• Background Image

    2020 School Board Candidates

    Northwest Community Schools

October 14, 2020

Canis Arbrouet

How long have you lived in your district?

I have been living in the school district for 17 years with my wife and two boys.

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, from Shawn White, President of NW Community Schools board of education

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to become a board member to have the opportunity to give back to the community. My family and I have always been involved in the community since we moved in. We love the community and the people who are in it. It is like a village where everyone likes to get their hands dirty to get the work done. I have been involved in coaching soccer, volunteering at the Cotton Facility Prison, chaperoning for my kids when it was needed, knocking on doors to encourage the residents to help pass the last school bond, and volunteering anywhere where there is a need. It is my district. My family has received a lot of support from it, so becoming a board member will give me the opportunity to be more involved and to share my talents, passion, and resources.

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

Education Justice is the system we should set in place to give the same opportunity to every student so they can succeed. It is about meeting them at their own level which is what I call equity in education. Our school district is made of students from different types of homes and backgrounds. Each student is unique and has different sets of need. What works for one may not work for others. So education justice is the safe haven the students need to succeed and become good citizens.

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

This is a great and big question and I don’t think there is one answer. This public health crisis shows us we need to rethink the way we set up our school system. Let us look at the students. We would need to make sure our students all have access to the internet and can function remotely. Our teachers need a lot of resources. They are already underpaid in the first place. The school district needs to provide more resources to them so they can get their classes ready. The teachers are spending so many hours working at the school (face to face) and still have to create time when they get home to care for the remote students. They are left with no time to care for their own family. We need more money in the budget. The schools should not have to make cuts especially this year. So I would like to see more money for technology, more compensation for the teachers, and more funds from the state.

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

Parents need to be able to voice their opinions and share their concerns. That is why parents have to be involved. The students should be able to give their feedback because they are the recipients. If the education provided to them is not meeting their needs, then the district is not doing a great job. It needs to be a full circle made with students, parents, teachers and administration staff.

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

Some long time friends

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

My top priorities are to:
– Promote diversity
– Enhance technology
– and Ensure business continuity

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

At the state level, I would like to see more funds allocated to the schools. The state is spending more money in the prison system than they do in the education system. Education is key to our society. I would like to see more technology for our students. I would like the state to provide free internet to all students. I don’t know if we will ever get to that point here in the US, but I know Canada is working on a project where all students will have free access to the internet. Technology becomes a basic need to this generation of students. They need free internet.
Last but not least, I would like to see the state make community college free for all students after they graduate. Students should not have to worry about how they are going to pay for an associate degree. At least there should a system set in place where the students should go get an associate and maybe pay for it later after they have a job.

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?

It is no longer an anticipation, it is a reality. The schools need more space for the students, more technology (the online system keeps crashing), more staff, more teachers, and more helpers. My school district is doing a good job managing the COVID crisis, but they need more resources.

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

It is another tough question. We had to make cuts because there was not enough funds in the budget. I don’t know all the priorities, but I know they were all needed.

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

Standardize testing is important because it helps us evaluate the students, but it doesn’t show how much the students know. The result of the tests only shows us how much the students retain. Not all students are good test takers, but that doesn’t mean they are not smart and can excel in other areas. So yes for standardize testing, but we should not spend too much time on preparing for it.

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

I am not an Educator and I don’t think I know enough to change my school district ‘s curriculum, however I would support whatever I feel is right for the students because the focus in on them.

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

The students and staff spend so much time during the day focusing on school work. They are drained at the end of the day. Before COVID, it was already a big issue. Now it is getting worse. I hope the state can allocate some more funds to the school districts in order to have enough health professionals on staff to help the students, the teachers or the staff in general.

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

Discipline is important because it teaches us to be responsible for our actions. I also believe everybody deserves a second chance because we all make mistakes. Every incident should be treated differently and not a one size fits all.

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

It would be the same as listed above.

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

To achieve equity in our school district, we need to learn to listen to each person or group separately. We need to treat everyone different and not put them in the same category. Once we know everyone’s need, then we can take appropriate actions to meet them where they are.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thank you for taking the time to learn about each candidate.

