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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Grosse Pointe Public Schools

October 6, 2020

Kathleen Abke

Pronouns:She/her
School District:Grosse Pointe Public Schools
City:Grosse Pointe Woods

How long have you lived in your district?

25 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Grosse Pointe Semocratic Club, Grosse Ponte Administrators Association

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

To advocate for kids and for public education: to ensure equity in our schools. We also have more work to be done with regards to inclusion and diversity education.

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

Education Justice includes Equity (every student is given what they need, which is not the same as equality.) In my time on the board we have initiated Restorative Practices and Implicit Bias training for staff. I co-authored and introduced a Resolution to address Racism, Equity and Inclusion (Passed 8/10/20).

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

State funding would increase dramatically.

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

Our district invites feedback from parents, students and families on many issues. They are involved in the decisions when possible and when appropriate.

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

Parents in the district, principals and teachers. Also the GP Democratic Club

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

Equity, Kids, and Fiscal Responsibility

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

Equity, Kids and Funding

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 committed to keeping kids and staff safe. Families have choices regarding online education or in-person hybridmodel that follows the governors phases. (It has been online, but special ed and elementary students are beginning a phased return approach.) We follow all state, MDHHS and CDC guidelines.

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

Priorities include Staff, Curriculum, Programming, Technology and Safety.

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

Some testing can be helpful for teachers to know where kids are in their learning (NWEA) but state required testing like the M-STEP (not a valid or reliable assessment) needs to go. It takes too much time and isn’t age appropriate.

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

Our recently passed Race, Equity and Inclusion Resolution and our district’s strategic plan both require curriculum is diverse, inclusive and updated accordingly.

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

We have a tremendous responsibility in terms of supporting mental health and wellbeing.

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

Restorative practices are encouraged and utilized.

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

Every child should get what they need. Inclusion is important.

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

We’ve made good strides; there is more work to be done. See above.

Any other information you want to include or share?

As a Counselor, I support all kids education and wellbeing. My husband and I, and several members of our board, support and actively engage in our local Pride March, Black Lives Matter movement, the March for Public Education, etc… We hosted and built a float for our last Pride March.

October 6, 2020

Kathleen Abke

Pronouns:She/her
School District:Grosse Pointe Public Schools
City:Grosse Pointe Woods

How long have you lived in your district?

25 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Grosse Pointe Semocratic Club, Grosse Ponte Administrators Association

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

To advocate for kids and for public education: to ensure equity in our schools. We also have more work to be done with regards to inclusion and diversity education.

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

Education Justice includes Equity (every student is given what they need, which is not the same as equality.) In my time on the board we have initiated Restorative Practices and Implicit Bias training for staff. I co-authored and introduced a Resolution to address Racism, Equity and Inclusion (Passed 8/10/20).

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

State funding would increase dramatically.

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

Our district invites feedback from parents, students and families on many issues. They are involved in the decisions when possible and when appropriate.

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

Parents in the district, principals and teachers. Also the GP Democratic Club

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

Equity, Kids, and Fiscal Responsibility

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

Equity, Kids and Funding

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 committed to keeping kids and staff safe. Families have choices regarding online education or in-person hybridmodel that follows the governors phases. (It has been online, but special ed and elementary students are beginning a phased return approach.) We follow all state, MDHHS and CDC guidelines.

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

Priorities include Staff, Curriculum, Programming, Technology and Safety.

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

Some testing can be helpful for teachers to know where kids are in their learning (NWEA) but state required testing like the M-STEP (not a valid or reliable assessment) needs to go. It takes too much time and isn’t age appropriate.

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

Our recently passed Race, Equity and Inclusion Resolution and our district’s strategic plan both require curriculum is diverse, inclusive and updated accordingly.

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

We have a tremendous responsibility in terms of supporting mental health and wellbeing.

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

Restorative practices are encouraged and utilized.

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

Every child should get what they need. Inclusion is important.

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

We’ve made good strides; there is more work to be done. See above.

Any other information you want to include or share?

As a Counselor, I support all kids education and wellbeing. My husband and I, and several members of our board, support and actively engage in our local Pride March, Black Lives Matter movement, the March for Public Education, etc… We hosted and built a float for our last Pride March.

October 4, 2020

Cynthia M. Douglas

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictGrosse Pointe Public Schools
City:Grosse Pointe

How long have you lived in your district?

