October 4, 2020

James Mazurek

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictNorthville Public School District
City:Novi

How long have you lived in your district?

29+ years

Have you received any endorsements?

Only from community members and past Board of Education members

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Our schools are a key part of why people come to Northville. We are a large district with a small-town feel. As a former Board member from 2010-2018 I worked through the District’s tough times in 2010 and participated in making the difficult decisions to help us become one of the strongest districts in the state. I have the experience and want to make sure we keep our Academic excellence strong for the next generation of students.

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

We strive for equal opportunities for all students. This doesn’t mean equal support, we need to look at each student where they are at and what support they need. We then need to try our best to tailor the methods to best support that student.

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

It is no secret the world is shifting to a digital environment. We need to shift our approach to methods and skills that can best help our student succeed in this new environment. Whether this means moving on to College, Entrepreneurial, Trades, or other. We also need to look at specifically what we are teaching, for example Todays technology area now focuses on Data or Data Science. (How we convert data to knowledge via Artificial Intelligence or Neural Networks) We need to relook at what we are teaching in the STEM area and decide how do we support education of students given this is where technology is heading. I also think we need to re-image a more blended approach to learning with Online become just one part of an overall spectrum of how we educate people.

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

Participation, participation, participation. Starting with understanding what your children are being taught, having parents asking about what is being taught in the classroom, attending parent/teacher conferences and school events. Volunteering when asked for support. Through this they can provide real time feedback to what is going on and impact how their children are doing. Look to see what is being discussed at your school boards, provide feedback either via email or in person. We as BOE members take very seriously what we hear from our community. Via the interactive dialogue we then make appropriate changes to try to meet the needs of students and family members.

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

Family and individual parents in the district.

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

1) Enhancing SEL (Social & Emotional Learning) in district. Specifically dealing with Student stress at High School and secondly dealing with the growing diversity in District (25% students come from families that English is not the native language as well as dealing with Social EQUITY)
2) Identifying best practices and providing tools and training for Online/Virtual learning. While we have improved from June, we have a long way to go before it provides equivalent outcomes versus in person learning.
3) Financial Health – despite some small increase from the state $65/student, the costs of Covid are increasing at a much faster rate leaving most districts in a financial bind which will become worse next year.

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

1) Revising Prop A – It has help reduce the inequities between the rural districts and cities. However after 25+ years it needs a major rewrite. A district like Northville should not be getting $4000/student less than Birmingham/Bloomfield, $3000 less that Farmington and $300 less than Novi.
2) Reducing the mandatory tests required and allotting more time to actual education. Reducing some of the unfunded mandates that also come from State
3) Relooking at some of the curriculum such as math. Today the major focus in technology is Big Data and Machine Learning/AI. Unfortunately what we are teaching aligns better with where technology and math skills were at in 2000.

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 problem is we don’t know what we don’t know. Much progress has been made on the medical side, however a lot still depends on individual behaviors of community/families/students. Being somewhat confined for 6+ months has led to new terms such as Pandemic Fatigue. Our school has put in may precautions to protect both Students and Teachers(Staff). At the end of the day there will be situations where it will show up in schools. How well we all do depends on Families monitoring themselves for signs, following reasonable social distancing and washing protocols. There are already articles in news about known Positive Covid people still going to classes. We as a community need to take this seriously. If we do, we will get through the next 6-12 months when hopefully a proven vaccines and treatments are available..

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

There are many priorities: 1) PPE and Shields, air purification, cleaning of classrooms on a regular basis, 2) Understanding and implementing best practices and tools for Online(Virtual) Learning, 3) Finding and securing teachers and substitutes to handle in-person and virtual learning, 4) the most important may be Mental Health support. We all have been quarantined for 6+ months. Our school already has a high degree of stress due to “need to succeed”. We have had 2 suicides in last 4 years from stress/depression. We need to put in place staff to help support our students who I anticipate are having increased pressures and signs of depression. We need to take stigma away from depression, it is a real disease. If identified can be treated very successfully.

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

Standardized tests are only 1 data point in understanding where a child is along the learning spectrum. They don’t always reflect the learning style or the true knowledge that kids have. They are very useful but only as 1 set of data in understanding what a students needs are.

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 noted above right now we must understand and implement Best Practices, tools, and training to support Online/virtual learning methods. We are doing the best we can to react in a short time. However, we all know and can see that virtual learning is not the same or a substitute for in person teaching. I believe we will be in this mode much longer than we want to believe. We can’t sacrifice our student learning. So we need to improve in this area ASAP.

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

Northville has already taken significant steps in this area. We implemented an SEL program some time ago, recently we entered into partnerships with U of M Health, New Hope Center for Grief, and Hegira Health to enhance our program. We are pulling this together with our Northville Cares for Youth Council. We are also taking a proactive role to set up a 5 series workshop starting Nov 9 with community members to also include the EQUITY piece since we have 25%+ students who come from families where English isn’t native language. As well as start to understand some of the racial EQUITY areas we don’t know fully understand.

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

We implemented a Restorative Practices approach 3+ years ago as part of pour Student Code of Conduct. While there are times when suspensions and other actions maybe required. We have found that keeping kids in school may have the best long term results. “Restorative practices should be the first consideration to remediate offenses such as interpersonal conflicts, bullying, verbal and physical conflicts, theft, damage to property, class disruption and harassment, bullying
and cyberbullying.”

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

Special Education is a Broad topic. Northville already provides the full spectrum from our Wayne County wide support program for the Severely Cognitively Impaired at our Cooke School. Act 18 classrooms for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Thornton Creek Elementary, Hillside Middle School, and Northville High School. An ESL (English as a Second Language) that support hundreds of students. Our ALPS (Alternative Learning Program) at Amerman elementary for Academically talented students. Lastly, we offer a full suite of AP (Advanced Placement) course for college bound students as well as a FULL IB (International Baccalaureate) that starts in Middle School to a full IB diploma program at High School.

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

Our community is ever changing, today we have 25% of the student population that come from families where English may not be the language at home. We have 50+ languages spoken by our students. This change as happened over last 10 years and I expect it to continue. Our district has re-emphasized SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) as a Key Goal in our 5-year plan via the newly named Northville CARES youth Council. We recently established a partnership with U of M and Higera Health. All good steps. The next and maybe most important is a 5-part workshop beginning Nov 9 to begin listening to our community and start the work on further changes to improve EQUITY for ALL Students.

Any other information you want to include or share?