October 4, 2020

Kesha Hamilton

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictJackson Public Schools District
City:Jackson

How long have you lived in your district?

35 Years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, Jackson County Democratic Committee. Nancy Smith for State Representative Candidate. Daveda Quinn for Jackson County 9th District Commissioner. Chrissy Sider, community leader in Jackson county. Libby Brown, Treasurer w/ Jackson Public School Board. Toby Berry, CEO of Community Action Agency. Thomas Burke, Save Our Youth, Founder.

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My decision to run for the School Board was an easy choice. As a parent to children within the School District, and as a natural advocate for children’s best interests, I felt the best way to assure my children and others were provided the best the district could offer was to be a Trustee on the School Board on behalf of families like mine. I have 3 more children coming through JPS during the next 10 years and am invested in this community. I recognize the importance of parental inclusion and voice. I also understand the unique needs and support systems required to ensure students and educators are supplied with the tools and support they need to be successful in the classroom. I am running to lend my expertise, experience and unique perspective to the board and this district. My children and children like mine need changes that start at the board level.

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

Education justice is just what it says justice in education. Education justice considers and acknowledges by its very term that there is a lack of justice in education, that there are inequities in education, that there are barriers in education that require an equitable and informed response.
Specifically, to our school district, education justice looks like an intense agenda to secure a teaching staff that closely represents the community that our students come from. Education justice in JPS schools looks like skilled trades being available beginning in Jr. High/Middle School and accessible on campus at the high school. Education justice at JPS looks like culturally relevant curriculum. Education justice looks like ensuring irrelevant barriers are removed so that parents can participate actively in their student’s education. Education justice looks like restorative circles instead of in-school or out of school suspension, it looks like diverse counselors who are culturally relevant.

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

If I could completely reimagine schools after this public health crisis, I would place a high importance on mental health wellness. Culturally relevant curriculum would be taught beginning in kindergarten through high school, civic responsibility and our rights provided to us in the constitution would not only be taught – implementation of them would be infused in each subject.
Our curriculum would place a high priority not only on STEM but also on skilled trades – recognizing that our survival as a society is predicated upon our ability to ensure we can maintain our infrastructure through skilled trades while advancing through STEM investment.
Everyone that encounters the student would be trauma informed and the make up of the staff, administration, counselors, and teachers would equitably reflect the community our district services. Our discipline would shift dramatically to trauma informed care, restorative justice, and equitable accountability.
JPS would welcome and insist on parental inclusion, involvement and voice, we’d also more closely and deeply partner with the community to ensure our graduating students and students of age could find appropriate paying jobs upon graduation or during the summer break.

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

Parents, students, and families should be included through authentic equitable engagement. This looks like a diverse parent and student commission at the board level and at each school where appropriate. These committees would assist in policy development and change. These committees would be appointed by an equitable ensuring the options on the table are inclusive. These committees would be tasked with advising on eliminating barriers to parental involvement, advising on student interest in school and advising on whole family engagement – this information would be used at the board level to create systems change to ensure implementation and a solution to long standing concerns.

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

My campaign has largely been funded by grassroots efforts and community supporters.

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

My top three educational priorities/goals within my school district are
1. Trauma informed care yearly for everyone that encounters the student and youth mental health training for students.
2. Parental involvement, voice, and engagement
3. Teachers who are resourced and supported

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

My top goals at the state level would be ensuring that the ESSA Act is being implemented.
2. I would also like to see an inclusive and historically accurate curriculum being required by the state.
3. I would also like to see a reduction in a reliance on property tax to fund 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?

I anticipate a continuation of COVID19 conditions well into the 2021 year and possibly into the 21/22 School year.
Our school district can continue to reimagine education and how we service our students and staff to keep them safe. That means a greater embracing of the online teaching model, an assurance of meeting students and families where they are in technology and WIFI needs. This also looks like the school taking a more active role in parent and family engagement in conjunction with community partnerships. I imagine the creation of learning pods, an increase in teaching staff to handle those needs and a mental/physical health focus underlying all areas.
It’s no doubt that COVID19 has forced us to reimagine and reprioritize education in this time, this reimagining and reprioritization is the perfect opportunity to shift our focus to a people and relationship focused model – understanding that when we ensure that people (staff, students, family, community) are cared for education, innovation, creativity, STEM interest, and competitiveness soars.

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

Budgets reflect values. The top spending priorities of our budgets should reflect the value we place on our students, teachers, staff and families.

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

I would like to see us get away from standardized tests. They leave little room for the imagination in education and are based off an exclusive history that does not reflect America, it is history or its current population – or its needs.
I’d like to see us get away from the need to teach just to test, standardized testing encourages teaching to test as opposed to teaching to influence mindsets and encourage innovation, creativity, relationship building and real world success.

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?

The districts curriculum would be inclusive and accurate if I could have an impact on it. We’d not only offer STEM academics but we’d have a greater focus on skilled trades, they would be more accessible, encouraged and on campus especially at the high school level (though serious appropriate introduction would begin at the middle school level).
The curriculum would place a high importance on trauma informed care, youth mental health training to inform of coping skills and basic life’s skills (personal finance, cursive writing would be brought back) as well as a second language would be introduced in preschool and taught in every grade from then on.
The curriculum and electives would be culturally relevant to the entire student body.
Our curriculum would also place a higher prioritization on civic engagement, teaching it and implementing it at every level.
I would keep sports as part of extra curricula while exploring how to expand extra curricula.

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

In as much as education is a mandate and the majority of society will engage education through the public school medium we are duty bound to support the mental and emotional well-being of staff and students at every level and as much as possible. If we made mental and emotional health a priority, we would see drastic improvements in every category of the educational world.

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

Schools should be informed about what a safe school looks like beginning with the understanding and from the lens of trauma informed care. Once we are operating through that lens and realize that we are engaging with students whose brains don’t fully develop until around the age of 25 we can begin to properly understand that students behave outside of character almost 100% of the time because of a trauma or experience they are unable or unwilling to express.
We make schools safe by ensuring a bully free zone, while ensuring we care for those who are would be bullies. We place a high priority on mental health training, on parental involvement (removing barriers), on culturally relevant curriculum and community partnership to ensure parents and students alike are resourced to address the whole child. We also employ restorative justice practices, rehabilitation and learn from the suburb model – a well-resourced community, who is represented at every level and who encounter culturally relevant justice systems rarely have need for law enforcement.

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

My top priorities around special education is to ensure our special needs students are represented, resourced, protected and given every opportunity to excel and lead productive lives upon completion of their education. It is important to me that parents of special needs students be involved at every step of their student’s education to ensure that we are truly meeting the needs of the whole child.
Of equal importance to me is to ensure that we are not designating students special need by mistake.

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

“Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution but furthest from the resources and power.” (JLUSA guiding principle) We would begin listening to the voices of the most marginalized in order to find the solution and by believing them and implementing their solutions we will achieve equity.

Any other information you want to include or share?

N/A