October 4, 2020

Allison Cooper

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictNorthwest
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

12 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Our school has a diversity of kids, so our Northwest School board should reflect that. We need women, men, different ethnicities and people from different backgrounds to truly represent what Northwest is all about and to be able to advocate for the students. These factors (as well as others) help drive conversation and not have school board representatives that just blindly vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on items.
I have three kids in the Northwest school district and feel I have the skills to speak up, listen, educate myself and state my stance on a variety of topics.

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

Education justice to me means giving students an equal opportunity to learn. This may mean long running rules need to be looked into that may be biased towards some students. To do this, students need highly skilled and effective teachers supported by the school board, community and other authorized NW personnel.

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

I don’t believe this can be answered. We don’t know the aftermath yet of covid-19 to know even where to start with a rebuild. We don’t want to go back to ‘pre-covid’ normal as that world was full of hate and individualism. We need to rebuild with love and equality.

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

I have been a parent in the Northwest School District for 11 years. Up until recently, I didn’t even know who all the school board members were or what issues were coming up for a vote. We should be sharing this information (what is coming to a vote, did it pass, etc) to educate our community. Doing a social media search of “Northwest School Board” doesn’t have a lot of results. It all starts with education.

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

No finances used

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

Northwest needs to continue to be an equal opportunity employer. Fair pay regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, physical or mental disability or age. Preparing our students for college, trade school or the workplace (this means mentally as well. Mental health is as important as physical health, for students and teachers).
Our teachers are extremely overworked right now. They are creating virtual lessons as well as teaching in the classroom without extra time to prepare. Our school needs to talk through contracting out the virtual learning or higher someone else to do it.

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

Mental health is severely lacking in schools. Suicide rates are on the rise. Anxiety and depression effect so many children and it’s often an afterthought. We need a safe place in school (or place to go or recommendations of counselors) where students are comfortable and can work through this.
Teachers are one of the most underpaid professions. Every one of us can remember how a teacher lifted us up or shut us down while in school. We need to reward good teachers with higher salaries. They are educating the next presidents and CEOs and utility workers!
School districts also need to be able to request more funds from the state. Things that could be funded: one book per student for ELA classes, virtual lessons or virtual teacher salary, basic essentials for those that can’t afford them (pencils, erasers, markers, folders, etc).

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?

One of the challenges I see now is routine. Kids love routine and when it gets disrupted, it’s not just the kids that are affected. Parents may have to find last minute daycare, teachers may have to be quarantined and find subs, and community members may be exposed. When a covid case hits our school, it disrupts the routine (whether you are a face to face or virtual student). There is no 100% sure way to keep everyone safe. Based on the small number of cases that we’ve had at Northwest, we should analyze the data as to why they came to school and why others were exposed and find ways to prevent it going forward. Were teachers not socially distancing in the break room? Were students not wearing masks properly? Did parents not know symptoms of covid?

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

I don’t have access to the budgeted items to answer this effectively.

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

I do believe standardized tests play a role in education but we may need to think outside the box as to what this looks like. A quick google search shows standardized testing started back in 1914. How often has this been revisited? There are lots of things to take into consideration like some students are very intelligent but are poor test takers.

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 Northwest community knows that not all families have access to high speed internet, electronic devices or food. I applaud Northwest for prioritizing these means as we continue in the covid pandemic. Students have received internet pucks (if needed), electronic devices and have a way to request lunches if they aren’t doing face to face learning.

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

See above. We need to do more and, absolutely, the school district needs to be involved.

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

As a parent, I have seen studies that show positive reinforcement is a better way of driving behavior than negative. Northwest held classes to educate parents a few years ago that my husband and I attended. It was great to see many from our community (including teachers!) attend to show what this looks like. Today, they have a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) system in place. I haven’t seen any data to see if this system is working, but it seems like it would.
Again, educating students, staff, parents, and the community on the expectations of those entering Northwest facilities on what is acceptable and not.

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

I don’t know enough about what our school does for special education to be able to answer this. I know they have some amazing staff.

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

Everybody wants equity in education. Nobody wants to see students fail. We are not there yet. Northwest, Jackson, the United States, the world…is not there yet. We should continuing striving toward it and let others follow instead of waiting on others to lead the way. As I mentioned earlier, does Northwest have some rules that would favor students over others? Real world example, if a job listing asks for a certain certificate to apply, but testing is only available online so only those with access to internet could take it, we are already disqualifying some. Is there a similar certificate/document/license that could be acquired by a broader audience, opening up the pool of applicants for that job? Having a diverse school board, will bring out information that others haven’t thought of.

Any other information you want to include or share?

We need a diverse school board. We need women. We need men. We need diverse backgrounds. We need different cultures.
There are some amazing people running in this School Board campaign this year. I ask that you vote for people that may be different than you so we can continue to understand our students’, our staff’s and our community’s needs. We will only get this if we have members that think differently and are open to conversation and educating themselves and others on each topic brought to the Northwest Board of Education.

October 4, 2020

James Haldane

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictNorthwest Community Schools
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

4 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I was an educator for 10 years and want to bring that perspective to the table as an advocate for our teachers, administrators, families, and community.

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

Our educational and economic systems perpetuate inequity. Educational justice means respectfully and intelligently working to resolve the brokenness that prevents all students from having equal opportunities for educational success. Our district is not diverse…at all…because our corner of the county is not diverse. So, minorities are more likely to feel out-of-place here than, say, in an urban district. Therefore, it could be easier for those inequities to continue existing.

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

Lots of collaborative learning, small groups of students working together, virtual/in-person hybrid options.

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

They should have a voice, but, ultimately, respect the decisions made by the people who are hired and elected to lead the district.

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

none

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

Figuring out how to navigate the pandemic, figuring out how to navigate post-pandemic, improving community support for the district.

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

Adequate funding for schools, better support for teachers, adaptive solutions in the post-pandemic era.

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 quality of instruction has to be suffering because no online learning platform can replace being in a classroom with a teacher and peers. Safety measures are only as good as they are implemented, so to stay safe, schools have to enforce the recommendations set by the CDC and the state.

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

Staffing is a districts most valuable resource, so it must remain the top priority. Technology infrastructure and maintenance are now paramount. Extra curricular activities can be reduced or cut to save funding, so long as those cuts do not damage the social/emotional health of students.

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

The are a good metric for student success, but they are one metric. They need to be placed into a proper context to provide a holistic picture of learning. Too much emphasis is placed on these tests, so the pressure is high. Standardized tests do not match the assessment methods currently utilized in schools, so the disconnect paints a false picture of student success (or lack thereof).

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?

Collaborative learning, problem solving, and life application would be key. Use curriculum to teach content, but also life skills that will prepare students to be successful in their adult lives.

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

A lot. If basic physical, emotional, and mental health needs are not met, students and staff members alike will not be able to function at their best. Resources need to be available for staff and students and they need to be encouraged to take advantage of them. Those resources may or may not exist in the district. They might be community organizations that partner with schools.

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

Relational capacity is the key to safety. The Nurtured Heart Approach and PBIS are effective systems for cultivating environments with clear expectations and consequences for meeting and failing to meet those expectations.

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

Our county ISD has a great facility for individuals with severe disabilities. For those able to attend traditional schools all day, inclusion and resource rooms provide great spaces for Individualized Education Plans to be pursued. I have seen a lot of social integration with all kinds of students, as well, which is much better than the isolation and stigma that existed in the district I grew up in.

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

I think our district provides an emotionally safe environment for all students, but I also believe our broader community has a lot to learn about diversity and equity. So, there are surely blindspots that need to be addressed.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I worked as a first, second, and fifth grade teacher, a dean of students, and an instructional coach for a total of 10 years. I have worked with curriculum and instruction development and creative classroom environmental planning, as well. I hold a bachelor’s in elementary education and a master’s in reading and literacy instruction.

October 4, 2020

Katie Pitchford

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictNorthwest Community Schools
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

Lived in district for 20 years, joined the military, returned to the district 2 years ago

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I’m running for school board to bring a fresh née voice to the community. I’ve lived all over the country with children attending multiple different schools. I’ve seen the good and the bad. I see areas where my district can improve and where they could use new ideas. I love my school district and those within the community. I want to be someone who represents the students, administrators, and the community. I want children to be successful in an environment that fits them.
It’s been an aspiration of mine to serve the community by being on the school board. I’d be honored to become part of the board where, along with the community, we can work together to ensure the upmost educational experience for our children.

