October 6, 2020
School District:Swartz Creek Community Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Not at this time
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I am running for re-election to the Swartz Creek School board because I believe that everything we do should center around and focus on students. This philosophy has remained the same since I became a school board member 13 years ago and it includes supporting our administrators, staff and families who nurture our students toward success. As parents and concerned citizens of the Swartz Creek community, it is our responsibility to advocate for a sound educational foundation for our children and support their potential for a bright, productive future.
As the mother of four Swartz Creek graduates and grandmother of five sweet grandchildren, family is, has and will always be everything. Now and in the future, I am committed to supporting your children and family. Thank you for your support on November 3rd!
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
On the road to educational justice, district leaders, teams and boards must proactively recognize who our students are, what they aspire to do, what they need to achieve those goals and what challenges they face educationally, socially, emotionally, nutritionally, etc. As we adopt curriculum, policies and budgets, we must also acknowledge the impact and importance of growing diversity in our community including ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, language, or physical, emotional and cognitive abilities.
Our district teams continue to proactively identify opportunities to support students who are at high-risk or are disadvantaged and they have participated in training to increase sensitivity and understanding. Our school board frequently discusses areas of opportunity such as food insecurity and access to technology and the internet and would benefit from similar training.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
In a post-pandemic world, I envision remnants of our new normal with a continued focus on safety precautions and social distancing. This could result in fewer cases of contagious conditions such as the flu. If there is an outbreak of flu in the district, it may be possible for children to learn virtually without spreading infection or losing school time.
If there is a silver lining to this unprecedented time, students and their families had the opportunity to try alternate ways of learning. I believe some parents and students will have adapted to virtual learning and may prefer to continue it. It is possible that some students will progress beyond their peers and parents will request advancement to the next grade or honors classes. This could also happen for face to face/blended students who learned to work independently during the pandemic. Conversely, there will be students who may need extra support and resources to catch up to their classmates. High school students who have engaged in on-line learning may be more likely to complete college credits or participate in dual enrollment. Parent awareness, engagement and involvement may be at an all-time high. The flexibility district teams demonstrated as they quickly pivoted to virtual learning is a good indication of where there may be additional collaboration and multidisciplinary opportunities that will benefit our students in a post-pandemic world.
Finally, my hope is that our students, families and staff have grown closer and when they are all reunited in school, everyone will appreciate each other more than they ever have.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
I support parent, student and family involvement in focus groups and committees. Our board includes a student board representative who provides valuable information and insights during board meetings. During and following the successful passage of our school bond, community volunteers participated in planning and project oversight. Most recently, in preparation for the new school year, polls were distributed to assess community preference for learning modalities followed by polls to ascertain student/family specific options. Going forward, I would like to solicit input from students and families regarding their learning experience during the pandemic.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
My campaign is supported by personal funds
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
Over the next few years, areas of focus and educational goals for the district should include:
• Innovative curriculum alignment across all grade levels with instruction and initiatives that engage our students for academic and personal growth (k-12). Enhanced literacy and STEAM* focus (k-12) *Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math
• Expanded use of MTSS and ACEs training to support student centric interventions with professional development for administrators, educators and support staff.
• Completion of bond projects that support curriculum enhancements and student safety
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
State level priorities that directly or indirectly impact educational goals include:
• Adequate levels of foundation allowance or amount of money provided per student per year. ($8111 for 2019-2020) to support student achievement and growth objectives, and resources to support district staff.
• Support for development of assessments that evaluate student growth based on learning modality (face to face, blended and remote/virtual)
• Financial support to ensure safety for students and staff who attend school in person (e.g., masks, other PPE, hand sanitizer, disinfecting resources, 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?
In the face of a pandemic, Swartz Creek administrators and staff continue to work tirelessly to provide learning options that allow flexibility and prioritize safety for students and staff.
It is critical for students and families to have flexible learning options and resources that support academic growth and achievement in a safe environment. Swartz Creek offers families three learning options including face-to-face, blended and virtual learning, allowing the best choice for the student and their family needs. The district plan also provides equitable access for all students to educational, social and mental health services, food, technology and Wi-Fi/ internet access.
Swartz Creek administrators and staff are committed to a safe learning environment for students and staff. District teams have collaborated to develop preventive strategies including access to protective equipment, proper social distancing, access to handwashing and sanitizer, creative scheduling to reduce exposure and disinfection plans to reduce viral transmission and prioritize safety for students, families & district staff. District leadership is also committed to collaborating with county health officials for direction on COVID cases, contact tracing and quarantine recommendations. The district will abide by direction from the State of Michigan regarding pandemic phase changes. COVID-19 case data, student academic progress and school plan updates will be routinely reported to the Board of Education.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
Top spending priorities:
• Continued investment in innovative curriculum strategies that support academic growth with a strong focus on literacy and STEAM education
• Access for all students to technology to support achievement and growth. This includes purchase of new devices, updates to or replacement of existing devices and learning platforms to support remote learning
• Investment in programs and tiered systems of support that allow district teams to assess students and customize interventions for to meet student academic, social and emotional needs
• Professional development for administrators, educators and support staff
• Competitive compensation, benefits and incentive systems for our talented administrators, educators and support staff
• Readily available personal protective equipment, physical barriers, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and resources to ensure a safe environment for students and staff
• Facilities, grounds and transportation maintenance and upgrades
What should not be a priority:
• Expenses that do not directly or indirectly positively influence children’s educational experience, physical and emotional wellbeing, social development or support district staff who serve our children.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
Standardized tests are required by the state to provide benchmarks and outcomes for student achievement and growth. Our talented district teams also collaborate throughout the year to administer periodic assessments that gauge student growth. Swartz Creek district staff use MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) screening tools to proactively identify students who struggle with academics and/or behavior and provide strategies and intervention to support student growth and success. Our district, which has been a pioneer in MTSS and in previous tools, is often asked by other school districts across the state to share their experience and positive impact on students.
