October 4, 2020

George Elder IV

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictMilan Area Schools
City:Westland

How long have you lived in your district?

10 Years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My desire to be a Milan Area Schools Board of Education member is rooted in wanting the best for my children and the children of Milan. Our current board has fallen short in creating a culture of equity in the schools and in the hiring process. Our children suffer when others are singled out as the elite. Cliques are created, bullying surfaces. The hiring process has become a matter of ‘who’ you are, whose family you are a part of, is more important than your qualifications, skills, and experience. In the end, our children suffer. It’s time for the MAS BOE to be held accountable. I will do this by asking questions, researching, being involved and standing up for what is right for our children.

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

One organization’s vision states: “creating a world that honors every child’s potential”. All children have the right to an education that is of the same standard and caliber as all of their peers. Geography, race, religion, socioeconomic status, special needs should play no role in the quality of the learning provided. Milan Area Schools must strive to create an environment that honors every child’s potential by valuing all children and not creating cliques/groups of ‘cool kids’ because of who their parents/families are. We are failing our children in this area and need to address it now.

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

This is one area I think we all will have very similar ideas. In a perfect world, all of our children will be treated fairly and justly, be treated with respect and care by everyone, be successful in everything they do, be given the education they need in order to be successful, and are safe every moment of every day. School is so much more than a building. It’s the people. In this perfect school, there is no illness, inequity, injustice, unfairness, uncertainty, fear, or failure.

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

Parents, students, and families should be involved in the decision-making process as much as possible. The schools have student leadership opportunities. Surveys, round-table sessions, and other protocols should be used to seek the input of the students. Surveys, coffee chats, etc. should be used to get the input of parents and families. When parents speak at BOE Meetings, their input should be taken seriously, questions answered in an expedient manner and suggestions followed up with. Our students and families are an under-utilized source of information, ideas, and solutions.

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

Myself

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

1. Increase Student Achievement through highly effective educators, research-based pedagogy, workshop model and data-driven instruction.
2. Continue to create a safe environment for our children with staff trainings/PD, maintain safety procedures in place and tweak as needed to meet the needs of the ever-changing environment.
3. Ensure the needs of our children with special needs are being met by researching, asking questions, and working with stakeholders to improve current practices to better meet those needs.

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

1. Ensure that our Title and Grant funds are being used with fidelity by investigating, asking questions, and expanding my knowledge base of this funding.
2. A priority at the state level is to ensure that all stakeholders are adhering to the state guidelines.
3. Ensure that state policies are being upheld and followed by all stakeholders.

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 challenges the schools have faced this year are unprecedented. I’ve heard it said, “we are building the plane as we fly it.” Plans change daily. Numbers drop and climb. We are all doing our best to move forward and press on for the sake of our children. There are many challenges that face us each day. The state has given strict guidelines that must be adhered to in order to help ensure the safety of our children. These protocols are not perfect though because our children are human. Keeping social distance when children want to hug and play together; when student-dialog is one of the most effective best practices in teaching; having a 5 year old cover his mouth when sneezing/coughing, let alone keep a mask on is a challenge itself. Another challenge is to get all the materials that every district in the country is ordering is difficult. Back orders, poor quality, etc. create frustration for all involved. Shields, masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, dividers, technology are all in high demand around the country. Milan has created a plan in compliance with the state guidelines. Our goal should be to get our children back in school full-time as soon as possible, while keeping our children as safe as possible.

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

Milan Area Schools has done a great job of keeping a balanced budget. In these uncertain times with loss of revenue, extra expenses, and needs, it is vital to stay in the black. Thankfully, the CARES Act is helping with issues/costs related to COVID. In looking at the budget in general, I feel that our biggest investment should be in our people. Curriculum and technology are only as good as the people facilitating it’s use. Milan is filled with caring, enthusiastic, driven, intelligent staff that strive for the excellence of MAS. My focus is on keeping and attracting highly effective educators and staff.

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

Standardized tests play a three part role in education. Although, they are not all-inclusive in indicating a child’s ability and intelligence, it is what we are mandated to do.
First, MStep and NWEA provide a roadmap to addressing the needs of our district in the education of our children district-wide. A data-dig allows the district to find where we are succeeding and where we need to work to improve.
Secondly, each building in the district further desegregates this data to find the needs and successes of that particular building.
Thirdly, further breakdown of the information brings out the needs and successes of each individual student.
These tests should drive our instruction and focus for our district, buildings, and 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?

As I stated before, people are our greatest investment. Research-backed curriculum is important, but without strong delivery, even the best curriculum with fail our children. The pedagogy is vital to the success of our children. Workshop model, based on data-driven information to meet the individual needs of our children will far out-weigh the effectiveness of the latest curriculum on the market.

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

Mental/Emotional Wellbeing
Over time, our responsibilities have increased when considering the mental and emotional wellbeing of our children. Mental health is a major issue that society is just coming around to acknowledge. Add to that the seclusion and depression brought on by Covid19, we need to take action. Children can’t learn until their basic needs have been met. In order to improve student achievement, we must help those in need. One can’t happen without the other. Having social workers work with classes, small groups, and individual students will help address the issue. Title 1 funds, and now Care Act funds, may support such a venture. Our children need interventions that our day-to-day curriculum does not address. Again, a child’s basic needs must be met in order for them to learn.

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

Milan Area Schools has a reputation for being a safe place for children and I will strive to keep that going. Discipline is not cut and dry as it was ‘back in the day’. Relationships are key to developing a safe environment and in dealing with issues. Without these relationships, with students and families, we can not have the changes in the individual child in order to improve the problem behavior. Milan teachers and staff work hard to develop these behaviors in our children. My focus would be to help aid in building relationships in any way I can.
Secondly, clear expectations need to be continually established so that student and families know what is expected. Daily review in the classrooms, weekly/monthly review in the buildings by the administration, and monthly/quarterly district-wide review of the expectations will reinforce and clarify these expectations. I will gladly be part of this by being involved in the buildings, board meetings, district meetings and events.
Finally, in order to protect our children from outside factors, teachers and staff need training in what to do in case of an armed intruder. Some districts have had scenario training in which staff have ‘acted out’ real-life situations in order to be more prepared. While these trainings are emotional and difficult, they are highly beneficial and leave those involved feeling more prepared for possible situations.

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

As a parent of a child with special needs, it has become abundantly clear that our children are falling through the cracks. Admittedly, the new hybrid model may be the cause for some of the issues and we learn to navigate this new system. Our children with special needs should never be left to fail. The number of children is climbing. The state pushes back and slaps the hand of schools who are identifying a high number of students. We need to stand strong and continue to identify children with special needs, continue to put plans for success in place, and do what is best for our children.

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

“the quality of being fair and impartial” Fair is not always equal. What is best for my oldest child is not what is best for my youngest. As a district, we must look at the individual needs of the child, then the children as a whole. What is not equitable is the singling out of children/families thus creating cliques and bullying situations. While it is important to acknowledge the donations and offerings of businesses to our buildings, it is detrimental to the children to then blatantly single out the children of these businesses. When we do this, it causes a ‘cool kid’ group. If you are not a part of the this group, you are not cool. This has to stop. All children, regardless of socioeconomic status, are OUR children. All children, regardless of race, are OUR children. All children, regardless of religion or gender, are OUR children. It’s not them and us – it’s US, WE, OUR! Period.
Racism has no place in society and/or especially in our schools! As a father of children of different races, I am passionate about equality and will stand against racism at every opportunity.

Any other information you want to include or share?