15 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Grosse Pointe Democratic Club; Grosse Pointe Education Association (GPEA); Hon. Judy Gafa, GPPSS Board Member; Hon. Tim Killeen, Wayne County Commissioner; Hon. George McMullen, GPW City Councilman; Hon. Bennie Napoleon, Wayne County Sheriff; Hon. Vikas Relan, GPP City Councilman; Hon. Margaret Weertz, GPPS Board Member; Hon. Tenisha Yancey, Esq., State Representative;

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to be a catalyst of change to develop policy to support those who feel as though their voices are not heard.

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

Educational justice means that hold each student to the same standards no matter, gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic background. To provide leadership with the resources to guarantee that each student receives the support to obtain a quality education to reach and/or exceed those common standards that will prepare them for college and the ability to compete in an ever changing work force.

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

This pandemic has caused teachers, students and parents to make many adjustments to their daily lives. Returning to schools where students interacting with others without social distancing and masks. Teachers returning to person to person to continue supporting students to accomplish educational goals.

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

Parents, students, families, teachers and administrators play an important role in decisions within the school district. Parents/families know their children and how they learn. Open dialogue is needed between all parties to understand what families are looking for within their school district to better benefit the educational development of their child. Policies are based on not only direct from state standards but also input from parents/community of children within the district.

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

Grosse Pointe Democratic Club; Grosse Pointe Education Association (GPEA)

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

Improving cultural competencies; supporting children with special needs and at risk; retaining and supporting our outstanding teachers.

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

Improving funding for schools based on individual student needs; advocating for early warning and bench-marking systems that keep students on a path to college-ready high school graduation; advocating for reforms to include issues of discipline in Elementary and Secondary Education Act

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 challenges facing the district will be the affects on the budget although the state has made some adjustments the true affect will not be felt until fall 2020 or early 2021. The district needs to follow recommendations set by the CDC and the state, while providing the necessary protective equipment to staff and students.

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

Priorities included but are not limited to teacher and staff salaries; maintaining current programming or investing in new programs; providing resources to staff and equity and inclusion training. Least prioritized list includes but not limited to district incurring cost associated with board training and, although needed, decreasing the cost associated with legal counsel.

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

The use of a single standardized test does not encourage equality or opportunity for students regardless of income, race or gender as the sole determinant for promotion, tracking, ability grouping and graduation is not fair.

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?

Encourage the district to institute a multilingual curriculum into their course of study for their student body.

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

During this time of COVID and beyond that district has every responsibility to support students, parents and staffs’ mental and emotional health and well-being. The success of the district depends on the achievements of its students.

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

Research shows that suspensions are not appropriate for those students that have emotional and behavioral challenges. Allow the district to use a tiered approach which would allow proper services and consequences for those students .

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

The top priority regarding special education is is return to face to face learning so that these students and receive their IEP’s in a safe environment.

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

A major contributing factor to the disparities continues to be the lack of appropriate instructional materials. There needs to be an increase in targeted funds to neediest kids

Any other information you want to include or share?

My experiences working with three mayors, a current government employee and community leader has prepared me for this position. I have worked with multi million budgets and have worked with this school board and administration on various issues regarding this district. I am open minded and can work with anyone with varying views.

October 4, 2020

David Brumbaugh

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictGrosse Pointe Public Schools
City:Grosse Pointe Park

How long have you lived in your district?

5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Endorsed by the unions representing our hard-working teachers and staff (GPEA, GPEPA, GPPA, and GPAEOP), the GP Democratic Club, and additional local officials and community members listed on our site

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Our school district is in a profound crisis, and I want to see us out of it stronger than when we came in. I am a career data analyst, expert in national security and public safety, and parent of two young students at Defer and Trombly ECC. I have advocated effectively for early education here, opening the way for the current expansion at Trombly and Poupard, and hopefully beyond. As a former intel officer, I learned to tackle hard problems by learning from smart people and data, and thinking creatively to evaluate all options. I’ve worked on school safety and technology projects relevant to our district, and have the proactive, collaborative, mission-first attitude needed to get things done. I want to do my part because I believe we’re stronger when we work together.

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

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day. It has been heartbreaking to hear the stories of current and former students on the Black in GPPSS Instagram and recent meetings of our Board of Education. Our school district has a trouble history with equity, inclusion, and diversity, and we need a school board with the will, skills, and connections to help get us on the right track.

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

I think schools that provide comprehensive education within the mandate of the Board of Education are critical to our community, so I think finding ways to better assert ourselves in the whole 0-26 and broader community education space are important to counter the challenge of declining enrollment. As the working needs of families change, we have a brief window to work with our teachers, staff, and administrators to think big about how they think we should “do” education for the future and find ways to support and enable their good ideas.

