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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Waterford School District

October 4, 2020

Daniel Majeske

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictWaterford School District
City:Waterford

How long have you lived in your district?

30 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Not at this point

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I have decided that I am at a point in my career where I have the experience to make a difference for Waterford Schools. I retired from teaching high school after 38 years and am now in my 14th year of teaching part-time at Oakland University, Rochester MI. I have been able to make a difference in the academic and interpersonal lives of my past students and I am ready to see what I can do for this community.
After I retired from teaching high school, I chose to remain current and relevant in the field of education. Not only does Oakland University give me teaching experience for undergraduate and graduate students in the Teacher Development and Educational Services Department of the School of Education, it also gives me continual professional development in the current methods for this profession. I joined the Field Office and have worked with dozens of Student Teaching Interns and their Mentors at various middle and high schools across Oakland and Macomb counties. I compile written and digital observations regarding lesson plans, classroom management, and teaching strategies using Core Teaching Practices. I complete digital Midterm and Final Assessments with 3-way Conferences including the Mentor teacher. We use a program like the Danielson and Marzano teacher evaluations prevalent in Oakland and Macomb Counties. I work with the Interns in ten Oakland University Seminars during the Fall and Winter Semesters.
I plan to continue this work and remain current in education. I would bring this wide array of past and current experiences with me to Waterford Schools. As a school board member, I would bring my perspective to the district to see how I could be helpful and supportive for the resources and district needs going forward into the future.

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

I believe that some component parts of education justice would be equitable funding, availability of teaching resources, how we deal with achievement gaps, delivering continuous professional development to administration and teaching staff, and how we create and make our school buildings and cultures friendly and welcoming to LGBTQ+ students and staff and all ethnicities.
Adequate resources, which are often at the mercy of funding that is not equitable, are imperative to narrow and close achievement gaps. Students need knowledge and skills in order to have equal opportunities and resources need to be directed to them. The fact that the poorest areas in the state receive the least amount of per-pupil funding is not equitable. The whole profession is not adequately financed. Teacher pay is far below comparable professions and the freezing or reductions in pay since 2008 must be demoralizing and disheartening to the experienced staff. This creates some difficulty in attracting the best new teacher talent.
Administrators and teachers must keep up with changes in digital tools, concepts that constitute Best Practice and Core Teaching Principles, and current research in order to assist in the instructional delivery, assessments, and the ability to provide optimal student learning. Continuous Professional Development is essential to Best Practice.
How we treat people we perceive to be different from us in any setting, but particularly in schools is an important part of education justice. Ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ESL (English as a Second Language) are a few of the differences from the majority normative that should be welcomed, included, and treated as well as anyone in the majority.
I think that continued development in all of these areas apply to Waterford Schools. The pandemic has exacerbated funding issues with the need to divert some funds to cleaning and safety. I read an online school board report this summer that said the district feels it is $700 short per-pupil for funding for this next year. All of the above areas are impacted by not enough or equitable financing.

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

Public education began to help those who could not pay for private education in the 1800s. There was a vision where raising the educational standard of our whole country would benefit the nation in higher productivity, wages, innovation, ingenuity, the purchase of consumer products, and the general improvement and well-being of our whole economy. Like healthcare, education should not be just for the privileged or those who can privately pay. Teachers in the classroom know what they need to improve their instructional delivery. Adequate and equitable funding for Public Schools should be a priority of State and Federal governments. Teacher pay would be comparable to all the other professions with comparable educational standards such as law and medicine. Resources would be directed to target the achievement gaps as well as challenge the academically talented. Administrators and teachers would create cultures that are welcoming and inclusive of various ethnicities, and LGBTQ+. Continuous professional development would assist staff in creating welcoming and inclusive cultures as well as keeping them up-to-date on Core Teaching Principles and Best Practice, which would include the best uses of technology/digital tools. Safety for everyone both medical and security would be the number one priority.

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

Safety for everyone both medical and security is an important area for the involvement of parents, students and families. Parent-Teacher organizations and Conferences need to be re-imagined for some innovative methods to encourage better involvement and how each can support the other to create progressive movement for inclusion, acceptance, and enrichment.

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

No one. I have not asked anyone for financial support.

