October 4, 2020

Irene Watts

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictDearborn Public Schools
City:Dearborn

How long have you lived in your district?

15

Have you received any endorsements?

AAPAC, AFT1650

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Because my teaching background would provide a unique voice that would benefit Dearborn Public Schools.

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

Education justice means equity for all, and meeting students academically where they are.

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

It would be a district rooted in social and emotional learning as the foundation of all curricula, within a project-based learning environment.

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

I believe in total transparency where all stakeholders are given an opportunity to join various committees and sub-committees, district-wide.

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

Myself

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

Safely returning to in-person learning, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

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

To increase per-pupil allowance, make Dearborn schools a model statewide, and to earn a renewed respect for our public schools.

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 greatest challenge for Dearborn is reducing our COVID cases, with Dearborn leading Wayne County (besides Detroit). We, as a city, need a tangible, detailed plan as to how we will reduce our numbers. Once our numbers are below the 5% positivity rate benchmark established by the WHO, we then need to create and implement a plan to ensure optimum availability and use of PPE, cleaning measures, Covid tests, etc.

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

I believe that the top priority should be to address student and staff trauma–i.e. adverse effects to their mental health due to COVID. We also need to ensure that our staff members feel appreciated and valued to achieve high morale and a contagious enthusiasm for teaching and, in turn, learning.

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

Standardized testing should be supplemental to the student’s report card in measuring academic achievement, not used as a substitute, or given a higher value.

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 stress the importance of social and emotional learning, especially because of the increase in students’ experiences with trauma related to the pandemic. I would also ensure all classrooms utilize a project-based learning approach, and I would change the weight and time spent on standardized testing and prep.

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

I believe that students’ and staff’s social and emotional health should be the TOP priority. We are seeing a teacher shortage combined with teacher burnout within the first month of school. This is a problem that adversely affects students and teachers alike.

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

Schools should have a defined expectations created by the students and voted by the entire student body. Students need to be part of the conversation and help to create a system in which they hold one another accountable. If and when discipline becomes necessary, one needs to ask what is happening to this student that explains the behavior. It is necessary to find the root cause, and work from the source, rather than focusing solely on the symptomatic action itself.

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

This is an inquiry and evaluation that must be made at the level of the individual school building. We need to ensure that each individual school has a data team consisting of teachers and administration that are solely looking at students’ data that will be used to help inform instruction. This data is also needed to assess student achievement and identify those students who may need additional support, possibly including an IEP.

We also need to establish support systems for parents of children with special needs. Each school should also have a parent team with a leader who is available to assist other parents in navigating the IEP process and communicating with their child’s IEP.

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

We need to ensure that each classroom’s materials, books, and artwork reflect the student body. We also need to create a student equality committee in every school, supported by a staff equality committee so that, to the extent disparities in achievement, discipline, or school experiences exist, the root causes can be identified. Finally, we must facilitate discussions with the staff committee about how to speak to children about other races, what vernacular to utilize, and how to otherwise effectively communicate to ensure cooperation, understanding, and unity.

Any other information you want to include or share?