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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Pennfield School District

October 20, 2020

Alicia Bronson

Pronouns:She/her
School District:Pennfield School District
City:Battle Creek

How long have you lived in your district?

16 years

Have you received any endorsements?

I don’t think so

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to continue being a School Board member to help with the equity within the district. I feel very passionate about students education and helping students grow into their full capacity. I want to continue with the greatness and help our students reach their goals for their future.

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

To be honest , I had not realized there was an education justice. I would hope that it would mean that the organization would be fighting for everyone to have education because we all deserve it , no matter what background you are from.

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

It’s hard to believe that we are even in a crisis right now. I would hope that we are capable of making sure our students and teachers are safe and that we are in buildings learning. I would like to see that our schools would have better ventilation to accommodate that. I think that our technology department would be fully supported to help all families who have trouble with wifi. This could even open the doors to keep the virtual option that would perhaps accommodate some students to take extra classes to expand their education.

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

I think that everyone in our district can play a role to be involved by reaching out to the school board and giving healthy constructive criticism when problems arise. We can also provide information when the School Board is doing well and on track for bettering the school. Hearing both the positives and the negatives will help the district grow to great potential. Especially if the Board is willing to hear it all.

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

I don’t have any

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

I would love to see the schools get the much needed updates to buildings to support our students and teachers learning environment. Support our arts departments better then they are currently and help there success grow. To have the number of students graduate with academic scholarships grow.

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

I would love to see our schools get more assistance financially to continue to maintain and fix our buildings to support the education of our students. I would love to see that all students could go to community college or trade school for free.

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 know we will face the issue of ventilation in our school buildings which effect how long students will be able to be in our buildings. Prior to covid ventilation was already a huge issue and with the months now getting colder , I worry that masks won’t be able to slow down this virus in our buildings. Im hoping to we can find a way to bring our students and teachers back into our buildings as safely 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?

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

I don’t think that standardardized tests should play as big of a role as it has in the past. I do believe it can help with growth of a child , but I don’t think the pressures should be there for the students success and for the teachers success as well.

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’m not an educator. I don’t know how I would even try to change anything. I do feel that I would like to leave it to the ones that truly know what is best for our students , the teachers and the administrators. I trust in my district they have and are making the right decisions on our curriculum. They do make the necessary changes to help our students growth , at least I feel they are at this time.

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

I feel that there should be some access to mental health professionals for all staff , students and families that live or attend school in our district , as often as needed. Life is hard and there is a lot pressures put on our students to succeed and those same pressures are put on our teachers to make that happen for those students. There are negative life issues that can affect a child that comes to school and that also can be a burden the teacher faces. Students and staff need to be supported to make sure that are capable of doing their jobs , which is to learn and to teach. We have to take care of the place (the brain) that is going to store all the information that is learned and what is going to be taught.

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

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

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

Although we have made some progress , I do feel there are some things that have not been addressed and , possibly , not even aware of that need to be addressed. This world is always changing and we need to make sure that we are keeping up and not leaving anyone behind.

Any other information you want to include or share?

October 14, 2020

Sarah Marie Jones

Pronouns: she/her
School District:Pennfield School District
City: Battle Creek

How long have you lived in your district?

17 years

Have you received any endorsements?

no

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am running for this position because I am a stakeholder in multiple areas and I would bring a new perspective to the board. First and foremost I am a parent. I want my children to go to school in a district that is making good decisions that will help in their growth and development.
Secondly, I am an educator and I am familiar with how schools run and best practices for teaching and learning. It can be very frustrating to watch educational decisions being made by people who don’t truly understand the educational system. Too often people outside of schools go by the media portrayal of what is happening within the schools rather than what is actually happening. I understand that there can sometimes be a disconnect between the board of education, administrators and teachers. I think I could be a bridge in that gap as I would have understanding from both sides.
I believe the board should be transparent in their actions and board members should be approachable. As a mom, a teacher, and a person who cares about the community, I would be an approachable member. My grandfather was a school board member in a neighboring district many years ago. I fondly remember how proud he was to serve in that role and make an impact in the community. I desire to make a difference like he did.

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

Education justice means looking at equitable practices and making changes to long standing policies that are not best for students. In the context of Pennfield, this might be looking at culturally responsive practices since the demographics of the district have changed in recent years.

