but also begin addressing and dismantling the racist structures of internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and structural racism in each of these settings. We also need to identify where we stand in relation to those destructive social forces and continue to evaluate effective ways to influence changes that will lead to better outcomes for all our students and families. This work needs to continue with progressive and mindful practices.

Mental Health: Mental health and special education supports are important during normal circumstances but are now more urgent than ever with the onset of increasing mental health issues and the inability to receive the in-person supports necessary for additional needs students due to the circumstances of this global pandemic. It is important that we as a district acknowledge these families and their needs as these are the students most susceptible to being lost and experiencing an opportunity gap.

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 anticipate that we are seeing and will continue to see that the one-size fits all educational approach is not serving all of our students well because it assumes falsely that each student learns the same way. The most vulnerable of our families and children rely heavily on our schools. It is important that we as a district acknowledge these families and their needs as these are the students most susceptible to being lost and experiencing an opportunity gap.

In our focus for supporting the whole child, our marginalized students are going to need greater access to counselors, social workers and other support staff to address and accommodate their needs. We need to ensure that we provide for the parents and families of many of our students that may not be able to keep the jobs that feed them if there is no in-person school option to provide childcare, that families trying to work from home that are struggling to assist their child(ren) with online work, not all families have access to reliable internet or computers, and a plethora of many other considerations.

We ask a great deal of our teachers and staff to nurture and grow our children and young adults without providing an appropriate amount of support. We need to ensure that we provide our teachers and staff with support as well. We need to push for our teachers and staff to receive the professional training and support that will give them the necessary tools needed to navigate this school year and beyond.

Reopening our schools should be done as safely as possible, in the least disruptive way, with as much fluidity as possible. I believe a hybrid approach that meets stringent safety protocols is the best way to ensure maximum safety, flexibility, and a non-disruptive learning environment for our staff and families. While the hybrid learning model offers more continuity, it will need additional support to ensure its success. This model will get our students that need in-person learning back within the schools while giving those families that do not want to return in person the option of remaining online. The hybrid model will provide us a way to truly maintain our focus of student centered, teacher supportive, family inclusive work and support. We need to move forward with our plans with caution, care, compassion, and empathy during this unprecedented time.

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

Our top spending priority should be invested into mental health and special education supports, challenging and engaging curriculum, and diverse hiring.

Mental health and special education supports are important during normal circumstances but are now more urgent than ever with the onset of increasing mental health issues and the inability to receive the in-person supports necessary for additional needs students due to the circumstances of this global pandemic. It is important that we as a district acknowledge these families and their needs as these are the students most susceptible to being lost and experiencing an opportunity gap.

We need to invest in and procure challenging and engaging curriculum for all our students. The deeper learning that occurs when the learning materials are challenging and engaging foster the skills, understanding, and mindsets to ensure our students are prepared to engage on the global scale and builds world citizens. This type of curriculum improves problem solving skills, collaboration, critical thinking, as well as academic knowledge that leads to success.

I advocate strongly for a diverse body of ELPS employees that represents proportionally the make-up of the ELPS student body, and that this includes hiring more people of color for teaching and leadership roles within our schools. I support deliberate, equity-driven hiring practices that intentionally seek out diverse candidates, including posting positions widely in venues likely to reach a diverse audience and creating hiring committees that include diverse members and employ equitable and culturally relevant systems for evaluating job candidates.

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

I think that standardized testing should be used for us to assess the quality of our curriculum and education program. I think that standardized test results can help us determine how effective our programming is and identify areas that need improvement. These tests can also serve to identify where we need to invest more time and resources.

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?

We need to invest in and procure challenging and engaging curriculum for all our students. The deeper learning that occurs when the learning materials are challenging and engaging foster the skills, understanding, and mindsets to ensure our students are prepared to engage on the global scale and builds world citizens. This type of curriculum improves problem solving skills, collaboration, critical thinking, as well as academic knowledge that leads to success.

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

I believe our district has to place a great emphasis on supporting our students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing as good mental and emotional health is critical to staffs’ interactions with students and to the student’s success in school and life. We need more advocacy to garner awareness of the need for more mental health services. Our students and staff spend more of their time in school than any where else and have accessibility of appropriate support to the learning environment from school-employed professionals. School mental health services are essential to creating and sustaining safe schools. Mental health support increases a sense of connectedness, promote pride, feelings of being understood, and reduce negative outcomes such as teacher burnout or student behavior problems.

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

I agree with the removal of law enforcement from our schools and the utilization of restorative justice as a disciplinary practice that moves us further away from the school-to-prison pipeline. The presence of law enforcement officers in our schools has fed Black and Brown students disproportionately into the school-to-prison pipeline. We need to invest in evidence-based solutions – not reactionary spending that gives the appearance of safety. Violence prevention programs to include anti-bullying, teacher trainings, and peer mediation interventions are some examples of solutions that provide more than an appearance of safety.

