October 4, 2020

Dr. Brittany N. Barber Garcia

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictCaledonia Community Schools
City:Caledonia

How long have you lived in your district?

I was born and raised in Caledonia. I graduated from Caledonia High School as the class Salutatorian in 2002. After my education and training out of state, my husband and I moved back to Michigan in 2013. We built our current home and officially moved back to Caledonia in April 2019.

Have you received any endorsements?

No.

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

First, I am seeking this position because I have a passion for supporting children and adolescents. I will advocate for children to have access not only to a top-tier education, but also the academic, social, and emotional support they need to be successful. Second, I want to serve as a conduit for three-way communication between the board, teachers/staff, and the community. Third, I have unique perspective as a pediatric psychologist who works with youth every day and I have a pulse on their thoughts and feelings about school that will benefit our community.

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

To me, educational justice means each individual student has what he or she needs in order to work toward their individual learning goals. Resources are often unequally distributed between schools within a school district and between students within schools, and educational justice strives toward equal distribution of high-quality teachers, educational resources, support services, advanced courses, and materials to all students. In the context of Caledonia Community Schools, I believe that this means that students with developmental or learning challenges need access to appropriate support personnel and resources receive it, students with typical learning needs are given the tools and materials they need to progress, and students who are high achieving have access to the accelerated curriculum and technologies to support their progress. In addition, I believe that this means ensuring equal distribution of support staff resources as well, in particular for students who are at greater risk for needing support.

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

I believe there are two silver-lining take-aways from our experience with education during this COVID-19 pandemic: learning that we can be more flexible than we thought, and that individualization of learning will be the key for success. Prior to COVID-19, most schools systems would not have imagined that we could have some children attending classes virtually, some children attending school for partial days, or only a few days of each week, some students learning via technology while in class, and some students meeting in small groups in their homes to complete assigned lessons. Education is capable of being flexible to the needs of students, parents, and educators and should be urged to have increased flexibility in the future. In addition, with this flexibility comes increased ability to make individual goals for students not only a prioritized goal for the future, but a possibility today. Students could be evaluated and individual curriculum tailored to fit their needs and help them achieve their potential.

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

I believe that students, parents, and guardians have valuable input to share with the school and urge community members to be in contact with school board members informally through conversations and messages or more formally through surveys of students and parent dialogue meetings. School board members should serve as a conduit for three-way communication between the board, teachers/staff, and the community.

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

I do not have any financial supporters to disclose at this time.

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

1. Supporting the mental well-being of students during the ongoing stress related to COVID-19 and the changes this has necessitated in our schools (and in our community, and world) as a result.
2. Evaluating and improving the virtual education delivery systems for both in-person and virtual students.
3. Individualizing educational curriculum so that it is tailored for the learning needs of each child, every time.

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

1. Supporting the mental well-being of all students throughout the state related to the ongoing stress of COVID-19.
2. Reducing educational disparities across the state by promoting equitable distribution of financial, academic, social, emotional, technological, and material resources.
3. Ensuring all students have access to the educational instruction and support that they need in order to achieve state common core standards that prepare them for higher education, employment, and life.

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?

Educational challenges related to COVID-19 are significant. In addition to needing to adhere to state and county health department protocols and safety measures, teachers and school staff are preparing for multiple potential changes in the way they conceptualize material, deliver curriculum, and assess their students, all while being uncertain of which, if any, of the changes they will need to make and when. In addition to worrying about the possibility of school shut-downs due to outbreaks of COVID-19, needing to pivot to online systems from face to face learning and back again, school staff and educators are on the front lines of having to help children navigate the stress and anxiety associated with the virus. School staff and educators need support from community members, administrators, and the school board. Therefore, one important role for board members is to remain calm and listen to parents for concerns, as well as share information with them about how the school is planning to address concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. School board members should be well-versed in the state, county, and district school mandates to provide knowledgeable input when considering changes that need to occur in order to ensure compliance. Finally, school board members should liaise with teachers and staff to understand their concerns and glean their ideas for solutions.

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

I would advocate investing into our people – our children, our teachers, and staff. Some options I would consider include hiring additional staff to help provide student support, offering teachers time and training to implement new learning methods, developing security roles and infrastructure to keep our children safe, and identifying programs benefiting the academic, mental, and physical growth of our students. Investing in people will always yield the biggest return.

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

I believe standardized testing has an important role in evaluating the student, teaching staff, and curriculum of the school system by providing a standard way to identify areas that need improvement and evaluate progress. With this said, I do not believe that standardized tests should be the only means to evaluate students, teachers, and curriculum. All students have individualized strengths and weaknesses that standardized testing cannot always differentiate. In addition, tests may not be the best way of evaluating all students, especially considering learning style preferences and memory recall differences. I think flexible evaluations involving more creative educator-led solutions, will allow schools and teachers to have a better sense of their students’ achievement.

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?

Caledonia Community Schools has excellent systems in place to monitor and evaluate curriculum, and to make changes when appropriate. One potential area to explore for improvement is the individualization of the curriculum, classes, and extracurricular activities offered, as noted above.

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

Supporting the mental and emotional well-being of students of all ages, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic should be a top priority of all schools. As a pediatric psychologist, my role is to identify and treat mental health concerns including anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues. As a school board member, I would share my experience and expertise to teachers, staff, and administration already on the front lines of identifying when children are experiencing overwhelming challenges. Further, I would help our schools identify creative ways to prevent mental and behavioral health challenges from developing and create effective solutions for intervention when needed.

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

Student and staff safety are a top priority for all educational systems. Given the tragic recent history of school violence in this country, identifying and providing training for staff as well as setting aside funds to develop infrastructure for safety is necessary. When considering the progression to disciplinary action, I believe that the first step toward helping prevent behavioral problems is to provide clear and consistent expectations to students in the classroom and school which are discussed thoroughly and frequently. When behavioral expectations are not met, plans should be developed with teachers, parents, and staff that encourage positive behaviors and remaining in school.

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

One of my top priorities surrounding special education is to ensure that we are serving our special education students with the right services at the right time, while ensuring that students are not receiving too few or too many services to help them succeed. As an extension of this, I believe expanding special education staff including rehabilitation professionals would benefit students with specific impairments that impact their ability to access their education.

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

Caledonia Community Schools strongly believes in providing equitable education and support to all students and is working toward this daily. As a school board member, I would strongly support efforts in staff training and budgetary funds to ensure that all students, regardless of background or personal circumstances, have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Any other information you want to include or share?

As a pediatric psychologist, I will bring expertise to the school board based on my extensive training in child development, psychosocial factors impacting learning and growth, brain/behavior relationships, and mental health. I have experience working in other elected rolls to effectively advocate for the mental, social, and emotional needs of children and adolescents. Finally, my passion for helping children pursue their bright futures and providing support when challenges arise also gives me unique experience and perspective that will bring value to our School Board.