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

The biggest takeaway we can have from this experience is that it is not solely the job of the school to educate children. It takes a collaboration between the school and familles. As a teacher, I have worked and communicated with families more than ever during the pandemic and this has been so beneficial to myself and my students. Going forward, I would like to see parents be more involved in the everyday happenings of teaching and learning. I would like to see educators working more closely to communicate with families to show what learning is taking place and how it is happening. I also hope that there will be a greater pubic respect for teachers and the work they do to connect with students they care about so much.

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

Parents, students and families are important stakeholders that we need to acknowledge in major decision making. We need to hear from them. Surveys are a great way of collecting data, but if we make decisions without reviewing that data, we are not doing them any favors. Parents, students and families need to feel like their voice is heard. This might also look like having representation from these groups on committees before decisions are reached. It may also be as simple as making sure they are comfortable reaching out to members of the school board others in charge of decision making. Sometimes it should even be a town hall meeting or a phone call where their actual voice can be heard.

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

N/A

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

1. Better Communication overall 2. Improvements to teaching and learning through professional development and resource allocation 3. Adapting and updating to a changing world

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

1. Funding for education 2. Changes to testing 3. Placing a greater priority on education

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?

Right now the biggest challenge that COVID is presenting is how to proceed with education. Some want all the kids back in school, some think virtual is better. While everyone has their reasons for each side, the truth is there is still a lot of unknowns with this virus. As we proceed, schools must keep kids safe, but they must also continue the best teaching and learning for kids. Schools must keep on top of all of the new developments and be flexible to shift as needed. This may mean taking safety measures to get kids back in the buildings but pulling back to virtual learning if there is a threat to student or staff safety.

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

The top budget priorities should be two fold this year. First schools need to prioritize what they need to maintain a safe environment in a COVID world. There need to be changes to account for social distancing and new cleaning practices. Secondly, we need to fund resources and staff that can support students have not had optimal learning during the off site learning. This might include intervention staff to work with students who slid back during their absence from the school building. This might be investing in digital resources so students can have optimal learning if they do need to be away from the building.
In this time I would say that cuts should be looked at any place that there would not be a direct impact to kids. This could be administrative positions, it could be looking at resources that we will not need as much of. Even things like paper will be used less now that we have gone more digital.

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

Standardized tests are intended to keep schools accountable. They are a measure of student learning so we know if the school is doing a good job with teaching and learning. What they actually are, is a huge disruption to learning during the entire month of April and a great source of stress for teacher and students. Still, we do not have a choice in participating. Pennfield should really analyze all the data they receive from the test to inform teaching and learning. They should look beyond the percent of students proficient and really dig into the standards that kids are missing so adjustments can be made.

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

I believe the district needs to do some forward movement with curriculum. They are embracing technology and moving forward in some ways, but I am still seeing some very old practices that wouldn’t be considered best practices for developing higher order thinking and authentic learning. For example, my son made a diorama in his English class. I think I heard it best in grad school when my professor asked, “When in your adult life have you ever finished a really good book and thought to yourself, I really want to make a diorama now?”.
I know there are areas that not like this. There are teachers that are doing some great authentic teaching and learning. I would just like to see it spread district wide.

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

I believe that the responsibility of mental health and emotional well being is more important than ever for the school. Social and Emotional learning should be a part of the school and there should be resources for staff and students that need extra support. It doesn’t have to fall solely on the school. It may just means having connections with outside agencies to get students and staff the support that they need.

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

I am a strong believer in PBIS (positive behavior intervention supports). I have done a lot of learning around this and have seen the research that supports this being a more successful model for changing behaviors. Constant suspensions and removal of a student from the learning environment are a temporary fix to a problem. Working with a student on what is causing the behaviors and teaching them to manage and regulate them is much more impactful. This is not to say that there is never a time when immediate removal is necessary for student safety, but in most cases, PBIS should be how the work is done.

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

Special Education is a very important piece in schools. Public schools have the task of educating all students and all students do not learn the same or have the same needs. Special Education students deserve access to the curriculum that all the general education students get with the proper accomodations in place for them to reach that curriculum. The goals of their IEPs should be taken seriously and they should be set in a way that would stretch the student to maximize his/her potential.

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

Pennfield is now a much more diverse district than it was when my husband graduated over 20 years ago. It is more racially diverse and it is more socio economically diverse as well. I think that training needs to come from the top down. Staff and teachers could really benefit from things like “Culturally Responsive Teaching” training. You need to understand people who aren’t like you in order to best teach people who aren’t like you.

Any other information you want to include or share?