October 4, 2020

Donald Walker

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictFarmington Public School District
City:Farmington Hills

How long have you lived in your district?

13 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Beloved Community Initiative

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to help create a transformative, encouraging, and safe environment that produces future ready students who are ready to take on the world. Lately, our school community has gone through a number of negative incidents which is preventing FPS from being the best district in the state. I want to work to change that.

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

Education justice means the removal of any aspect within our educational system that marginalizes or excludes any group. Within our district, it means an environment where African-American students are not called the “n” word, African American cheerleaders are not referred to as strippers or special needs children are not traumatized by being physically handled by their teachers to the point where marks are left on their bodies. Education justice means our students’ bodies are respected and seen as the children they are not described in negative adult contents. It means instruction and assignments that are sensitive, respectful, and inclusive of the entire history and experiences of a group, both in the past and present.

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

I would see the “digital divide” closed completely. Students would have a one to one ratio of technology with the appropriate levels of internet bandwidth to support its use. I see homes with children getting a discount because their work would be done using the internet. This would allow the business community to give back to school districts and families. I see smaller class sizes to help with social distancing. I see the community providing learning centers to help with the overflow of students as a consequence of social distancing. I see better salaires and training for teachers to become more effective online teachers which would attract more people into the profession. I see a curriculum that is better suited for learning being taught online leaving more room in schools for classes that must be face to face. I see a school system and community that is better able to put its collective arms around students to take care of and educate them under any circumstance allowing parents the freedom to work worry-free.

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

Public comments are the first place where our community should have a voice. The current public comment policies of our district does not allow for discourse through a response to questions that come from public comments.
Additional ways of getting the community involved with decisions within the school district come from “town-halls” with parents and lead administrators throughout the school year. Student leadership should have a voice at board meetings to report their accomplishments and share concerns about their experiences. This begins with school leadership being active, respectful, and attentive listeners with accountability measures.

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

Individuals from the community, professional colleagues, friends and family.

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

1. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – I will support Farmington’s new leadership in this area. I will bring resources to support the leadership’s plan. I will support accountability measures for FPS employees and students to create a safe, encouraging, and inclusive environment for students and teachers.

2. Increased College Prep and CTE Participation – I will work to increase student participation in our advanced programs through greater awareness. I will support innovative curriculum and instruction in the earlier grades that will better prepare students for the rigors of International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement education.

3. Accessibility – I will use my media experience and my time spent in the communications department of DPSCD to support the creation of additional lines of communication. I will continue virtual meetings with target groups including students. I will push for a public comment policy that provides comments to questions 30 days after hearing them in board meetings.

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

1. Diversity and Equity – The same examination of implicit bias and racism that is happening on the local level needs to be applied at the state level.

2. The third grade reading law – This law is punitive. It does not take into consideration the social impact of holding children back. Resources are needed to impact what is preventing elementary students from being strong readers by the third grade.

3. Equitable funding for districts based on areas of weakness and poverty levels within their district.

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?

The biggest challenge is keeping students engaged virtually. Spotty internet, lack of personal connection, distractions in the home environments, and lack of familiarity with learning platforms are making things very challenging.

Until science says otherwise, we must keep as many students at home as possible. We should be creating learning centers within our schools for the small population of students who must be face to face. These smaller populations of students will allow for more effective social distance and protective measures for the face to face teachers and students.

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

In this year, our spending priorities should reflect technology upgrades to help bridge the digital divide, teacher salaries and bonuses, and safety measures for whatever level of face to face instruction the district returns to. We should not be spending money on brand new learning management systems given to teachers two weeks for the start of school in the midst of a pandemic.

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

Standardized tests should serve as a pre-test and a post test throughout the school. Educational plans should be built upon the data from the tests. Modification should take place as the year progresses based on the work of the student. These tests should be culturally appropriated and free from bias in questions.

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?

The curriculum should be inclusive, diverse, and free from bias. It should be project based with real-world applications. The curriculum should be interconnected where possible i.e. showing the geometric applications found within 3D animation. I would keep the efforts already made toward inclusion and build from there.

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

The health and well-being of both staff and students are a large part of the district’s responsibility. If their mental and emotional well being is not positively addressed, they can’t teach or learn effectively. Teachers may lose patience faster and students will act out more.

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

Anything short of a physical threat to the safety of staff and students, should be addressed by restorative justice/practice. Give the student a chance to learn from the incident, stay in school and grow. Physical threats should be given to the police. However, police do not need to be in the building.

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

1. Appropriate funding
2. Social-emotional health and wellbeing
3. Transitioning into work and independence

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

It is completely necessary and needed. People need to understand equity does not mean equal. It means understanding and meeting people where they are and providing needed resources to allow everyone the same chances to become the best versions of themselves.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I am a husband, father of three children (all either graduated or attend FPS), and have nearly 30 years in communications and education as an instructor, videographer, editor, and administrator. I have worked with students for my entire professional career. I have held leadership positions in a trade school and communications department for a large school district. Currently, I am the director of a Career Technical Education program and sit on two boards that serve high school career pathways. I am open-minded, accessible, skilled, and ready to serve especially in our current climate.