October 20, 2020

M. Jeanice Townsend

Pronouns:she/her
School District:Ypsilanti Community Schools
City:Ypsilanti

How long have you lived in your district?

30+

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes , Mayor Lois Richardson , City of Ypsilanti Kirk Profit , Former Michigan State Representative Superior Township Trustee Lisa Lewis Pittsfield Township Trustee Linda Edwards-Brown Cherisa Allen , MSW Retired Ypsilanti High School Counselor Beverly Tyler Jeanette Hadden , Community Advocate Dr. Benjamin Edmondson , Former Ypsilanti Community Schools Superintendent Washtenaw County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson Lawrence Hood , Achievement Network Vice President Bryan Foley , Community Advocate Ypsilanti City Councilman Brian Jones-Chance Ypsilanti Township Trustee Jimmie Wilson , Jr. Attorney Terrence Quinn Andy French , Community Business Owner Attorney Arianne Slay Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton Kathy Wyatt Attorney Ka’Nea Brooks-Caldwell Emma Jackson , Retired Education Administrator Pastor Jason Robon , Reach Church Washtenaw County Democratic Party – Black Caucus

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I have a passion for children. I want to make sure that every child in this community receives a quality education. I want to be on the team of board members , YCS teachers , staff and administrators , families and community partners who achieve the vision of a transformed school district where “Every family considers Ypsilanti Community Schools a place where they belong , and a crucial part of their identity as learners.”

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

Education justice means the quality of a school’s education is not determined by geographic location , neighborhood socio economic status , and racial demographics. It means funding all schools equitably – not based on housing prices and not determined by community vote or partisan politics.

In the context of my school district , achieving education justice means not letting our vision of a quality education be limited by our budget restraints. For example , if we are temporarily unable to increase wages due to budget constraints , we need to think outside the box of traditional compensation to develop meaningful incentives and resources to reduce the overall cost of living for our teachers and staff. Strategies for doing this might include a housing down payment assistance program; student loan reduction/forgiveness plans; and tuition reimbursement for continuing education. Washtenaw County is home to educational institutions and responsive community leaders who can help YCS create win/win budget enrichment programs as we work towards long term financial strength and stability.

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

It is my responsibility as a board member to consistently work towards an educational system that works most effectively for every family , and every learner. This public health crisis has given us new insight into what our priorities must be as we move forward. Key ingredients of my vision include:

1) Schools as communities , centers for family learning.

2) Every family has affordable internet access and sufficient equipment and training to use it.

3) Parents as teachers and learners – for example , IT adults teaching other adults how to use computers. We need to have a strong adult education format.

4) Neighborhood learning pods continued outside of school hours.

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

As described in a recent article about YCS response to the pandemic , parents , students , families and other community stakeholders are currently being involved in decision making. As a new board member , I will prioritize an assessment of the systems , policies and practices that are in place to make sure families feel they are being heard. I will also work to ensure that their involvement is intentional , strategic and broadly representative.

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

Myself , family , and friends.

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

Safety

Equity

Quality

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

Sufficient and equitable funding.

Strong , consistent and trustworthy relationships between YCS and our state legislators.

Well informed state leaders who recognize the critical role YCS plays in our county.

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 the biggest challenge in the upcoming year is how do we provide a quality education post Covid and reinvent ourselves to be a state-of-the-art district that can provide both online and in-person learning with less resources. A component of that would be to create a curriculum that engages our student in deeper learning and cultural relevance. We will also need to create partnerships with our stakeholders that will result in scale growth such creating housing opportunities for our families and career training. Lastly , the other biggest challenge will be , how do we quickly implement systematic changes that will positively affect long term goals for our children.

In order to keep our staff and students safe , we have to listen to the science and create contingency plans that will gradually allow our students and staff to return to our schools. In the meantime , we need to increase our support staff and social workers to help our family and teachers cope with our new way of learner. We will also need for our leaders and community to help with providing additional resources to reinforce our educational goals. In other words , all hands on deck.

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

The schools top priority spending for this current budget will need to be on 1) Making sure that the buildings are safe (updating the HVAC systems are compatible). We must have enough PPE equipment for staff and students. 2) Special education services and resources. 3) Testing – We need to consistently look at our metrics to make sure that our students are staying on course. 4) Support services for our students , families , and staff….equity.

In regards to what we should not to prioritize , as new board member I would need to know all of our current restrictions on our budget and listen to other perspectives from other board members and administration in order to give an opinion.

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

Continual , reliable and effectively conducted assessment is an absolutely critical component of every school district. The problems with using standardized testing as a measure of teaching and learning success are well documented. Despite the challenges of the testing it is imperative to use the standardized tests. The role of the standardized test coupled with other performance measures will determine next steps for student success.

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 board member , the way I have an impact on my district’s curriculum is by making sure the curriculum experts we employ are highly qualified and reflect the district’s core values in their practice. It is my responsibility to identify a district leader who is experienced and knowledgeable enough to identify and support. In regards to changes , I would make sure that the curriculum creates a feeder program for careers that we now know that our community requires due to the inequities that Covid -19 has brought to light. For example , we need to increase and expand our CTE program to focus on careers in agriculture , trades , entrepreneurship , medical , and legal.

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

Mentally healthy children are more successful in school and life. Research demonstrates that students who receive social–emotional and mental health support achieve better academically. School climate , classroom behavior , on-task learning , and students’ sense of connectedness and well-being all improve as well. Additionally , the American Federation of Teachers (2015) found that 78% of teachers reported feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. The stress that educators experience affects their enthusiasm about the profession and longevity in the field. Knowing this data commissions YCS to implement programs that puts emotional health as a priority. How you treat and support your team should be a direct reflection of your district’s core values.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?In order to have a proper discipline platform , the district will need to create strong partnerships with our community resources and the court/criminal justice systems that will encourage positive restorative justice practices. We need to make sure that we employ staff that are highly qualified to assist with getting to the core issues that hinder our students from learning. We will need to have a policy that allows a culture shift on how we deal with discipline issues. Our partnership with the criminal justice and court system should help to create alternative response to how we deal with discipline issues while promoting a positive outcomes to help our children succeed. The goal is create productive citizens who are highly educated.

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

High Quality Instruction – It is clear that we have to support the students’ needs not the labels that are attached to them. We have to view our students as individuals. School is normalized with assistive technology that allows them to access core content. Students are no longer removed from regular instruction. Enabling paraprofessionals , social workers , Title I teachers , special educators to work in concert with the student to close the gap of learning.

School Safety – Employing a mental health interventionist on staff responsible for addressing the range of mild to severe trauma that can impede student functioning. These interventionists also lead schoolwide behavioral initiatives , including bullying reduction and positive behavior supports.

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

In order to learn , every human being needs an environment where they feel safe , respected and valued. In order to feel welcome in their children’s schools , parents and caring adults need to feel safe , respected and valued in their relationship with their children’s schools. In order to teach effectively , teachers need to feel safe , respected and valued.

In order to create and sustain a truly equitable learning community , we need to identify the ways we , and therefore our educational system , perpetuates inequity and oppression.

Any other information you want to include or share?

My primary goal as a board member is to make sure that every child that comes through YCS succeeds. I want our children to be proud of the education that they received and I want them to be prepared for whatever path of success that they choose.