School funding also is broken in Michigan, and is made worse by our declining enrollment and per-pupil funding cuts expected due to COVID. We may start the year with a $4 million operating deficit, and can’t wait for DC or Lansing to fix it for us. But we may be in a moment where advocacy for better, more robust, and more reliable funding models could be successful.

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

I believe that our district has a profound trust deficit now because of failures to pursue transparency and open communication with our teachers, families, students, and communities over the last few years. Our administration is also grossly under-resourced and under-staffed, at less than 1/4 of its peak strength. We should empower stakeholder committees to take the lead on hard problems, to augment and supplement the resources and expertise of our district leaders.

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

My campaign is built on small donations from community members. We have received larger donations from people we know well in the community, and from the organizations endorsing our campaign (MEA, Dems).

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

1. Strength our district through innovation, to include early education expansion, career readiness, early college / advanced programs, and other ideas from our teachers, staff, and community.
2. Make GPPSS a powerhouse for special education by building a strategic plan to improve our programs and communication in partnership with our committed special ed families.
3. Review test and ranking data to see if we can learn anything about how we can improve and pursue excellence in our district. At times, these metrics can be arbitrary and not completely reflect the strengths of a program, school, or district. But they should be used to seek insights and understanding on areas of strength and concern.

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

1. Fix education finance to ensure equity without removing the ability of high-performing districts to lean on their supportive communities to strengthen their schools.
2. Reduce unnecessary testing and administrative burdens
3. Create mechanisms to encourage collaboration and shared resources across districts, to promote innovation and provide increased opportunities to all

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?

Public health conditions mean virtual school is safest, but do allow for in-person or hybrid options–such as the early ed and K-8 summer programs we ran over the summer, and opened this week at three schools. But some of our schools still aren’t ready for students because GPPSS proceeded with major construction despite COVID. This makes it harder to give families options they need–especially our special ed students, youngest learners, and families in difficult situations. The district was right to offer a robust virtual option, but should have given teachers the whole summer to prepare.

The biggest challenges we face will be the limited funding and resources available to our schools despite the gravity of the challenge ahead. The district will need to be constantly listening and learning from public health experts, peer and neighboring school district, parents and families, and other stakeholders to ensure our plans account for all conceivable scenarios and have a panel of experts on standby to handle the unforeseen scenarios.

The district will need to undertake building and safety (PPE, training, etc) readiness work to ensure teachers have everything they need on day one, and that they’ll be entering buildings free of dangerous construction debris. Then we need to be brave enough to make the right choices despite significant pressure from concerned families as well as political interests at the national, state, and even local level.s

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

For the moment, we need to prioritize the things our teachers need to conduct effective remote learning, and the actions and items we need to get our schools fully prepared for return to learn. Over the summer, the district undertook a series of tremendously expensive bond-funded construction projects on buildings that may not be used in the same way or to the same extent in the future. We should delay any work like that, which does not keep us squarely on target for return-to-learn.

We also need to invest in our future by pursuing innovative programs and robust sources of funding that come with outside-the-box thinking.

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

We should look at all data as an opportunity to learn more about how we could do a better job delivering education. However, while we shouldn’t shy away from data, we also shouldn’t collect it without reason–as there has been a proliferation of school testing regimes implemented at different age/skill levels. Generally speaking, we will do more good by reducing the admin workload and student testing involved with our current reality.

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

I would dramatically grow our early education program and look to make us a leader in special ed. I would engage with teachers, students, and community members to identify educational needs compatible with the objectives of the district and find the resources needed to implement them.

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

Counseling and mental health needs are under-resourced everywhere in Michigan, not just GPPSS. At the elementary level, this can be backstopped (to an extent) by teachers and staff who have smaller cohorts than middle/high school, and can be more engaged with their students’ needs. A big concern in moving fifth grade to middle school was providing appropriate social/emotional support–but the current plan involves an advisory program that is not fully developed (and won’t include fifth grade), and adding a half-time counselor per building. This isn’t enough, and we need to work harder on this.

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day.

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

Traditional and restorative justice practices are available to use when appropriate. But because we have so many students in jeopardy, we need to train our teachers, staff, and administrators to assist on the front lines with recognizing and directing students in trouble to appropriate resources and off-ramp them from moving along the trajectory to academic and disciplinary issues.

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

Our special ed students have been without essential services and therapies since March, without any good reason or clear communications. We need instead to be a leader in special ed.

We have a diverse district and need to leverage the ideas and energy of our special ed parents to advance our program. We need to be more inclusive, responsive, and empowering.

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

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with MEJC.