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

Educational justice, to me, is ensuring that ALL children receive a high quality education. This is accomplished by retaining highly qualified teachers, ensuring that quality resources are available to the students and staff, and ensure that the community works as a whole to accomplish this goal.
This is especially critical to Northwest because the percentage of teachers with less than three years of teaching experience is approximately 20% (based on greatschools.org). That is below the state average of 8%. This means that we have to do more to ensure that our quality, highly trained educators remain on our district.

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

This is a tricky question. With so many different views on the current health crisis, I think that our school has done a phenomenal job with how they’ve handled the situation. They provide both an online and a face-to-face option. However, if I could reimagine the ways schools look after this crisis, I’d have to say “normal”. I’d love for students to return to schools the way they were prior to the pandemic. Allow students to attend sporting events, school dances, and most of all the seniors having a graduation. The students need a sense of normalcy.

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

The community should 100% have the opportunity to be involved with decisions being made by the board. As an elected official, that is the duty of the board member; to represent the community. A lot of the decisions made by the school board effect our children, which in turn directly effects our community. Therefore, all members of the community should be involved, and the board needs to take into consideration all views presented.

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

None

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

1. Quality of education – I’d like to see the quality of education improve. My districts rankings have fallen over the last 8 years, as well as standard test scores declining. Something needs to be changed to bring our rankings back up and provide the best education for our children.
2. Improve reading, writing, and most of all spelling skills. The district has been on a decline for these three academic areas. It’s a disservice to our children when they struggle reading, writing, and spelling.
3. PE – physical education should take a higher priority within the district. Students are allowed to refrain from enrolling in a physical education class, which is not acceptable. For example, I know a student who took PE first trimester in 8th grade and is now in 10th grade and has not taken another PE class.

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

1. Enhance the physical education program
2. Push to eliminate common core
3. Improve teacher 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?

The biggest challenge I see is for the teachers. Many teachers are learning new technology, new ways of teaching, and having to deal with changes everyday. Teachers within the district have done an outstanding job with ensuring that children are still receiving a quality education. However, teachers and administrators have been through the ringer with the current situations and having to make significant changes on a moments notice. If our teachers are under appreciated for all that they do, they may decide to leave the district.
To keep students and staff safe, I do not see a change that would need to be done. Masks are worn, social distancing is practiced as much as possible, cleaning/sanitizing is completed, and the health department’s protocol is followed.

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

I have not reviewed the budget and schools spending priorities. Therefore, I can not state what is or is not at the top, middle, or bottom of the list. However, the number one priority should be academics.

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

I don’t think that the curriculum should be geared around standardized tests. However, I do see an importance to the tests. I do think the amount of testing is overwhelming for some (if not all) students, and the amount of testing should be lessened.

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 abolish the common core standards. After being implemented in 2012, the schools academics have dropped significantly.

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

I think NW plays a key role in students mental and emotional health. For some students, the schools may be their only option for such support. Teachers should be provided with the best mental and emotional support, they are the frontline individuals when it comes to our children’s education as well as noticing students who need extra support. Therefore they need to be in their best mental and emotional state.

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

I think the school district as a whole ha implemented many good strategies to improve on lessening the amount of bullying and to promote kindness. With that said, I think the disciple for any infraction is not to the standard that it needs to be. I understand that I am retired military, and as such, my views on discipline are very cut and dry. The punishment needs to fit the crime. I’ve seen kids in the district get in trouble for fighting and they were suspended for a day. Did the school follow protocol? Yes. However, children view a day out of school as a “vacation.” There needs to be a better way. I’ve also seen kids being told it’s okay to have phones in classrooms, which goes against the student handbook. Everyone needs to be held accountable for the actions they portray.

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

I take special education very seriously. Having a special needs daughter (developmental & emotional disorders), I understand how much goes into just one student. I have seen schools who integrate special needs students into the other population, and I have seen schools which have designated classes for the students who require extra help and assistance. I am against integrating special needs into other classrooms. Yes, they should be included in every possible way. But, So many times, when integrated into a regular classroom, they fall behind on school work, they miss important instruction, and this leads to unneeded frustrations and lower self-esteem. However, there needs to be more extracurricular activities where special needs students can participate. Many times these children can become depressed, not feeling “adequate” or not being included they can feel lonely.

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

With everything that is going on in society, I see equity as being an uphill climb… but not impossible.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I’m retired military with a Bachelors in Psychology. I have a passion for education and our children’s futures. I would be honored to serve the community as an elected school board member.