October 14, 2020

Dean Prowse

Pronouns: He/Him/His
School District:Portage
City: Portage

How long have you lived in your district?

11 years in Portage; 26 years in Kalamazoo County

Have you received any endorsements?

Portage Education Association and Michigan Education Association

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I spent the last decade volunteering in classes, going on field trips, training and traveling with the wrestling team, and working countless concession stand shifts. I know that I’m the underdog in this race. Few people will have heard of me, but I’m a hard worker and I listen to people and I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I may not have the same experience as others on the Board, but our world is changing quickly and maybe we could use someone who can think outside-the-box and wants to hear what everyone in the community has to say.

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

Education justice is a way of examining what “equal” really means when it comes to education. Offering the same opportunities to all children isn’t really equal if some children aren’t able to take advantage of those opportunities. Portage is a great community with some wealthier areas and some areas that have more struggles. We need to make sure all students are receiving what they need for their educational wellbeing (which must include physical and mental wellbeing).

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

If I could reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, there would be significantly more emphasis placed on improvements to technology and virtual learning. I don’t think 100% virtual learning is ideal, but I don’t think putting people’s lives at risk is acceptable either. I think increased virtual opportunities could actually reduce the stress on teachers and parents if it’s done correctly. This should never have been a choice between teachers teaching in-person and parents effectively teaching at home. There are many ways to accomplish greatly reduced in-person classrooms, while increasing the number of educators and caregivers to assist kids in new learning processes.

I would also like to see a serious emphasis on physical wellbeing in the early years of school. No child should get to 3rd grade without understanding the need to keep germs away from their face, wash their hands, remove themselves if they are feeling sick, pay attention to their body, etc. Most students do some type of journaling during some part of their classes each year – why not have that journal include keeping track of movement, temperature, heart rate, etc. This isn’t solely about pandemics – attention to fitness is vital to having healthy children.

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

Collaboration is key to an equitable learning environment. We should have a community where parents, teachers, students, and families are all partners in the education process.

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

I’m a complete novice to politics, so I haven’t done any fundraising. A few friends have helped me out with yard signs, and my wife gave me $50 to set up an account for the election, but she said she wants it back. :-/

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

Enhanced student/teacher/parent empowerment.
Learning from, and teaching for, diversity
Enact a broad community-based mentoring program.

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

(same as local)
Enhanced student/teacher/parent empowerment.
Learning from, and teaching for, diversity
Enact a broad community-based mentoring program.

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 has given us a great opportunity to expand our thinking about educating kids. Whether or not kids are in a building each day, provide them with the technology they need to stay connected and give them more opportunities to get additional help, to report bullying, and to report issues at home. Let’s show kids that we care about whether they are healthy, happy, and educated, and that location or time of day doesn’t change that.

It’s also an opportunity to reinforce good hygiene. How much class time do we lose each year from illness that might be mitigated with better hygiene? How much work do parents lose because of illnesses from kids?

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

I’d imagine money is always in short supply, so I look forward to looking for ways to help solve that, whether it’s cutting unnecessary spending or finding alternative funding. If cuts were necessary, I’d first look for ways to combine some of the administrative positions where it would have less of a direct impact on students. I’d also want to hear from students, parents, and teachers. Why not let them have a say in what could be reduced or cut in order to preserve things they want preserved? I realize that people outside of the process may not be able to fully grasp the intricacies of each part of the budget, but that doesn’t mean their voices shouldn’t be heard. When I worked at Eaton, I was a firm believer in “continual improvement” of processes. I think all systems can incorporate a “continual improvement” mentality and work towards getting things done faster and cheaper without sacrificing quality.

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

The value in standardized tests has historically been to create baselines, to measure specific skill sets, etc. They are also expensive to purchase and administer, can have inherent bias, and really only show how someone performed on a specific day. There are so many new ways to look at a lot of data, using business analytics and other tools, there are likely much better ways to track how well kids are learning.

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 want a school district where teachers are involved and empowered. To do that, we need to make sure they aren’t overworked or stressed over things they cannot control, and that their voices have power. I want a school district where the community is more involved with mentoring programs. I think we often look at mentoring programs as ways to help academically superior or disadvantaged students, but a large community-based mentoring program can also be a great way to displace some of that work and stress on teachers by extending the circle of adults that kids can rely on.

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

I believe the school district has a lot of responsibility in supporting the mental and emotional health/wellbeing of both students and staff. I don’t, however, believe that only happens in a face-to-face environment. I actually think a lot of mental and emotional health and wellbeing could be better served virtually. It would provide more opportunities for engagement, and most importantly, offer multiple ways to engage. Many young people find engaging virtually to be easier than in-person, and that should provide a big opportunity to reach a lot of students previously ignored.

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

The district has some work to do with regards to discipline. Educators should not be disciplinarians. Schools should be safe, but I don’t think we’ll get there with zero tolerance and other antiquated policies that don’t provide for understanding why kids behave the way they do.

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

My daughter is finishing her degree in Special Education, and she’s specialized in special needs for a number of years, so I definitely have some thoughts about special education! The pandemic has highlighted the need for more focus on the health and wellbeing of students, but primarily those students with medical conditions that put them more at risk. It’s also highlighted the need to have more parent involvement with Special Education, to ensure the students are getting their needs met when they aren’t in a face-to-face setting with teachers. And for those students who need to stay home to avoid being sick, we certainly need more ways to interact with them while they are at home.

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

We need more emphasis on emotional and social intelligence, because those play a large part in academic intelligence. It’s much easier to teach happy, healthy children.

Any other information you want to include or share?

If you haven’t voted already, please visit the League of Women Voters (Michigan – https://www.lwvmi.org; Kalamazoo County – https://www.lwvka.org) and Vote 411 (https://www.vote411.org) for unbiased, non-partisan information on candidates and how to make sure your vote is counted.