October 4, 2020

Katie Pitchford

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictNorthwest Community Schools
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

Lived in district for 20 years, joined the military, returned to the district 2 years ago

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I’m running for school board to bring a fresh née voice to the community. I’ve lived all over the country with children attending multiple different schools. I’ve seen the good and the bad. I see areas where my district can improve and where they could use new ideas. I love my school district and those within the community. I want to be someone who represents the students, administrators, and the community. I want children to be successful in an environment that fits them.
It’s been an aspiration of mine to serve the community by being on the school board. I’d be honored to become part of the board where, along with the community, we can work together to ensure the upmost educational experience for our children.

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

Educational justice, to me, is ensuring that ALL children receive a high quality education. This is accomplished by retaining highly qualified teachers, ensuring that quality resources are available to the students and staff, and ensure that the community works as a whole to accomplish this goal.
This is especially critical to Northwest because the percentage of teachers with less than three years of teaching experience is approximately 20% (based on greatschools.org). That is below the state average of 8%. This means that we have to do more to ensure that our quality, highly trained educators remain on our district.

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

This is a tricky question. With so many different views on the current health crisis, I think that our school has done a phenomenal job with how they’ve handled the situation. They provide both an online and a face-to-face option. However, if I could reimagine the ways schools look after this crisis, I’d have to say “normal”. I’d love for students to return to schools the way they were prior to the pandemic. Allow students to attend sporting events, school dances, and most of all the seniors having a graduation. The students need a sense of normalcy.

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

The community should 100% have the opportunity to be involved with decisions being made by the board. As an elected official, that is the duty of the board member; to represent the community. A lot of the decisions made by the school board effect our children, which in turn directly effects our community. Therefore, all members of the community should be involved, and the board needs to take into consideration all views presented.

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. Quality of education – I’d like to see the quality of education improve. My districts rankings have fallen over the last 8 years, as well as standard test scores declining. Something needs to be changed to bring our rankings back up and provide the best education for our children.
2. Improve reading, writing, and most of all spelling skills. The district has been on a decline for these three academic areas. It’s a disservice to our children when they struggle reading, writing, and spelling.
3. PE – physical education should take a higher priority within the district. Students are allowed to refrain from enrolling in a physical education class, which is not acceptable. For example, I know a student who took PE first trimester in 8th grade and is now in 10th grade and has not taken another PE class.

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

1. Enhance the physical education program
2. Push to eliminate common core
3. Improve teacher benefits

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 biggest challenge I see is for the teachers. Many teachers are learning new technology, new ways of teaching, and having to deal with changes everyday. Teachers within the district have done an outstanding job with ensuring that children are still receiving a quality education. However, teachers and administrators have been through the ringer with the current situations and having to make significant changes on a moments notice. If our teachers are under appreciated for all that they do, they may decide to leave the district.
To keep students and staff safe, I do not see a change that would need to be done. Masks are worn, social distancing is practiced as much as possible, cleaning/sanitizing is completed, and the health department’s protocol is followed.

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

I have not reviewed the budget and schools spending priorities. Therefore, I can not state what is or is not at the top, middle, or bottom of the list. However, the number one priority should be academics.

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

I don’t think that the curriculum should be geared around standardized tests. However, I do see an importance to the tests. I do think the amount of testing is overwhelming for some (if not all) students, and the amount of testing should be lessened.

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 abolish the common core standards. After being implemented in 2012, the schools academics have dropped significantly.

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

I think NW plays a key role in students mental and emotional health. For some students, the schools may be their only option for such support. Teachers should be provided with the best mental and emotional support, they are the frontline individuals when it comes to our children’s education as well as noticing students who need extra support. Therefore they need to be in their best mental and emotional state.

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

I think the school district as a whole ha implemented many good strategies to improve on lessening the amount of bullying and to promote kindness. With that said, I think the disciple for any infraction is not to the standard that it needs to be. I understand that I am retired military, and as such, my views on discipline are very cut and dry. The punishment needs to fit the crime. I’ve seen kids in the district get in trouble for fighting and they were suspended for a day. Did the school follow protocol? Yes. However, children view a day out of school as a “vacation.” There needs to be a better way. I’ve also seen kids being told it’s okay to have phones in classrooms, which goes against the student handbook. Everyone needs to be held accountable for the actions they portray.

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

I take special education very seriously. Having a special needs daughter (developmental & emotional disorders), I understand how much goes into just one student. I have seen schools who integrate special needs students into the other population, and I have seen schools which have designated classes for the students who require extra help and assistance. I am against integrating special needs into other classrooms. Yes, they should be included in every possible way. But, So many times, when integrated into a regular classroom, they fall behind on school work, they miss important instruction, and this leads to unneeded frustrations and lower self-esteem. However, there needs to be more extracurricular activities where special needs students can participate. Many times these children can become depressed, not feeling “adequate” or not being included they can feel lonely.

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

With everything that is going on in society, I see equity as being an uphill climb… but not impossible.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I’m retired military with a Bachelors in Psychology. I have a passion for education and our children’s futures. I would be honored to serve the community as an elected school board member.