October 4, 2020
School DistrictBloomfield Hills School District
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Fem 4 Dems, EMgage PAC, West Bloomfield Township Treasurer Teri Weingarden, West Bloomfield Township Trustee Diane Swimmer
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
As a resident of the Bloomfield Hills School district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
I believe in equity, which is different than equality. For example, instead of giving everyone a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving everyone a
shoe that fits. That is how I look at education justice. We need to cater to the specific needs of our students and tailor our educational means and methods to
help each student based on his and/or her needs.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
After this pandemic is over crisis, I foresee districts capitalizing on the investments in their responses to the pandemic and emerging stronger and more resilient. The school systems becoming capable of catering to all preferences and possibly to new cliental. A virtual school would be a common and acceptable option to those who choose it including the formerly known as the homeschooled community. While the in person model continues to be offered to the majority of student population. I also foresee, districts less hesitant to announce snow days for example. Students will switch to distant learning on snow days. Students will not miss a beat when traveling or sick ( if desired and able) as they can log into their classroom remotely.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
The Bloomfield Hills School district offers and encourages various ways that allow stakeholder involvement. Our district trains parents and students to become global champions and be involved in each school’s decision making. Volunteering on committees, serving on task forces, and establishing open line of communication with teachers, staff, administration , and Board are key to collaborating with the
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
all my financial supporters were parents in the district or close friends
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
District-wide Mental Wellness/ Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum/safe and
effective COVID 19 teaching environment
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
Improve School Funding/ Provide better guidance during crises such as COVID 19/Equity and Inclusion in the curriculum
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?
I commend the administration and staff for the tremendous effort that was put into planning for this school year. The District will need to continue to refine its plans as the dynamics of this pandemic continue to change. It is sad that lack of leadership at the State level is forcing local school Boards to make tough decisions that impact families and students. While I sympathize with families with working parents or parents of Different Learners, I cannot underestimate the burden of safety or risk to public health that comes with the in-person option. Leadership is using the trust that people give us to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions in the best interest of all. I do understand that the implementation of the hybrid model has started. Unfortunately, with changing dynamics the district will continue to balance the risk and weigh in the benefit keeping in mind that one lost life in the district is one too many.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
Top priority in the budget should be to maintain excellence in educational programming , to engage teachers in professional development , and to recruit and retain high quality teachers . Least priority spending is the spending that does not address the direct needs of the district’s most important assets “teachers and students”.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
I am not a firm believer in standardized tests being a true indicator of students’ academics levels. Per NICHE Bloomfield hills school district ranked the 3rd best district in Michigan. Our students reported an average 29 on ACT score, an average 1230 SAT, and 58% of the students scored above proficiency level on their state assessment tests. I think that there is some inherent unfairness to the students and teachers nationwide in the standardized testing process in general that is not really in our control to change. The results can likely be a general screening tool to gauge needs and identify areas for improvement.
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 believe that there are always areas for improvement. However, we do not need to reinvent the wheel; we have a great system in Bloomfield hills , some examples are the Primary Years (PYP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. It is important to continue improving the PYP program and to make use of the IB program by conveying its availability and its importance to the students. An area that needs more support is addressing Racism in the curriculum. Racism is a cancer that eats communities from the inside and impacts the overall vibrant and healthy practices within. Unfortunately, it sometimes can make its way into the school environment through many avenues. For many years, the Bloomfield hills school district has been actively involved in debunking racism. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. It is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
Mental Wellness is critical to achieving a safe and inclusive environment throughout the District. Working with school administration on developing a curriculum and hiring professional staff to support mental wellness is one of my goals. All these actions are key to nurturing a healthy environment for the students that reduces stress, solves problems and is sensitive to students challenges. I encourage my District to plan for a road map to incorporate mental wellness into the high school curriculum as core requirement for graduation. My Goal is to work with the Board ( and candidates Southward and VanGemret, if also elected ) and Superintendent to have Bloomfield Hills District pioneer incorporation of mental wellness as a graduating requirement. I hope to make BHS District as one of the first Districts in the nation to have a graduating class that has gone through mental wellness programming. With this programming we prepare our students and teachers to face life with all its challenges.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
Our District already implements restorative practices with students that has proven very effective. I do believe in mental wellness education and it being a path for reducing possible internal threats and for providing a safer environment for student
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
On the different learners topic, I do believe in education equity which as I mentioned earlier is different than equality. For example, instead of
giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a shoe that fits. We need to cater to the specific needs of the different learners and tailor our educational means and methods to help each student based on his and/or her needs. There are always opportunities to improve the educational services to better meet the needs of different learners. My priorities include reaching out to experts and districts locally, nationally, and internationally to find out about cutting edge advancements in teaching methodologies as they continue to evolve. Furthermore, I support constant communication with parents and open dialogue on the specific needs that we have in our district. In a nutshell, my priorities are to listen more, research more, and implement.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
As I mentioned earlier, equity is different than equality. For example, instead of giving each student a shoe ( which is equality), I support giving each student a shoe that fits. Adopting a district wide curriculum infused with debunking racism from the early childhood stage is key to raising a generation that is educated in the classroom about equity, inclusion, and diversity. In my opinion, it is extremely important to examine the district’s curriculum and infuse it at all levels through an equity and inclusion lens
Any other information you want to include or share?
As a resident of the district since 2004, my goal is to give back to the District that gave my two kids an excellent education and a safe environment. In addition to my over 25 years of engineering expertise, if elected I plan on focusing my energy on mental wellness and inclusion. I learned the hard way that I needed to work with allies to promote equity and inclusion in every aspect of life. My 21-year-old son was called a terrorist in third grade! To me the phrases such as privilege and unconscious bias spark action that should be associated with measurable outcomes for every organization. I actively work as an education liaison on combating racism and debunking misconceptions through interfaith work and have been active in the various committees in the Bloomfield District by working with Global Education Teams, Multicultural Committee, Bloomfield Youth Assistance, Scope and Design, and many more. I am passionate about educational excellence that fosters mental wellness and creates inclusive environments for all students. I plan to drive advancement by translating that passion into action, and I would be honored to win the District Residents vote in November. For more information please visit my Facebook page @Elgamal4BHS