October 4, 2020

Joyce Ellis-McNeal

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictGenesee
City:Flint

How long have you lived in your district?

20 years

Have you received any endorsements?

I spoke with Black Democratic Caucus (awaiting)

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I have sound judgment, great leadership characters to lead, which enable me to be even temper, the willingness to collaborate. For over 18 years I have had a sincere interest in public education. In order to be an advocate for the community and teachers, I have come to the conclusion this desire require me to at the table. Teachers and parents are speaking, but not many are listening. I have the necessary skills and experiences to work as a team with the Superintendent, Board Members, State Officials, and other to make public school a place where parents will enroll their children.

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

Education justice for me is equity and equality. Equality means treating every student the same, whereby, equity means making sure every student has the support they need to be successful. Equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success. This equity must include how referral are written, suspension, and IEPs are performed on students. The city of Flint children and residents have had suffered great physical, mental, and financial challenges due to systematic racism in the Flint Water Crisis and now the Covid-19 Pandemic. The education system must and we demand that the yearly state requirement of our student be re-valuate. The damage, I have seen working as guest teacher and learning support specialist is beyond comprehension. Education justice means adjusting the system to the needs of the community. By this statement, equity is about giving each students the tools he or she specifically needs to thrive.

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

A full staff sanitation department, restroom monitor staffing, adequate supplies in restrooms. Classroom must be designed for social distant and at lease two adults in most classroom. Hire educators rather than allowing 3 party to just sent substitute teachers. Even said this, virtual learning can be a great tool to help eliminate student being left behind due to suspension. I imagine student returning back to succeed, when the pandemic hit, student left a failing school system. Most kids a work with was failing academic, physically, and emotionally. I image returning back to schools with adequate ventilation, new programs that inspire to learn. All these images are from conversations with parents and teachers.

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

School Board Meetings are one way, however, it has not been proven to a success story. We must utilized zoom and other social media outlet to engage parent. Parent will become more engaged in zoom meeting or assigning parent to create a space for Board Members and Superintendent to come in to hear and address their concerns. One of the biggest complaint and angry from parent is time to address their concerns.

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

None.

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

1). Set the vision and goals for the district and adopt policies that give the district direction to set priorities and achieve those goals.
2). Hire and evaluate the superintendent, as well as, adopt and oversee the annual budget.
3). Manage the collective bargaining process for employees of the district

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

1. One of my goal is to review and understand the State of Michigan’s original Top 10 strategic education plan which was approved in February 2016. It is now a good practice for strategic plan evaluation to see if and how this strategic plan can be adjust to communities who has experience crisis or disaster.

2. Increase enrollment and Expand early childhood learning opportunities, improve early literacy achievement, increase the percentage of adults with a post-secondary credential.
3. Re-evaluate the use of long term teachers training for addressing the CDC guidelines. Increase the numbers of certified teachers in areas of shortage

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?

1. Physical distancing: The school district must use Covid-19 Federal Funds to ensure students and adults to stay at least 6 feet apart to help prevent the spread of the virus. However, research has found that spacing desks at least 3 feet apart and avoiding close contact may have similar benefit. 2. Face coverings & hand hygiene : Schools must have adequate supply of face mask, sanitizer in classroom and restroom 3. Sanitation Department/Classroom Changes: Covid-19 funds must be use to ensure proper sanitation guidelines are adhered to at all time. Without these two key elements, it will be impossible to do the following: Having teachers move between classrooms, rather than having students fill the hallways during passing periods. Allow students to eat lunches at their desks or in small groups outdoors instead of in crowded lunchrooms, however, this plan must include staffing aide. Leaving classroom doors open to help reduce high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, will not be successful without hall monitoring staff. These are everyday challenges for Flint Community Schools

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

Align budgets with strategic and tactical plans while working to eliminate expenses that no longer support the district’s vision. Ensuring adequate funds for student to achieve academic. More funding should focus on meeting children needs where they are act academically. The things that should not be prioritize the district budget is teacher wages and raises, we should re-evaluate overhead expenses as well as how superintendent are paid. There must be an incentive to the pay they received.

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

Standardized tests has proven to be effective only if the student is striving academically. It should not be the only tool used to define a student ability to pass or determine they are failing. Test must be given at the reading level student are at. If a child is in the 5th grade and reading on a second grave level, a standardized test must be the equivalent of second grade. Standardized test only demonstrates where the education system has failed the student,

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?

Flint Community Schools need more hands on training courses, vocational and tech onsite skill training at the school, not at a location outside of the student community. Many of Flint student are failing academically, however, they can be very successful if we do program re-evaluation that meet and challenge student where they are at. When the education system failed to ensure our children the ability to read with fluency, it is the school district responsibility to create curriculum to ensure the well being of the child’s future.

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

The school district has a great responsibility in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing. I see the challenge teachers and students have daily. I see the impact of kids suffering from lead poising, poverty, homelessness, education inequality, etc. Teachers need to be educated more on the culture needs of a child as well as education. This creating a very unhealthy environment for teacher and child, when there is no adult that looks like them and understand the culture and environment they face daily. Education Reform is a must!

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

Due to the Flint Water Crisis and the Pandemic we must move from referral suspension due to behavior as an alternative. As school thinking of re-opening there must be a new disciplinary plan outside of suspension for behavior. As a Board Member, I have designed a program that will give another alternative to kicking kids out of schools into a prison pipeline system. We must create a wiser and effective plan to Education Reform. Social equity and equality is about equal access.

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

On January 4, 2020, myself and Flint’s grassroot leader challenged the formula used to funnel some special education dollars through the Genesee Intermediate School District to county districts. We are calling for further special education funding to the Flint Community Schools district. I taught special education for two years at elementary school. The enrollment has reached to over 24 students per one staff. Due to lack of certified teacher, which I was not yet, educated well enough to management a case load of 23 plus students. IEP’s must be re-evaluated.
Funding for Special Education for all student that lived in the City of Flint during the water crisis must be addressed. The Pandemic will further the burden on the needs to re evaluate the needs in special education.

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

First, I would like to create or examine bilingual education programs and guidelines for non English speaking families. Address the he disproportionate representation of minority students in special education program.

Any other information you want to include or share?

There a number of factors that have lead to low income communities, especially people of color not being able to become self-sufficient citizen. We must stop the school pipeline to prison mentality beginning with School Board of Education. This disparity may contribute to disproportionality, including test bias, poverty, special education processes, inequity in general education, issues of behavior management, and cultural mismatch/cultural reproduction. We must no longer sit at the table and be silent. I work with EJAM, Michigan United, Democracy Defense, and NAACP – Education in fighting for social equity, equity, and education reform. I can be found on social media sites.