October 4, 2020

Amy Gardine

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictGrandville Public Schools
City:Grandville

How long have you lived in your district?

6

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes. MEA and GEA

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am passionate about education and how this leads to better citizens, socioeconomic equity, and social justice.

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

I believe that educational justice looks like programs that help children at all levels of the spectrum: from special education to advance placement courses. It looks like economic aid, enriched cultural and personal experiences, as well as attention to the whole child — from mental health to physical wellbeing. It also looks like the interplay between teacher creativity, student engagement, and community support for all children.

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

When I moved to Grandville in 2014, I proposed an outdoor education program for my sons’ elementary building. We had come from a Montessori in Indiana that used farm-based curriculum to teach every subject. This not only created engaged learners, but also reduced daily anxiety, taught social justice regarding food security, and allowed students to learn at their own pace. This dream from six years ago has become a reality. We now have a 12-tree orchard, enormous garden, a greenhouse, and an outdoor classroom in the woods. This year, during COVID19, our students did not miss a step. They were not just learning, they were also thriving in the outdoors. Anxiety is low and every student — from our most fragile to our strongest — is feeling safe and engaged.

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

Relationship is key to strong schools. In the pursuit to create positive school district policies, the school board takes on the vital role as the ears of the community. It is the job of the school board to listen, discern, and implement the best practices for all children. In order to do our best for the community at large, we must seek enriching, safe, inclusive educational experiences where all students, teachers, and parents are valued.

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

I was mostly given small donations from friends, teachers, and even the mayor of Grandville.

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

I am a firm believer that education is the great leveler. If social and economic issues are addressed, then students feel safe. If mental health issues are met, students feel heard. And if academic excellence is provided, students feel empowered. These three areas of education are extremely important to me.

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

I would say that my priorities are the same at the state level as they have been for the local schools: social and economic justice; mental health; and academic excellence.

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?

So far we have been doing very well in this district. There is a strict adherence to the CDC standards and we spend a lot of time outside. Both of these approaches are serving us well. As we head into the winter months, it is my hope that we can find creative and safe spaces for additional outdoor time. As we move forward, strict adherence to cleanliness and keeping students home for illness will be even more important. I also believe that the flu shot and helping students and teachers with PPE will aid in the process.

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 that Grandville would benefit from additional mental health initiatives and social justice work programming in the Grand Rapids community at large.

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

I believe that we over-test our youngest students. The idea that we test more and are given less human interaction and teaching time is a bit ludicrous.

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 the vast opportunities afforded our students — from AP and advance classes to the many music and technology programs available in the district. I would, however, invest in alternative options like middle college curriculum and/or trade classes.

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

Mental health is one of my priorities. School age children are truly facing unprecedented times. The pressures and exposure to real world trauma has increased exponentially. But teachers are also under enormous stress. I believe counselors and mental health advisors should be an integral resource for our entire school population.

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

School safety goes hand in hand with mental health work. At Grandville we have resource officers, and the best thing I have seen with these officers has been their willingness to participate in mental health training. Working alongside counselors and the whole community, we can work toward every child feeling heard and being safe.

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

The elementary where I helped start the outdoor classrooms is also home to our ASD students. The inclusion and enrichment offered for these students is marvelous. From the garden to the classroom, we embrace each student for his or her own unique gifts. Many of our mainstream students end up feeling very comfortable with difference and will often be the students who participate in the LINKS program in the middle school and high school. I hope to see this continue and expand as the needs of our community grow and we all continue to enjoy the community of inclusion.

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

The current atmosphere around racial, economic, and identity equity is quite disheartening. I do not think it is without hope, but I do believe that the best place to begin and implement the conversation of equity is in the schools. We must do better for all students if we hope to build the fabric of our nation as a whole.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I love public education and believe it is our best hope at encouraging an equitable and just society: