October 4, 2020

Allison Cooper

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictNorthwest
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

12 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Our school has a diversity of kids, so our Northwest School board should reflect that. We need women, men, different ethnicities and people from different backgrounds to truly represent what Northwest is all about and to be able to advocate for the students. These factors (as well as others) help drive conversation and not have school board representatives that just blindly vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on items.
I have three kids in the Northwest school district and feel I have the skills to speak up, listen, educate myself and state my stance on a variety of topics.

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

Education justice to me means giving students an equal opportunity to learn. This may mean long running rules need to be looked into that may be biased towards some students. To do this, students need highly skilled and effective teachers supported by the school board, community and other authorized NW personnel.

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

I don’t believe this can be answered. We don’t know the aftermath yet of covid-19 to know even where to start with a rebuild. We don’t want to go back to ‘pre-covid’ normal as that world was full of hate and individualism. We need to rebuild with love and equality.

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

I have been a parent in the Northwest School District for 11 years. Up until recently, I didn’t even know who all the school board members were or what issues were coming up for a vote. We should be sharing this information (what is coming to a vote, did it pass, etc) to educate our community. Doing a social media search of “Northwest School Board” doesn’t have a lot of results. It all starts with education.

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

No finances used

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

Northwest needs to continue to be an equal opportunity employer. Fair pay regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, physical or mental disability or age. Preparing our students for college, trade school or the workplace (this means mentally as well. Mental health is as important as physical health, for students and teachers).
Our teachers are extremely overworked right now. They are creating virtual lessons as well as teaching in the classroom without extra time to prepare. Our school needs to talk through contracting out the virtual learning or higher someone else to do it.

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

Mental health is severely lacking in schools. Suicide rates are on the rise. Anxiety and depression effect so many children and it’s often an afterthought. We need a safe place in school (or place to go or recommendations of counselors) where students are comfortable and can work through this.
Teachers are one of the most underpaid professions. Every one of us can remember how a teacher lifted us up or shut us down while in school. We need to reward good teachers with higher salaries. They are educating the next presidents and CEOs and utility workers!
School districts also need to be able to request more funds from the state. Things that could be funded: one book per student for ELA classes, virtual lessons or virtual teacher salary, basic essentials for those that can’t afford them (pencils, erasers, markers, folders, etc).

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?

One of the challenges I see now is routine. Kids love routine and when it gets disrupted, it’s not just the kids that are affected. Parents may have to find last minute daycare, teachers may have to be quarantined and find subs, and community members may be exposed. When a covid case hits our school, it disrupts the routine (whether you are a face to face or virtual student). There is no 100% sure way to keep everyone safe. Based on the small number of cases that we’ve had at Northwest, we should analyze the data as to why they came to school and why others were exposed and find ways to prevent it going forward. Were teachers not socially distancing in the break room? Were students not wearing masks properly? Did parents not know symptoms of covid?

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

I don’t have access to the budgeted items to answer this effectively.

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

I do believe standardized tests play a role in education but we may need to think outside the box as to what this looks like. A quick google search shows standardized testing started back in 1914. How often has this been revisited? There are lots of things to take into consideration like some students are very intelligent but are poor test takers.

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?

Our Northwest community knows that not all families have access to high speed internet, electronic devices or food. I applaud Northwest for prioritizing these means as we continue in the covid pandemic. Students have received internet pucks (if needed), electronic devices and have a way to request lunches if they aren’t doing face to face learning.

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

See above. We need to do more and, absolutely, the school district needs to be involved.

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

As a parent, I have seen studies that show positive reinforcement is a better way of driving behavior than negative. Northwest held classes to educate parents a few years ago that my husband and I attended. It was great to see many from our community (including teachers!) attend to show what this looks like. Today, they have a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) system in place. I haven’t seen any data to see if this system is working, but it seems like it would.
Again, educating students, staff, parents, and the community on the expectations of those entering Northwest facilities on what is acceptable and not.

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

I don’t know enough about what our school does for special education to be able to answer this. I know they have some amazing staff.

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

Everybody wants equity in education. Nobody wants to see students fail. We are not there yet. Northwest, Jackson, the United States, the world…is not there yet. We should continuing striving toward it and let others follow instead of waiting on others to lead the way. As I mentioned earlier, does Northwest have some rules that would favor students over others? Real world example, if a job listing asks for a certain certificate to apply, but testing is only available online so only those with access to internet could take it, we are already disqualifying some. Is there a similar certificate/document/license that could be acquired by a broader audience, opening up the pool of applicants for that job? Having a diverse school board, will bring out information that others haven’t thought of.

Any other information you want to include or share?

We need a diverse school board. We need women. We need men. We need diverse backgrounds. We need different cultures.
There are some amazing people running in this School Board campaign this year. I ask that you vote for people that may be different than you so we can continue to understand our students’, our staff’s and our community’s needs. We will only get this if we have members that think differently and are open to conversation and educating themselves and others on each topic brought to the Northwest Board of Education.