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

I believe that the safety of students, teachers, staff, and administration are a top goal for the district. From gun violence to the pandemic, everyone’s safety is an increasingly top priority. The local municipal government and the school district school board share the responsibility for safety. Rules, protocols, and guidelines for safety may be coordinated collaboratively between the local municipal government and the school board or possibly imposed on the district by the municipality. A related example of this could be professional dispositions. The professional commitment, behaviors, and relationships of ALL employees in a school district and the appropriate behavior of students and parents are subject to the oversight of the local school board. However, some discipline and enforcement may need to be shared or handled by the local municipality, particularly if it is criminal activity.
The most important board role is the hiring of teachers, staff, and administrators and the bargaining of contracts for those personnel. Cultural changes, best practice, and improved instructional delivery start with hiring the best candidates a school district can find.
Budgeting of finances, adequate and balanced allocation, and distribution of resources throughout the school district as well as professional development for staff and administration are additional goals. Since funding is so crucial to having the resources that are needed, I would want to make sure the budget reflects what is best for students.

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

At the state level, funding, curriculum, and the effect funding can have on teacher preparation are important roles. Per-pupil student funding affects every school district across the state. The State Board of Education affects the curriculum courses taught at the elementary and particularly the secondary level. State funding of higher education can affect teacher preparation at state colleges and universities. In the past, I believe that Michigan was considered a leader in teacher preparation across the nation. After having been a part of the Teacher Development and Educational Services Department of the School of Education at Oakland University, I am pleased to say that must still be true. I see many intrinsically motivated college students selecting education as a profession despite the low pay, but the numbers are dwindling. Better and increased funding would help attract the numbers of students that we have seen in the past.

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?

This 2020-2021 school year may be very fraught with challenges due to COVID 19. Moving from remote teaching to a hybrid or in-person and maybe back to remote depending on the pandemic is an uncertain and unknown element. The district needs to pay close attention to what is happening in society around the district and what the case amounts are in order to have a hybrid or in-person program. Wearing masks should be mandatory with some exceptions made for lower elementary. Social distancing, re-alignment of class schedules, a rethinking of how many students can be in a building at the same time are probably just a few of the things to be monitored. I’m certain that more things not yet thought of may crop up during the year.

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

Right now, with the pandemic, building maintenance needs to be a top priority. Staff salaries need to be maintained and increased. Teaching morale suffers greatly when they feel they are working harder for less. Maintaining a strong academic curriculum requires not only appropriate resources, but staff who feel they are valued as well. Finding ways to include the Arts and Sports are important to the educational balance. I realize that these areas are dropped and moved to the back because core curriculum academic subjects have to be maintained. I reluctantly agree, but I would struggle and brainstorm ways to find some inclusion for the Arts and Sports.

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

Standardized test should be minimal. We need strong assessments to measure students’ performance and give us baselines. However, we must move away from the trend of “teaching for the tests”. Too many standardized tests do not account for the differentiation of student abilities. Research has shown that not all students learn exactly the same way.

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 keep or increase Honors and AP classes. I would keep, change, or increase the allocation of resources for special education and ESL. Honestly, until I am on the school board, it is difficult at this point to answer this question. I need to see consistent data from the administration to answer this question with better clarity.

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

It is not just the school district that has responsibility here. These students will go out and be citizens not just in this district. They may move to different parts of the state or to another state. Our state and federal governments have a responsibility to provide school districts across the country with funds to hire mental and physical health counselors. We all see the need for academic counselors, but every building needs staff that can support the mental and emotional wellbeing of both staff and students. Sometimes a person’s mental or emotional state is influenced by their physical state. Psychological and physical both need to be addressed.

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

In my 52 years of experience, student disciplinary issues do not occur for one reason all of a sudden. They are a culmination of experiences that student has experienced over time. Outbursts that could harm others or themselves need to be dealt with swiftly and immediately with removal for a time and possibly expulsion. However, prevention here is the best tract. A welcoming and inclusive culture, psychological and physical attention at the earliest observed occurrences can help prevent the escalation to physical outbursts. Students do not arrive at school as empty vessels to be filled. They bring lots of baggage with them from their homes and societal experiences. These need to be addressed not only for the student, but also for the benefit of our society.

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

Appropriate resources and funds for resource rooms and mainstreaming as much as possible. This is another one of those questions where I need to see administrative data in order to give a better informed answer.

