October 9, 2020

Iris A. Taylor, Ph.D.

Pronouns: she/her we
School District: Detroit Public School Community District
City: Detroit

How long have you lived in your district?

68 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Detroit Free Press. SEIU Local 1 13th Congressional District Fanny Lou Hammer East Side Slate

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a DPS graduate , I understand the value of an excellent education foundation and believe all of Detroit’s children deserve the best no matter their zip code. I am committed and have a passion to facilitate excellence for the children of Detroit. My collective experiences as a hospital president , mediator , and community board memberships enables me to be an effective school board member

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

Educational justice in equitable and adequate distribution of resources to provide access to education. In DPSCD I education justice is ensuring adequate and highly trained teachers , technology , advance educational opportunities . It is ensuring a restorative practice that supports completion of high school.

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

An ideal future state would provide optional educational learning opportunities. These opportunities would represent distance learning face to face and advance learning opportunities. It would be a public education system that was funded to meet the need f the population served.

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

The Districts governance and operations should be in partnership with parents , students and families. It is the collective that that would ensure the attainment of excellence. This would include constantly engaging in multiple communication avenues.

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

The community at large , particular the medical and faith base constituents have been tremendous in supporting our work. I thank them for their contributions.

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

My priority for the 2020-2021 school year are embedded in our response to COVID -19 pandemic. They are:
• Ensure a protective environment for in-person learning while supporting online learning
• Maintain and or improve academic achievement levels and maintain stable enrollment levels
• We must maintain a balanced budget and begin securing funding to fix our buildings

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

o Per pupil funding according to student need
o Legislation preventing return of emergency management
o Exit from state oversight – we have met the demands of the treasury department by demonstrating fiscal responsibility
o Change how we fund public education , it is not equitable , we will continue this fight
o Revisit laws that do not support reform work , this ties back to funding

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?

DPSCD continues to be very responsive to the needs of our children , parents and staff during this COVID-19 pandemic. The metrics and criteria established by the CDC , MDHHS and City of Detroit Health Department has guided our reopening plan while leaving flexibility for adjustments due to the uncertainty of the virus. The priority is to ensure a protective environment during this pandemic , which require diligence and compliance with all safety measures. The school opening plan provides the structure for this compliance.

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

As prioritized through the strategic plan:
• Items and processes that support student achievement
• Physical plant operation and maintenance
• Advance learning opportunities
Items not considered are those that are not aligned with the strategic plan.

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

To the extent that standardized test are used for acceptance to higher education institutions and other post high school endeavors , the curriculum must support successful , command of the test content

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 keep the districts curriculum that are compatible with national standards and add implicit bias awareness and afro American history We should maintain emphasis on literacy and digital literacy

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

Mental Health services have increased under this board. We have various methods to support both parents and students , by in house staff , referrals to partnering organizations and school based clinics. Integration of services across school based clinics and external agencies is one of our goals , and should be developed to ensure early detection and intervention for students’ needs. Specifically , in the areas of suicide prevention/awareness , depression , and anxiety there must continue to be a focus.
Currently , One our strategic plan priorities is transformative culture. This priority states our goal is to transform our culture so that students , families , community member , staff all feel safe , respected and connected. When we first were elected there was a huge disconnect , the DPS family was not working on one accord of students first , our teachers were stripped of support and our families were not being properly supported at scale. We immediately reinstated the PTA and the Parent Academy to support our families. We also increased funding for additional positions to support each and every school. We added behavioral specialists , hired more counselors , we have school psychologists , social workers and therapist to support our students , this work falls under our other priority , whole child commitment. We are doing the work and I couldn’t be more prouder about the direction in which we are moving.

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

Review of each item in the code of conduct was discussed and revised with the critical input of students , parents and community. Afterward there was developed a program tied to curriculum named Expect Respect , teachers , students , families and community members take a pledge to follow the 10 tenants identified , demonstrated and practiced each month. This keeps positive behavior interventions at the forefront and holds everyone accountable to good citizenship. Positive behavior interventions are at the core of our discipline model , we know students make mistakes and we endeavor to create an environment that allows students to learn from their negative actions and make the needed corrections without the interruption of their educational track. We know there are instances where students may need more support from authorities and the student code of conduct outlines the actions that warrant discipline that may include involving in school suspensions , and transfer to an alternative school.

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

. We have a comprehensive Exceptional Students Education plan , and the board has implemented policies to support the work. The plan includes a focus to remove the stigma and engage parents. We have a very diverse student body whose needs range from mild to severe. There is much more work to be done to implement the plan , address funding shortfalls and attract exceptional talent who are dedicated to the needs of our young people.

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

As the largest urban public school district in the state , equity has always been at the forefront. When we first were appointed , the state was threatening to close a significant amount of our schools which would have disenfranchised thousands of students , jeopardizing their right to access to public education. We swiftly went to work with the State Superintendent to develop a plan to ensure our schools remained open but most importantly were placed on a plan to ensure students were not attending a failing school. We are on track to turn around these schools. This is just one example of our focus on equity , other examples include ensuring we maintain a balanced budget to exit from the FRC , this is important on many levels but most importantly we would not be able to secure funding to repair our buildings and physical plant. We must ensure our students have buildings that are conducive to learning. As a board , our job is to oversee state and district level policy is in place to not only operate but to ensure we are operating in a way that accommodates and addresses all of our students needs , from equitable teacher pay , professional development , student resources and much needed wrap around services for our most vulnerable population of students.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Student achievement continues to be a primary focus. The District reform work centers on improving the academic levels of each child. Student achievement is integrated in the fabric of the strategic plan thus there is a multifocal approached developed , this has been a challenge during the pandemic and we are continuing to leverage the whole child approach. We know if we do not provide important resources such as mental health and behavioral support and resources , academic achievement will be difficult. We also recognize it is not a one size fits all approach. In addition , we must continue to support our teachers and staff who are on the front line.