October 14, 2020
School District:Ann Arbor Public Schools
City: Ann Arbor
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Linh Song, Eli Savit, Jeff Irwin, Katie Scott, Jason Morgan, Our Revolution National, Washtenaw County Democratic Party, WCDP Black Caucus, UAW Region 1A, Local 499, YDSA University of Michigan, Felicia Brebec, Andy LaBarre, Michelle Dietrick, Ricky Jefferson, Travis Rodina, Anne Banister, Chris Savage, Trishce Duckworth, Joanne McCollum, Nate Frazier, Justin Hodge
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I’m running for school board because I care about our schools and how they impact our community. I am a social worker and a combat veteran. I have dedicated my life to service and advocacy, as a mother of a 9yr old going on 90 here in AAPS who uses special education services. Our experiences led me to join COPAA and invest in a special education lawyer, which was an unnecessary financial burden placed on so many families, not just my own.
If elected, I will be a voice on the board, not only with professional and educational experience but lived experience as an unpartnered parent right here in Ann Arbor. I will be advocating for Single Parents, consistent special education services, and fostering a sense of belonging for BICOC and children of marginalized religious groups. I support the development and implementation of a Discrimination Tracking system in the district. I also support having an independent civil rights investigation of Pioneer high school. For the investigation results to be made public, that community can collaborate with the district to cultivate a culture of equity and inclusion in our district.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
When I think of education justice think of the many intersections that children have and how each one of those intersections affect their education. In the context of this district education justice and assuring an equitable education within our district. Meaning all students have equal access to AP classes, adequate IEP services, equitable opportunities for afterschool learning and participation, quality instructors, equitable opportunities to attend field trips though enhance the learning of each student.
It also means that our district is actively implementing measures that reduces the likelihood of our students being placed on the pre-school to prison pipeline. Some ways to reduce risk factors in this area would be early screening of special education needs in adequately providing the supports. Ensuring that students at schools such as Pathways to Success are not losing core instructors without a replacement and therefore being left behind. Implementing a culturally responsive curriculum, having student representation on the school board and the development of a districtwide mediation group designed to help students and families with issues such as truancy.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
If I could reimagine schools following the pandemic and hybrid option would still be available. What I’ve learned during this pandemic is that some students thrive in the virtual learning environment. We would also counties to provide students access to technology to support their learning. I feel a hybrid option will be ideal for students who are managing concerns that may be exacerbated by overstimulation in the school environment. While still providing them in person learning and connections with their peers and teachers. We would also continue to support measures to keep our buildings safe and our students and staff healthy. We also have an increase of general education so coworkers to support with any social emotional concerns after returning to school.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
I feel the relationship between the district, teachers, students, and families should always be a collaborative one where every voice and every perspective is valued in creating an equitable education. It is the district responsibility to create safe spaces where students and caregivers are able to fully express their experiences and views that directly affect their community. It is also the district responsibility to apply the information that is given to us from our community to the decision-making process.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
1. Developing a culturally responsive environment where students feel welcome and supported regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status. Which includes but is not limited to having a more representative staff.
2. Advocating for consistent special education services and access to special education information.
3. Developing a student board committee, were students on this committee can appoint in liaison to sit in on board meetings and represent student voices.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
1. Racial equity
2. Equity in education funding, according to education trust Midwest, “unlike most states in the nation, Michigan allocates fewer dollars on average to Michigan’s poorest school districts compared to the state’s wealthiest school districts”
3. Improving Michigan’s rank in education (currently Michigan is in the bottom half for fourth and eighth grade)
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?
Presently Ann Arbor public schools has committed to a fully online school platform. When we prepared to return to school is the district responsibility to implement safety measures suggested by the CDC to keep students and staff safe. Particularly when we provide connection plus sites and move into hybrid learning. This would include but not be limited to requiring mask and providing mass to students who do not have them. In addition to investing in adequate ventilation systems with the proper filters. In addition to having a screening process for students, teachers, and staff.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
Investing in building updates and maintenance that ensure safety when we returned to school. In addition to creating the capacity to hire additional general education social workers, increase available services and supports in special education. Ensuring that students have equal access to education by having access equal access to quality educators.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
Again, given the current crisis I feel standardized testing should be canceled or delayed for this year. Moving forward I feel that we should find an alternative to standardized testing. Given that every child learns differently standardized testing is inherently inequitable, and often fails to take into consideration how testing anxiety can affect a student’s performance.
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?
If I could have an impact on my district curriculum, I would implement an integrated learning model which has four tenants. The first tenet of the Integrated Learning Model involves designing inclusive classrooms where all students are valued and made to feel like integral parts of the classroom culture. This inclusive ideology continues in the second tenet, providing the framework to set up equitable relationships among students within classroom environments. The third tenet involves implementing change in specific practices, such as teachers confronting their own biases due to language, culture, socioeconomic status, or ability level (or disability label) of students. These biases must be explored among the students toward each other as well. Shin, Daly, and Vera (2007) found that students who reported higher levels of positive peer norms and positive ethnic identity also reported being more engaged in school. The final tenet of the proposed Integrated Learning Model addresses the classroom environment with the idea that to truly facilitate integrated quality instruction, teachers must be highly qualified in their subject areas, the content must be culturally relevant, and the teachers must be skilled in designing their instruction so that it is tailored to be compatible with learners who bring various skill sets and learning styles to the classroom.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
It is the district responsibility to provide our students opportunities for self-care and emotional maintenance. Also, to ensure staff members have adequate healthcare and compensation so that they can access mental health services when needed.
Presently Ann Arbor public schools has a connection with the University of Michigan depression center my goal is to make sure that we maintain partnerships like this one and build other partnerships that will provide additional support.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
Disciplinary practices should always be restorative and not punitive. Peer mediation groups and other restorative justice practices have proven to be effective in addressing student discipline while allowing the student to reflect on their choices and giving them an opportunity to make different ones. Using restorative circles as an opportunity to develop conflict resolution skills and restore positive relationships is another effective way to look at school discipline.
In making school a safe place for students the district to seriously consider developing and implementing discrimination tracking system. Some compare micro-aggression micro-invalidation is to emotional and mental abuse as they can make an individual feel disempowered over time. To create a safe environment for black and indigenous children of color it is important for us to set up a mechanism in which for us to hold individuals accountable.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
Some of my top priorities is to make sure this special education is consistent across our school district. Also, bring in perspective that the information available on the special education system should be uniformly accessible. For example, ensuring that every school has information on how they decide to assess a child for special education services available on their website. In addition to, the IEP process and available services at that school.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
In my perspective we should always use a combination of community voice and research to achieve equity within our district. Community voice means the voices of the students, families and caregivers, and teachers and staff. The steps we take must be concrete and evidence-based with the intention of closing achievement gaps, providing a culturally inclusive curriculum and school environment able-ism within our district.
Any other information you want to include or share?
In addition to professional and academic experience have been a community organizer and a public policy analyst. Currently I’m a chapter liaison for black lives matter Ann Arbor and I’ve also organize with the poor People’s campaign. As an activist, veteran and as a social worker I have dedicated my life to service and advocacy.