October 4, 2020
School DistrictEast Lansing Public Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Dr. Terah Chambers, VP EL BOE, Dana Watson, EL City Council Member and ELPS Parent, David Chapin- Former EL Superintendent, Mark Meadows- Former EL Mayor, Kath Edsall- EL BOE Treasurer, Teresa Dunn, Associate Professor of painting and drawing at MSU & ELPS Parent, Christine Shafer, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Leslie D. Gonzales, Associate Professor of Higher Education, MSU, Wenona Singel, ELPS Parent, Dr. Emily Sorroche, Liesel Carlson, ELPS parent, Ariel Robbins, Assistant Director of Charles DREW science scholars, EL resident, Dylan Miner, ELPS Parents, Mauricio Franco, MSU CHM M.D. Candidate, Jennifer Edwards-Johnson, DO, EL resident, Aninikwam-Galdamez Family, ELPS Parents, Joel Maurer, M.D., Assistant Dean of Admissions College of Human Medicine, Lauren Gaines McKenzie, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion MSU College of Communication, Arts & Sciences, ELPS Parents, Dr. Charles Cotton III Senior Director of Admissions at Alma College, Estrella Torrez, ELPS parent, Tali Faris-Hylen, ELPS Parent
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I am running for the East Lansing Board of Education because I believe in an engaging, relevant, and active learning environment that celebrates the diversity of our students, teachers, and community. I believe I have the personal and professional experience to be an effective advocate and leader for our East Lansing families, students, and teachers, along with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It is imperative that a school system continuously works on building a sense of belonging, promoting equity, and protecting our students’ wellness and mental health. If elected, I will lead by a family-driven and community-focused approach.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
Education justice means all students have access and the ability to utilize resources that can help them become successful in educational endeavors. Within the East Lansing school district education justice means the district’s resources are fairly distributed as well as accessible to all families regardless of socioeconomic status, nationality, and ethnicity.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
I think this current public health crisis can help us reimagine how we teach our students and the curricula being taught. I think our curriculum should be adjusted to avoid teaching strictly to standardized test and conducted in non-traditional school settings. We can explore how to support better student/teacher ratio, small group work, flip classrooms and allow teachers to be more creative in their approach to teaching.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
I believe we must take a family driven and community approach. Families, students, and community members should be able to voice their concerns and ideas with the board and administration. Family involvement within school districts is vital for a vibrant, welcoming and progressive school district.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
I have received small individual donations.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion: The school board should clearly define what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean and have policies that reflect this understanding. The pandemic has amplified issues of historical trauma felt by communities. We must put policies in place to change systemic structures that prevent and hinder our children’s success in the classroom. I think this is the time to look at our curriculum while making sure that our educators are given the training to teach and continually enhance culturally relevant coursework.
Mental Health/Trauma-Informed: I believe mental health is strongly linked to educational outcomes. These circumstances with the pandemic have compounded already existing issues many of our families and educators were dealing with both within the classroom and outside. We have to make sure our teachers/social workers/ administrators receive support, quality access to training, and other resources.
COVID 19: With school starting back virtually in East Lansing, there has been a learning curve for students, parents, teachers, and administration. With technology issues and lack of computers among some students in the district, along with the fact that our children have very little social interaction, this transition has been very tough. I do believe our educators are working hard to give our students a quality education, but it is very hard to do so when they cannot easily interact with and nurture students.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
We must ensure that Michigan’s public schools are equitable for all students by funding students based on their needs. Too often our students with special needs, ELL learners, and students living in poverty are left out and underfunded. We should also incentivize our teachers working in underserved and high need areas and provide more teacher development. Michigan has some of the lowest taxes on recreational marijuana sales, and levying greater taxes on marijuana could be a good revenue source. We could also more efficiently deliver mental health and wellness services by creating “one-stop-shop” partnerships with local health departments.
What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?
I think we are in midst of these challenges. The challenges are accessibility to technology, parent support while working full time, student support while parents are working, child care needs, assessing student learning growth, social interaction, and mental health and emotional health of students and families. I think the school district needs a community driven planning process that provides clear metrics and road map for returning to in person schooling.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
I believe East Lansing Public School district should prioritize spending on curriculum, developing innovative partnerships through engagement, staff recruitment and development (curriculum, training and instructional support for teachers) Instruction (teachers, instructional aides, supplies, technology), health and safety (social workers, nurses, security measures to keep students and staff safe (PPE). Resources are finite as a result prioritizes need to be made based on needs. The school board members should work on gathering as much information and work collaborative to identify funding prioritizes.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
I do not believe we should be teaching to a test. I believe standardized tests are inherently bias. I think standardized test should have a very limited role in assessing student progress.
If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?
Curriculum must be addressed to ensure we are teaching culturally appropriate history as well as taking into account the connection between diversity and trauma-informed practices to increase mental wellness. I believe our district taking the right steps in finding ways to make dual enrollment more accessible for our students.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
I believe a school district has a major responsibility to support student and staff mental and emotional health. We must provide resources, trainings, and counseling for all who need these resources to be successful either as staff or student. The pandemic has highlighted the inequity in our health care system. Emotional and mental health are an important part of our health care system. School districts can explore innovative partnerships with integrated health care agencies that could develop a one stop shop for families. The Pandemic has taken a toll on us all and we must take care of each other so that learning can take place in a safe and healthy way.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
If we take mental and emotional health seriously then we will be able to utilize social workers and professional staff to help our students/ families/and staff create a safe space. Student discipline should be handled with conversation and using the appropriate resources and tools. Taking a community approach to get to know our families and what their needs are is crucial in helping students develop and help with discipline issues. Not only do teachers need to get to know families and their needs, but principals, and office staff, the board, and superintendent must also work to get to know our families, and not just when a problem arises. We as parents must also be willing to take the initiative and talk to school personnel and get involved as much as we can.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
Too often our special education students and families are left out and underfunded. They can feel isolated and at times not part of the school community. We must have open communication and be transparent with our families and take the time to truly understand their needs. We must provide the resources and services that are needed for our special education students down to transportation, accessibility and activities that are thoughtfully planned for all to participate in.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
It is essential for the school board to clearly define what diversity and equity mean and have policies that reflect this understanding. The pandemic has amplified issues of historical trauma felt by communities. We must put policies in place to change systemic structures that prevent and hinder our children’s success in the classroom, along with promoting healthy mental awareness. I believe East Lansing Public Schools is taking positive strides in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. However, more can be done. I also believe that the current board and school administration are taking the right steps in hiring teachers and administrators of color. We must continue to extend our equity programming team to ALL schools, and training on anti-racism and anti-bias.
Any other information you want to include or share?
I think we are entering a time that can help spark innovative and visionary ideas on how we organize various elements of our society, education being a very important element. I am hopeful that through this public health pandemic it has highlighted so many inequities in our systems, education can become a major source of progressive thinking and action. I hope to earn your vote so that I can work to advocate for all students!