October 4, 2020
School DistrictPlymouth-Canton Community Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
MEA, AFL-CIO, IBEW, State Rep Kristy Pagan, State Rep Matt Koleszar, Senator Dayna Polehanki, Wayne County Commissioner Melissa Daub, Canton Township Treasurer Dian Slavens, Canton Township Trustee Sommer Foster, Canton Township Trustee Anne Marie Graham-Hudak
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I’m running for school board because I believe that every child deserves the best educational opportunities where they feel safe, welcomed, encouraged, challenged, and supported to learn and thrive. I care deeply about students, my school district, and community. I am passionate about education and want to work on eliminating the opportunity gaps that exist in some of our subgroups. I have been serving on the board for four years where we have made progress, but there is more that we need to do to be the best district in the state.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
Education justice is where everyone has opportunities to receive high quality instruction with highly qualified teaching staff with appropriate support to remove barriers to learning. This means ensuring that everyone has support and opportunities for advanced classes, music/band, personalized curriculum, personalized support to remove barriers so that students can continue to advance (where gaps in learning don’t compound year after year), and schools that create inclusive environments that are welcoming and supporting of students’ needs and differences. Our school district embraced the restorative practices for students to help with discipline and suspension issues so that students don’t lose out on quality instructional opportunities.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
Personalized learning pathways where student learning is not measured by the strict number of minutes a student sits in class or in front of a computer. Students need more opportunities to be creative, problem solve, collaborate, communicate, and create networks beyond their physical classroom spaces.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
Parents are a critical element to the success of a child and the district. Our board meetings welcome parent/student input and we ask parents/families to provide feedback depending with programs and opportunities. We should embrace parent involvement in other meaningful ways, including welcoming parents/families to learn about the different programs beyond the “parent/curriculum” night. We can create meaningful and productive collaborative opportunities where we meet families in their environments as we make a concerted effort to better understand their needs.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
Individual Donors, Canton Democratic Club, MEA
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
Equity (eliminate opportunity gaps for students in subgroups), social emotional support for students, smaller class sizes (particularly for elementary classes).
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
Adequate funding to support student success for all students including those that have additional needs (at-risk, special education, EL, etc.), personalized learning pathways for students, redesign learning for multiple success pathways to prepare students for workforce/college.
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?
My biggest priority is the health and well being of our students and staff, while providing students with high quality learning opportunities in the middle of this pandemic as we have to shift how instruction is delivered. We are dealing with a highly contagious virus that can cause many complications and fatalities. It’s a challenging situation that none of us ever envisioned and there are no easy answers. We are challenged with space, funding, teaching staff, busing, technology to create robust learning opportunities. Our families and teachers are doing the best they can with the minimum funding we get from the state. One of my concerns is around the expansion of the opportunity gaps this pandemic has caused and will continue to cause if we don’t come up with robust and creative solutions to meet the unique needs of students.
To ensure student and staff safety, the district is working with our local county health department, medical professional, school nurses, guidance from the MI Safe School Return to School Roadmap, physical distancing, face coverings, improved circulation, and outline strict and robust cleaning practices to ensure that surfaces will be thoroughly cleaned.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
Top priorities include increased social-emotional/mental health support for students, smaller classes, innovative student programs, devices/internet access, robust technology solutions to provide teachers with the tools they need, budget for teacher learning opportunities, high quality instructional materials, better pay for teachers & paraprofessionals (parapros), increased parapros, mentor teachers to build teacher capacity, and building infrastructure to ensure student and staff well-being, including safety enhancements.
It’s hard to say what should not be prioritized because we are doing the best we can with the limited funding we get. I would not want to take anything away without understanding the data/rationale behind cutting any program or initiative. District needs to do an analysis of what programs are working and which are not to figure out next steps. I don’t believe we should invest in more school reform officers.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
Standardized tests can be one of many measures of student success, but should not be the only measure. We need multiple assessment measure including student portfolios, formative assessment, and program success based on competency of standards rather than standardized tests.
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?
Move toward an anti-racist curriculum.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
We have a huge responsibility, but not enough funding to support this. This is a critical element that we continue expand to support students. We know how trauma and mental health can impact student success.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
One program that our district implemented a few years ago is restorative practices. We have seen improvements, but still have work to do with getting all staff trained and bringing the community along with this initiative so that it becomes part of our community.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
We are not doing enough to support all of our special education staff. One of the priorities would be to have more staff and support for special education students.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
This has been a priority for the board and the district for the past 5+ years. We need to work at eliminating barriers, working toward an anti-racist/balanced curriculum, increase staff diversity, and update our equity policy to ensure that we are intentionally working toward achieving equity. We started anti-bias training with the administration, but we need to offer this to all staff.
Any other information you want to include or share?
In June, I was appointed to Governor Whitmer’s Return to School Advisory Council to provide guidance on creating the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap. I serve on multiple statewide committees to provide equitable support and services to schools. I have extensive experience working with students and school districts as an administrator, consultant, and classroom teacher. I am also a proud mother of a teenager at P-CCS.