October 4, 2020

Heidi Elizabeth Pfannes

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictSaline Area Schools
City:Saline

How long have you lived in your district?

8 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to make sure every student has access to the very best possible education. I have worked for public schools my entire adult life. For over 12 years, I have been on a board of education dedicated to providing quality public education. For six years, I served in Mattawan Consolidated Schools and over six years for Saline Area Schools. I believe I am called to serve our community in whatever way I can. As a board member, I can use my God-given talents to impact kids’ lives. We have a lot of work to do, and I’d like to continue doing my part to improve public education for every child.

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

Every child deserves equitable access to the very best public education. No matter where they start, or who they are, we should provide the resources and the safe environment needed to grow into productive citizens. Every child is unique in their background, needs, and talents. We should help students identify and develop their skills and talents, and explore how to use them to make their place in the world.

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

This crisis will allow us to transform the way the education system works. Our teachers and students will discover new ways to teach and learn in our face-paced digital world. I think we will see more of a transformation from seat time to self-directed learning. Integrated Technology is a tool across all grade levels. We will see more collaboration between teachers as they work together, aligning instruction across multiple classes. Hence, teachers have more time to work individually with smaller groups of students for individualized instruction. We will see more self-directed learning with mastery moving from test scores to skill development. The school day may end up looking very different, especially at the high school.

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

As a public school, we are responsible for educating all the children in the community. We will have parents, students, and families with various values, backgrounds, and conflicting priorities. It is essential to bring civility to the conversations to share and listen to each other and identify the district’s most critical issues. In our strategic vision, we recognize the highest priorities to address first. Students are encouraged to work within their buildings through their student organizations and their building leadership to discover and share their voices with others.

Parents are encouraged to support their students by partnering with classroom teachers. Teachers need to be appreciated for their training and expertise in teaching and student development. Parents need to make sure their children are prepared to learn. Healthy partnerships between the family and the school all contribute to the performance of the school district. Parent’s participation in focus groups with building principals helps the schools understand the priorities of the community. Look for opportunities to engage in district-wide conversations on topics of interest to you. “Let’s Talk” is one of these methods to share your thoughts with the district. The public comment time at Board of Education meetings provides an opportunity for the community to share their voice with the school board and the public. Communicating directly with board members allows us to share with the superintendent your perspective and issues. Follow-up from these discussions is addressed through the superintendent and his administrative team.

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

I am my only financial supporter for my campaign.

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

1. Teaching the whole child. We need to continue to work on the elements identified in our learner profile.
2. Prepare the kids to be productive citizens.
3. Loving and respecting each other for who they are.

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

1. Kids from all communities & backgrounds deserve equitable & quality education.
2. Appropriate funding for public schools.
3. The teacher shortage needs to be addressed. Payscale for beginning teachers is well below the pay scale of other professions of equal schooling. Teachers need to be appreciated and paid accordingly for their work.

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?

It is a challenge this year. COVID has disrupted everything we know in education. Physical safety and emotional safety need to be balanced. We know humans need to be in a community with each other. Kids need to interact with each other and with other people. However, many have health challenges, caregiving issues, and fear. All of these are mixing to create anxiety and chaos. We need to ask our community to work with us through all this uncertainty. We will need to be flexible to respond to health department guidelines. We need to do our part to practice social distancing, wear a mask. We need to care for each other and hold each other accountable to follow the rules to get back to in-person instruction as quickly and safely 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?

The most significant focus of our budget is providing the best possible education for our students. We also need to provide a safe environment for our students and staff. We need to be lean in our operations and make sure anything that does not add value to educating children has the lowest priority.

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

Standardized tests are essential to make sure our students are progressing in their learning. Our students need to have the skills and knowledge to prepare for their future. Standardized tests are measures of accountability. However, we need to balance standardized tests with actual project-based evaluations. It is essential to have the knowledge and know-how to apply it in real-life situations.

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 would like to see more inclusive instruction. We need to teach history and other lessons through various lenses. Our focus needs to be more on softer skills, especially being kind and compassionate to others. Collaboration with each other will help our students as they seek to understand different points of view.

We need to continue ensuring the curriculum is meaningful for the students. Our focus on 4-C’s Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking are lifelong skills our children need to learn. We need to continue to build on the attributes in the Learner Profile.

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

Balancing stresses in our lives takes practice and skills. Our children have so many pressures, and adults do too. COVID has taught us that we don’t have to be going 90 miles an hour every day. We need to take the time to pause, reflect, recharge, and refocus. We need to build physical and emotional supports and relief valves into the structure of the school.

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

All students deserve respect and dignity, but they also must be held accountable for their actions. The expectations must be clear, and when boundaries are crossed, there must be corrective action. Kids will make mistakes. Let’s make these mistakes learning opportunities, and whenever possible, rehabilitate vs. punitive. The safety of the students and others is critical in any case.

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

Our special education population deserves a quality education. It is our responsibility to teach all students to be the best person they can be. We need to ensure our students receive fair and safe treatment. Our parents and caregivers are essential advocates and need to be engaged in the IEP for their children. We must follow all state and federal laws and guidelines.

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

We need to make sure all our children have equal access to a safe and comfortable environment to learn. We need to make sure every child has access to quality education. Some students may need more support than others. It is my responsibility as a board member to make sure every child can enjoy the same benefits of quality education and are prepared with the knowledge and skills to be productive citizens.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Please visit my election website: www.electheidipfannes.weebly.com