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

I would refer you back to what I wrote for an answer on your question of education justice. My opening paragraph was: I believe that some component parts of education justice would be equitable funding, availability of teaching resources, how we deal with achievement gaps, delivering continuous professional development to administration and teaching staff, and how we create and make our school buildings and cultures friendly and welcoming to LGBTQ+ students and staff and all ethnicities.
Working toward achieving equity in Waterford Schools would encompass all of the above.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Yes, I have lived in the Waterford Schools District for 30 years. I expect to live in my current home until the end of life or if I should ever need assisted living. My two daughters grew up with their mother in a different school district and my seven grandchildren are attending schools in different districts. That does not mean that I am not interested in Waterford Schools. This is my community and it is where I live. Although I have not been involved until now, that only means that I have been very busy being involved with work and volunteer activities in the places where I was employed as well as activities my daughters were involved in and now activities that my grandchildren are participating in.
As evidence of how active I have been I want to go back to my full time teaching in Holly Area Schools and now at Oakland University. I chaperoned dozens of dances and spring graduation events in Holly. I did the statistics for the ninth grade basketball team home and away for two years. I did the stats for the Varsity Baseball team for home and away for four years. I was the Yearbook advisor for 12 years. I learned a lot about Holly. The high school is about 140 years old and when the yearbook reached its 100th Anniversary, we did a special edition with some very interesting facts. At Oakland University, I have volunteered for Convocation and Teacher Educations days. I have taken online courses to give myself additional professional development in technology and my field of work. I love what I did and currently do. I would bring to the Waterford Schools the same level of commitment to their schools that I currently exhibit at the university and have in the past. I am now ready to see if I can make a difference for Waterford Schools.

October 4, 2020

Nathan Mosseri

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictWaterford School District
City:Waterford

How long have you lived in your district?

2 Years

Have you received any endorsements?

Waterford Democratic Club

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Being a Waterford School Board Trustee allows me to utilize my educational and classroom expertise to bring a voice to the board that teachers and students often do not have. As a public school teacher, I have chosen to run for School Board because it’s time for educators to be part of the decision making process. Too often, School Board Trustees’ only experience with the public school system is from when they were children. With all of the changes occurring in the wake of COVID-19, someone with current classroom experience must have a role in moving the district forward. This means working to improve Waterford’s educational outlook, retaining highly-qualified teachers, and updating the district’s outdated technology plan.

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

Education justice means providing all students with a high-quality education regardless of race, socio-economic status, access to technology, etc. In the United States, children are entitled to an education that provides them with the skills to be competitive in a global economy. Unfortunately, many districts do not have the resources in place to provide their students with this type of education and Waterford is no exception. Working off of a technology plan from 2015, Waterford is falling behind on preparing students for future careers. As a School Board member with a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, it will be my mission to update the plan to purchase devices to create a 1:1 technology environment, regular training for teachers on technology implementation, and upgrading existing wireless networks. This type of plan will require community and teacher support. However, when we all work together to improve the quality of our local schools, everyone benefits.

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

The havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on the education system is just beginning and will continue to affect students, teachers, and communities for years to come. Despite the devastation, some changes that are happening in the schools right now may benefit the overall educational achievement for certain students. The first is a shift to a fully virtual learning option for students. Unfortunately, many students struggle with in-person learning due to distractions, bullying, etc. By permanently offering a virtual option taught by highly-qualified Waterford teachers, students can learn at their own pace in an environment that works better for them. Continuing to offer a virtual option also allows for improvements within the classroom as well. Having some students virtual would reduce class sizes which would allow teachers to give more individualized instruction and one-on-one time. Making these changes a reality requires investments Waterford needs to be making. However, by changing the way we think education should be delivered, Waterford schools would be able to provide families with the educational experiences that work best for them and their students.

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

A school district is a fundamental community service and the decisions made should include parents, students, and community members. The overarching goal of decision making should be improving the educational achievement of all students within the community. Too often decisions are made without the input of the number-one stakeholder in a district, the students. This group is seldom given the chance to make their voices heard. Students know what they need in the classroom. They can see if they are working in buildings with leaky roofs, with technology that does not work, and in overcrowded classrooms. It is the responsibility of the School Board to listen to everyone within the district to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole.