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?
During my 13 years on the Swartz Creek school board, I have had the honor and privilege to work with others to impact many curricular improvements for our students. These include:
• Continued focus on literacy and STEAM* (k-12) *Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math
• Innovative curriculum alignment across all grade levels with instruction and initiatives that engage our students for academic and personal growth k-12
• Expanded advanced placement course options
• Expansion of the fine arts programs, including music, choir, drama and a variety of art programs.
• Expanded technical and skilled trade program opportunities
• Availability of diverse foreign language options, beginning in elementary school and expanding in middle and high school.
• Expanded dual enrollment options for students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
Swartz Community Schools recognizes the need for mental and emotional health and wellbeing services and support for students and staff. The district continues to invest in social workers who work closely with students across the community. During the pandemic, students, families and staff have experienced a quick pivot to virtual learning, the stress of job loss and financial concerns, the challenges of balancing work and in-home learning and reliable access to food. During Michigan’s Safer-at-Home orders, district social workers often visited high risk students at their homes, masked and socially distanced.
Swartz Creek has invested in professional development and training for staff that focuses on mental and emotional needs of staff and students. Additionally, district teams have invested in training for ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) and in becoming a trauma informed school district. This training assists district personnel in working with children who have experienced violence, abuse, or other life stressors with a goal of positively improving behavior and supporting students on their life journey.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
As a board member, one of the many responsibilities I take very seriously is our role for ensuring the physical and emotional safety of all students. The school board establishes policies to define student discipline related to policy violations. These policies describe disciplinary options including in-school suspension, out of school suspensions and hearings before the board of education.
When faced with student discipline involving violence, bullying or other behavior issues that could result in suspension or expulsion, our district employs restorative justice practices that include conferences and circles at the request of a victim with the student under discipline, their parents and school staff. During these conferences sharing and discussion are facilitated with a goal of understanding, acknowledgement, forgiveness and agreement about consequences. Where warranted and allowed, this is intended to replace negative impact of suspension or expulsion on student learning and positively influence the course of a young person’s life.
School safety is of utmost priority to our school district. To protect staff and students from intruders, Swartz Creek has enhanced school safety by adding dual entries at our elementary buildings with similar upgrades scheduled for the middle and high school over the next year.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
Top priorities for special education in the Swartz Creek district include:
• Timely student evaluation to identify student needs, eligibility and develop a plan
• Use of MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) screening tools to proactively identify students who struggle with academics and/or behavior and provide strategies and intervention to support student growth and success
• Availability of certified special education professionals to support student needs
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
This is an area that must be at the forefront of school district planning, training, policy development and open dialogue-all with a goal of shifting the culture.
Equity in education and society is a topic facing school leaders, educators, school boards and communities today and will continue to be a priority for several years to come. Our district recognizes that students have individual needs for learning, growth and success and is focused on innovative programs and interventions to meet those needs. The pandemic has uncovered, and highlighted disparities faced by our students and their families. The district has worked diligently to ensure equitable access for all students to educational, social and mental health services, food, technology and Wi-Fi/ internet access.
Over the past decade, Swartz Creek has invested in professional development and training that shifts focus and awareness from uniform solutions to a student centric approach that supports educational, social, nutritional, emotional and physical health needs. Our administrators and educators work tirelessly to assess student needs and match them with individualized solutions for success. Use of tools such as MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support), training in ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) and work toward becoming a trauma informed school, have had measurable impact on student growth and improvements in student behavior. Going forward, I would advocate for expanding these exceptional efforts and inviting stakeholders across the district, community and student body to openly and honestly exchange experiences, challenges, and solutions.
Any other information you want to include or share?
My best friend and husband, Rick, and I have lived in the Swartz Creek community for over 39 years where we chose to raise our four wonderful children-Aaron, Amanda, Austin and Amelia-all Swartz Creek graduates. We were active in school activities with our children for over 20 years including scouting, parent organizations, band, fundraising and athletics.
I have over 40 years of experience in business, as a pharmacist and as a volunteer and board member for various community groups, organizations and professional associations. Service on these boards and leadership roles have provided me with a clear understanding of a board member’s role and responsibility.
Over the past 13 years, it has been my honor and privilege to serve our students, the district and community as a member of the Swartz Creek board of education. This is a responsibility that I take seriously with a goal of positively affecting the academic achievement and future success of our children.
Thank you for your support on November 3rd!