October 4, 2020
School DistrictUtica Community Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
haven’t applied for any
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
because education isn’t equitable in this district. It doesn’t reflect standards of equitable teaching, it doesn’t include studies or readings written by people who aren’t white, and seventy five percent of the students in the advanced placement programs in high school come from far north of Hall road.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
it means each school gets the same opportunities as the other schools. That means that some schools will be funded less, as we bring other schools up to parity, you can’t have decades of decline in half a district and then give them the same amount of money as the other schools and call it equality.
We need more minority teachers. There are zero teachers of color in the schools my children attend. There are zero people of color in administrative positions. We cannot reflect a diverse body, while not reflecting it in our school staffing.
Our schools really need to include curriculum on Native and Black and Latino and Asian readings and historical contributions to our nation. The social studies books were printed in 1996. Our math texts are shared between students via copies. We bleed students into charter schools that enact racist policies that are harmful to students of color, while boosting their numbers for testing and attendance.
We cannot have systemic change without having first started with education. We cannot expect children to know about the Holocaust if we don’t teach it. We can’t expect them to know about the contributions to American advancements from women and people of color if we don’t teach it.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
First I would like to change the school of choice funding policy. The idea that each child is tied to money hurt every school district badly. Instead of cooperating with each other, where maybe UCS can run a STEM program, and Armada a fine arts program and Richmond a Farm program, and students can freely and easily move among them, the funding per student model makes it a competition to retain students. Without the funding, schools collapse. When I was in high school Oakland and Macomb cooperated on a trades training school, something that simply isn’t fiscally possible to enact today.
By just proportioning differently, districts wouldn’t have to compete for students, which would allow far more cooperation.
I would like to see the district adopt the 2008 Massachusetts education standards, something introduced to me by a GOP state legislature, so I was very skeptical. When I read the hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents, I was very impressed. These are the best education standards I have ever read and they required that students come out of their high school education fully ready to enter into college or a trade school with a strong competitive edge
I want a complete eradication of immoral “holding rooms” for children with special needs. Something I didn’t even know Michigan schools did, until I read about heartbreaking experiences of children being locked in rooms for having emotional disturbances at school. I want to ensure that before police are called to address student issues, that every possible other choice has been attempted. Did you try a cool down, did you try social work, did you try the nurse, did you call the parents? Calling the police on a child should never be done lightly, or at all if there is no physical risk to the student body or staff.
I want special needs students to have far more staffing. With stricter standards for education requirements and less distress or hoop jumping for parents asking for evaluation and services. I want teachers to feel free to refer students for evaluation, knowing they have the full support and weight of the school board behind them.
And I want teachers to know the district works with them, not along side or against them. Under Dr. Johns, even two months ago, the district attempted to sideline our teachers and hire contractors for online teaching and the board went along. We tell our teachers they are “critical”. What does that mean? It means that it is critical they work for the good of the country, but we won’t issue bullet proof backpacks for them to hang in their closets at school, even with mass shootings happening regularly in schools.
We tell them they are critical, and then use the power of district communication with parents to attack their requests for fair wages and healthcare.
We say they are critical, then demand they go back to in person learning, no matter the cost to them or their families, and complain if they don’t want too. I am done with this. We have a severe teacher shortage and the disgusting treatment of them is a large part of why.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
Students, especially as they get older, have a vested interest in their education and often have reasonable feedback for changes. They are on the edge of all change in the country, just by being young and engaged with social and commercial activities. Student body governments should be offered rotating monthly spots at the board to listen to how it works, and contribute what they see as missing.
Parents also have a vested interest in the district. They see how children are struggling or need support. Listening to concerns also helps bring new ideas and solutions to the table.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
I don’t accept campaign contributions from anyone but individuals, and in this case didn’t take any at all. Money in politics has destroyed the foundations of this country.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
re-imagining special needs services
modernizing texts and ensuring the best educational standards available
desegregation of teaching and administrative voices and a broadening of education material to include more information on minority contributions
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
better education standards
expansion of special needs services and hiring
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?
Covid and then Covid with flu will require regular readjustment to in person or online learning. The danger inherent of in person, but the struggles of parents and children with home learning must be carefully balanced against each other. Special needs students, students who receive OT/PT/Speech therapy in a school setting can’t afford to lose in person time, where as neuro/physical typical children suffer from isolation and boredom. Getting children back in classrooms is important. We can’t do that without ensuring their safety and the safety of our teachers and staff. We just have to be flexible. Sometimes they will go to classroom learning. As infections rise, we will have to go back to online. Until their is a vaccine, we don’t have a lot of options. Closing for the winter and opening in the summer may be more beneficial, people get less sick in the summer, whereas winter flu is rampant along with colds and now this Covid. We can’t just stay the same.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
modernization of texts and learning tools
staff and teaching pay
retaining experienced staff and retraining those that need it
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
I am luke warm at best to standardized tests. The statistics are only barely significant to show them as useful and all they reflect is that the teacher taught the test.
NWEA are pretty useful, in that they track student progress throughout a year or even multiple years. This helps teachers and parents determine where we need to shore up that particular childs education. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, standardized tests can go and never come back. Michigan doesn’t compare theirs on a national level, and we don’t get any special benefit from them. Waste of time and resources.
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?
We need more studies of people in this country. We need more information on South/Central America and Canada. These kids know more European history when they graduate than Canadian or Central American and that makes no sense at all.
I want to see specifically a fine arts program, similar to MST or IB or CSI. Michigan has several world renowned art schools, but UCS doesn’t train students to attend them. A recent study came out saying that fully 75% of students don’t understand what happened during the Holocaust, and that is partly due to our insistence that only math and science matter. The fine arts teach humanity, they also improve math scores.
Armada has a fine arts program for high school, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to speak to them and see how they do it, how they fund it, what steps they take to encourage children to attend.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
A lot. Poverty is trauma, and its ongoing trauma. School shootings, bullying, are trauma and they are ongoing trauma. If we fail to take care of these, the trauma is spread around. It impacts the students and then the student behavior impacts the teachers and other students. It is a cycle. We can stop it by provided better counseling services, better access to mental health and emotional healthcare and ensuring that bullying results in expulsion after the first warning.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
Removing a student from the educational body without actual harm to another student should never be considered. Using police to enact school discipline in the absence of real threats of harm and not just assumed/feared threats of harm should never be permitted.
Ensuring our discipline standards are applied evenly across districts and that punishments are the same regardless of gender, race or address is a must, and I would like to see a study done every year auditing that.
Dress codes need to be updated to reflect the fact that our young women are not required to not “distract” the young men, rather that the young men in our district are expected to conduct themselves respectfully to all students, regardless of dress.
I have seen female students removed from class enmass and told to stop dressing proactively, while the boys continued their education process. Our daughters education rights are far more important than their standard of dress, and never again should a female student be forced to undergo modesty lectures at the expense of their education. If a student or teacher feels unable to concentrate due to a young woman’s shoulders, that is a character issue they personally need to reflect on and not make the public at large responsible for.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
increased access, stricter education requirements, eradication of isolation rooms
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
its past time. It’s past time and frankly the segregation of these schools freaks me out.