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

I have been fortunate enough to have my top financial supporters to be family members and friends. They believe I can utilize my educational expertise to improve Waterford Schools and they have afforded me the opportunity to fight for what I believe will make Waterford a place all families desire to be part of.

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

The first issue facing the Waterford School District is an outdated technology plan. For students to learn the skills necessary for their future careers, they need modern resources. Currently, Waterford is working with a plan that was finalized in 2015. Many technological needs have changed since then and the plan must reflect those changes. As a School Board Trustee, I intend to utilize my educational technology expertise to review and update the district’s technology plan. Parts of a new plan would include time for teacher training and technology implementation, purchasing devices to create a 1:1 technology environment, and adequate funding to upgrade existing wireless networks.

The second issue facing Waterford School District is a potential decrease in overall per-pupil funding from the State. As a School Board Trustee, I will defend students and teachers through any budget cuts that may occur. To provide students with the education they deserve, we mustn’t decrease per-pupil spending. It is also significant for teachers to not be forced into pay reductions. By reducing salaries, a district risks losing highly-experienced teachers and not being competitive to hire new teachers. If schools cannot fill all positions, class sizes increase, or substitute teachers will be utilized to fill positions. Neither of these situations is ideal for students to receive a high-quality education. By defending these groups during budget decisions, I can work to create the best learning environment for all.

The third issue I aim to undertake is the greater promotion of racial justice within the schools. One way I plan to promote racial justice is by analyzing discipline data. I will work to identify and root out racial bias in suspensions, referrals, and expulsions. Around the country, African American boys are at greater risk of being suspended than their white peers. With Waterford School’s changing population, I aim to create an environment where no students are being singled out due to race or culture. If the data determines there are clear biases, I will push for professional learning programs that aid staff in the exploration and acknowledgment of their personal biases. Through this type of training, staff members can develop strategies to overcome their biases and form a learning environment where all students feel valued.

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

The first priority is to equally fund Michigan’s public schools regardless of property tax values. Under the current system, districts with higher home values end up with more money. This adversely affects areas with inexpensive or multifamily housing. Every child deserves free high-quality education, unfortunately, many children are not provided with the resources necessary to receive it. By changing the way districts are funded, all students, regardless of zip code, would receive a high-quality education. It is time for the state to fund all districts in a way that makes them equitable no matter what kind of homes their students live in.

The second priority is for more educators to be part of the conversations when learning standard decisions and laws are created. Unfortunately, many legislators have no educational background and are out of touch with what happens in a modern classroom. An example of this is the third-grade reading law that was put into effect. In this law, any third-grade student who is one or more reading grade levels behind will be required to repeat third grade. We should be holding our students to high and rigorous standards, but are we providing enough support for teachers and students? Are we punishing school districts and teachers by adding cumbersome paperwork explaining why a child doesn’t need to be retained? Is this the best practice? I believe in the spirit of this law, but in execution, it is falling short.

The third priority is reducing the burden student count day has on districts. Students could be sick on count day, there could be a death in the family, or even a family court appearance, the reasons for absences are endless. Districts should not be financially penalized for students missing one specific day of school. There needs to be more leniency for providing data which shows a student attends a specific district. By changing this and the overall way schools are funded, Michigan can work towards creating a more equitable public school system.

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 caused by COVID are going to be extensive. Whether it is requiring students to wear facemasks all day, not allowing students to work with peers, or families not having adequate internet to learn from home, districts need to be thinking of how they are going to be keeping students and staff safe when there is a return to in-person learning. The first aspect of safety districts must be considering are expectations for utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE), i.e. face masks and shields. There need to be clear guidelines for when PPE needs to be worn and consequences when the guidelines are not followed. Districts also need to be in constant contact with local health officials regarding COVID levels and outbreaks. Currently, school boards are reevaluating the situation in their area monthly. It is vital they have the most up-to-date data so they can make decisions that are safest for everyone. Lastly, when making COVID-related safety decisions, the entire community needs to be considered as well. If there is an outbreak within a school it will not stay isolated, it can easily spread out into the general population. There is much we do not know regarding COVID, and when making decisions it is always better to be cautious.