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

My immediate priorities around special education during Covid-19 are to get our students with additional needs back to in-person learning as safely and as soon as possible. Remote learning solely puts our marginalized students at risk of being left out and facing the widening of inequalities. These students need increased accessibility to technology, supplies, printed materials and personal interactions with supportive staff in the areas of academia, mental health, and social emotional health.

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

Priorities must be established, and budgets need to be allocated to respond to these priorities. It is important that we not only identify the forms of racism that shape our community, schools, and classrooms but also begin addressing and dismantling the racist structures of internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and structural racism in each of these settings. We also need to identify where we stand in relation to those destructive social forces and continue to evaluate effective ways to influence changes that will lead to better outcomes for all our students and families. This work needs to continue with progressive, aggressive, mindful and targeted practices that require the voice of people of color to ensure that the important conversations that address the issues that happen almost exclusively to Black and Brown children happen through an antiracist lens. Children of color seeing themselves in authority figures they encounter in school will promote pride, feelings of being understood, and combat the real and consequential implicit biases of those with privilege and power.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I have been active in numerous school and community roles including: President and cofounder of the Marble Equity Team (the first of its kind in the ELPS district), I currently work as a breakfast and lunch Monitor at Marble, an active member of the parent council, the District Parent Council, and a former member of the Black Parent Union at the High School. I have been room parent at Marble for 2 years and have been active in securing grants and donations for Marble Elementary students and staff. I am a member of the MacDonald Middle School Return to School Work-group. I have provided input to the ELPS Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and the K-8 Science Committee for the new science curriculum as well as the East Lansing High School Mathematics Department regarding the proposed textbooks and instructional materials. I provided input with an equity lens for the District Continuity of Learning Plan. I also continue to work with the Safe Routes to School group. As the Marble Equity Team president, we have provided training and informative documentary screenings to the community while extending professional development credits to staff for attending these events. I am eager and excited to continue this work.

October 4, 2020

Nichole Martin

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:East Lansing

How long have you lived in your district?

30 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am running for re-election to continue to address the priorities I have for the district. I maintain the priorities that I ran on in 2016 as I strive to continue working on the progress we have made over the last four years:

a. Continue to refine cooperative relationships and transparent communication among students, teachers, administrators, and community
b. Continue to enhance the mental health of all students
c. Continue to access creative technology solutions to advance learning opportunities at all grade levels
d. Continue to collaborate with local businesses to explore post-graduation possibilities via mentoring, vocational instruction, and post-secondary educational preparation
e. Continue to honor and enrich diversity and cultural understanding to improve student/parent/teacher growth and development

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

Educational justice means addressing the gross inequities that are found within education. Specifically within the context of our district it means doing more to help develop partnerships with support systems through programs such as Turning Point of Lansing and fostering mentorships between primary and secondary students.

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

If I could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis it would include a 100% about face in our understanding of structural racism and there would be funding system to truly support the equitable efforts that teachers and staff want to make to obtain student success.

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

Parents, students and families should be involved at varying levels through work groups and periodic surveys to help guide and match educational services with the recommendations of health officials.

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

My parents. I am thankful that they have always been in a position to support my ambition.

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

My top 3 educational priorities would be on enhancing mental health, equitable access to technology and continued efforts to address racial inequity.

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

My top 3 educational priorities at the state level would be adequate funding, collaboration with district leaders as it relates to addressing 2020-21 standardized tests and advocacy for the support of mental health professionals in schools.

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?

We need to keep a pulse on what is happening at MSU. When MSU closed its dorm options for undergraduate students, families sought out alternative housing within our community and many have acted irresponsibility. We have families who rely on college students to care for their children while they work and in person schooling is not an option. Now we have quarantined babysitters, who had we been in person could have potentially spread COVID to our students who would have in turn spread the virus within our schools. I am fearful that we will have to maintain this online school platform for the remainder of the year as we will continue to see the student behavior increase and decrease and it will immobilize our ability to make safe reentry plans for our school age children. I anticipate an increase after the first football game, then Halloween, and then before Thanksgiving. The MSU students will go home at some point between Thanksgiving and January and our numbers will decrease and as we finally feel like we are in a safe spot they will come back and we will start all over again. This is in fact my worst fear. I would not want to be a college student now any more than I want to be an adult parenting through this with my children but it is what it is and we are going to have to figure out how to address and educate people to see beyond themselves.

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

I believe mental health, social inequity, and technology access should be the top spending priorities in our district. Alternatively, I do not believe that we need to be prioritizing any new projects or initiatives that do not address these three issues.

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

I believe standardized testing should play a little role in our school district. Standardized tests function on the premise that everyone has access and understanding of the same academic materials. This is not true and therefore we miss the opportunity to celebrate growth and development at a personal 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?

I support my fellow candidate, Matt Heos, in his focus on addressing government at an earlier age. I would support functional life skills being placed back into curriculum; filling out applications, interviewing for a job, doing laundry, addressing an envelope. In teaching for success on standardized tests we have given precedent to adequate depiction of a nonsense poem and yet our children do not know how to accurately complete a job application.

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

As a school district, I feel there is immense need to be supporting mental and emotional health and well-being of student’ and staff. Many years ago when funding was cut and mental health professionals and counselors were cut from the budget, the issues that test your mental health wellness did not go away. Instead they were just not addressed with any form of consistency or effectiveness. This has to be addressed, ongoing and refined as you move forward. Mental health is not something check off your to do list.

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

I believe through multiple trainings the district has worked hard to address student discipline and make schools safe for students and staff. That being said, we have a lot of work to do to address the disproportionate disciplinary rates among minority students.

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

Making sure that there has been contact with each family who has a child with an IEP or 504 Plan and making sure to help the family find their voice in advocating for their child during this time. Everyone is exhausted but there is a real opportunity to address way educational needs can be met even in an alternative setting such as remote learning.

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

The district is currently working on an equity policy to help support district goals for inequity issues within our district. Our district has taken a huge interest in attending MSAN conferences to address growth in the area of equity. The district has been intentional about addressing equity issues for the past two years as it relates to professional development opportunities.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

October 4, 2020

Gregory Hess

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
City:Roseville

How long have you lived in your district?

Most of life (about five years in other places)

Have you received any endorsements?

Margie Griffith (coming soon) – Positive ranking from LAHRg from

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I believe my technology background, especially now with a Covid world, would help. I have a daughter in 1st grade at Donley and I believe my experience, knowledge and approach could help keep East Lansing as a world-class system.

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

I think it is doing what we can to ensure that all children start from a place of educational equality. This will be a challenge to this school district – they have just not been traditionally designed in that fashion. We will need to look at novel ways of funding as well as increased collaboration, I would think, at the state level in order to create a plan that would make this a reality. Within the district itself it becomes a process of how to measure, track and ensure that equality.

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

I think our schools will be forced to be more dynamic. I am very ‘pro-teacher’ in that the teacher in the classroom is the single largest determinant of student success. How do we match the best teachers with the students who need the most help? how can districts leverage resources, knowledge and strategies?

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

I think we need to empower more parents and families. They need to be bought in earlier in some formal fashion to be informed and be able to consult and advise.

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

I have none.

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

Teacher’s first / educational equality / involve parents

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

I think we need collaboration across school systems, parents and representatives in order to be effective in educational equality as a fact in the state of Michigan.

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?

Hopefully we will not see additional challenges – we are inheriting enough. There will be a long tail on the effect of this crisis that will likely manifest in our children. From the decreased socialization, uncertainty and possibly even the environment at home they have spent more time at than normal – we need to be proactive in seeing these effects play out and be able to handle them. We must engage with teachers and experts to ensure returning to school is safe for everyone.

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

Finding and retaining the best teachers must be the top budget priority as it gives us the best chance at being successful in our mission. From there we need to track student achievement and be adaptable. Currently I would start with safety, then STEAM and educational equality. We do need to find lesser priorities as we need to be fiscally responsible.

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

Most studies show that standardized tests have a disproportionately positive impact on traditionally marginalized students. This flies against the conventional wisdom that these tests may be biased in ways that are detrimental. We need to be open to this discussion, consulting experts and do what the science shows us is most effective.

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?

With my background I would be more STEM based and with more kind of life economics training. I am not educated enough on the current curriculum to suggest changes beyond that.

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

I do not believe you can effectively teach in an environment where you are not factoring in mental, emotional and physical health and well being. We need to be very aware of what we can address and what we are not equipped to address. We need to perform a gap analysis to ensure that situations to not arise where a child ‘falls through the cracks’.

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

There cannot be education in a space that is not safe, especially physically. The district needs to complete its anti-bullying procedures and standardize enforcement. We need to discuss with teachers and experts what types of discipline we are equipped for and what are most effective. Which ones give us the best chance to result in all students continuing to attend and achieve at our school.

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

I am not educated enough on these needs and priorities. I would have to spend time listening and learning to be of service here.

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

Equity is an ongoing task. We need to be proactive in this task in looking at our communities, our make-up and measuring our success and short comings. We need to re-evaluate and respond to changes in our community. We need to make sure equity goes beyond that status of ‘what’ a person is but also ‘who’ they are. Excellence should be encouraged. All the studies I have reviewed show inclusivity as a very effective tool in success and I want to help make East Lansing successful.

Any other information you want to include or share?

From the outside looking in, we have placed our teachers under enormous pressure in such an unsure and unique time. They have stepped up and performed incredibly. We need to factor in the toll this takes on them and we need to recognize their excellence and make it a priority that they are pacing themselves to be excellent teachers for years to come and avoid the burnout that I believe must be inevitable in situations like this.