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

Waterford’s top spending priority needs to be improving student access to technology and the wireless systems in the schools. With the possibility of students going back and forth for in-person to at-home learning, it is vital they are given the resources to make it a smooth transition each time. This requires Waterford to update its technology plan and make purchases that create a 1:1 technology learning environment for all students K-12. Purchasing the technology also allows for students to have the tools necessary for high-quality learning that will prepare them for future careers. The increase in technology can also lead to changing spending priorities as well. With the modernization of education, purchasing physical textbooks leads to unnecessary expenses that become outdated very quickly. By purchasing digital content, districts can save both money and space. This money could be used to help fund other student support programs that could help the lowest-achieving students reach their fullest educational potential.

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

Standardized tests fill the role of checking students’ progress and should be given at the beginning, middle, and end of a school year. However, they should be only used as data for teachers so they can better individualize student learning plans. Tieing teacher quality and student achievement to standardized testing data shows that policymakers are out of touch with what happens in school. Standardized tests provide a one day snapshot of student’s learning but do not show all that a student has achieved throughout a year. They do not take into account if a student got into an argument with their mother in the car or if a beloved pet died the morning of the test. It will only show that they are behind. Standardized testing has its place but should not be the only way we look at student achievement.

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?

As a School Board Trustee, one change I would like to see is an increase in racial and gender representation in the curriculum. Public schools need to be a place where all students are represented in the curriculum, and regrettably, most of the curriculum focuses on the accomplishments of white men. I witnessed this first-hand while teaching state history in South Carolina. I taught in a school that is majority African American and some of my students were direct descendants of slaves on local plantations. Unfortunately, these students rarely learned about the scientific, literary, and historic contributions of African Americans. In Waterford Schools, it is imperative all curriculums represent the students being taught. I would also like to see an increase in the amount of career and skilled-trades courses being taught at the middle and high school levels. It is the goal of a school district to prepare students for future careers. By allowing them to explore various career and skilled-trades options, it may spark an interest that leads to a successful future. As information and content knowledge change, our curriculum needs to change with it. The aspect of curriculum I would keep the same is the focus on reading and math. Based on state-level data, these are areas Waterford needs to improve in. However, this does not mean that there cannot be changes to the ways it is being taught that would better help students achieve their personal best.

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

Schools need to be a safe space where students are able to open up creatively without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. It also needs to be a place in which students are able to receive no-cost counseling for mental health and emotional concerns. Staff also need resources available to them to help with mental health and emotional issues stemming from the job. Teaching is a high-stress position in which you are responsible for not only the education of students but also their daily wellbeing. By providing staff with mental health resources, districts can create an environment where everyone is able to work at their best.

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

School districts need specific protocols when dealing with student discipline and they should not deviate from them when being used. However, these protocols should be created by a combination of staff, administration, and community members. To create a safe place to work and learn, everyone needs to know what the behavioral expectations are. They also need to be aware of the consequence when the expectations are not followed. It should not be a surprise to families when students are put into detention or suspended. The first line should be dealing with disciplinary issues within the classroom and letting parents/guardians know what has happened. Then consequences should gradually increase from there. Police should be used as a last resort when there is an active threat to the physical safety of the students and/or staff. In the end, the ultimate goal is to create a safe learning environment for everyone.

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

Community members feel that students with learning impairments are not having their needs met within the general classroom. My top priority is to make it so all students are receiving the education they are entitled to. This disconnect can be due to a lack of relationships between the classroom and special education teachers, and the caseload of special education teachers. Preparing the paperwork required for supportive services such as individualized education plans (IEPs) takes a lot of time and often special education teachers are the only ones who are able to complete it. This paperwork takes time away from developing specialized curricula for students. This is a systemic issue across the country and Waterford is doing the best it can with the resources it has been provided. To improve this issue, Waterford needs to hire more special education teachers to reduce teachers’ caseloads. This would allow them more time to provide students with the services they require.

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

Achieving equity is not a matter of treating everyone the same, it is changing the way things are done so everyone is receiving what they need in order to be successful. To do this, districts need to look at every student as an individual learner with specific needs. Once they do this, then they can begin making changes such as reducing class sizes, providing teachers with more freedom presenting curriculum, and allowing students to show their learning in various ways. Not all students learn the same way, and until districts stop requiring standardized tests as the only way to show growth, they will never truly achieve equity.

Any other information you want to include or share?