October 4, 2020

Latanya Gater

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictDearborn Public Schools
City:Dearborn Heights

How long have you lived in your district?

8 years

Have you received any endorsements?

AFSCME, MEA, Dearborn heights Mayor Dan Paletko

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My fundamental values, love for community engagement, tenacity, along with my passion to improving the overall well-being of children that has driven me to run for a D7 School Board seat.

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

Education Justice to me means making all facets of education accessible to all students in that District. It means to make a fair and safe educational environment fully accessible to all students. In the context of the D7 School District, it means the attainment of resources by district leadership and reassuring that the students have full access to them. These resources include access to healthy food, a progressive/comprehensive curriculum, mental health services and recreational involvement.

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

Our public schools would not return back to status quo. Basic necessities such as learning materials, updated technology, healthy food options, and in school mental health staff would not being an issue. Essential staff members such as teachers, janitors, lunch aides, para professionals, and secretaries would be treated as essential beyond the pandemic.

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

It’s highly beneficial to have parents, students, and families be apart of decision making within the school district simply because they are the ones who are responsible for the execution and reinforcement of the plans and policies set in place. Community buy-in is key to school district success. True collaboration and accountability is key to success as well.

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

The top financial supporters of my campaign have been MEA, AFSCME, and men/women in D7 as well as Metro Detroit.

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

My priorities for K-12 include increasing accessibility to mental health services with in the school (e.g., having an increased amount of trained mental health professionals to address anxiety, academic deficits, social skills and depression). For this population, I think it’s crucial to give them a more diversified curriculum (in history, social studies, geography). Teaching children everyone’s history increases self esteem, confidence, empathy and compassion. It also better equips children for the competitive, global work force and economy. As a board member, I’d vote to adopt a more diverse, inclusive curriculum. I’d also solicit feedback from the teachers because they are responsible for teaching it.

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

From the state level, my first educational priority would be public school education reform where it’s not a focus on quantity but quality. I have a professional respect for standardized tests but I think the excessive push for standardized tests in schools has ultimately taken the enjoyment out of teaching and learning. Because of this I would advocate for a change in the mandate of standardized testing. Lastly, I would find ways to lobby as a collective group to increase funding for public school education.

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?

It appears that the challenges in the school district as it relates to covid-19 will continue to be around sufficient cleaning, keeping PPE in stock, and making sure that regardless if children are in a face-to-face or virtual program, that they still receive a fair education. I think it’ll be crucial for D7 to hire an abundant amount of staff (i.e., teachers, janitorial, aides, mental health staff, etc) to do the work consistently and to prevent burnout. I think that D7 is going to have to reevaluate the school plan very frequently to test this effectiveness.

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

D7 top priority as it relates to budget should be making sure that PPE is stocked and in place at all times and making sure trained staff are available. Alternatively, although recreational involvement is important, at this time safety and health should take precedence.

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

Standardized testing should only be used to establish baselines and what students know and how far they have grown. I think during a pandemic it’ll be harmful to consider retaining children based on low standardized test scores.

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 impact that I desire to have on my district’s curriculum is moving away from a solely eurocentric curriculum. As I mentioned before in the above question, having a more diverse and inclusive curriculum of everyone’s history better equips our children for the globally economy, it boosts self-esteem and empathy.

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

I think all school districts should have a vital role in supporting students and staff in mental health/emotional well-being because research shows that when people feel happy, supported and basic needs are met, they have higher chances of thriving academically. Furthermore their quality of life improves as they move towards adulthood. Mental health resources should be available to staff at feasible cost.

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

The D7 School District should have disciplinary policies that are fair and equitable to all students/staff. These disciplinary policies should be clear, understandable, enforceable to all students and staff. I think S7 should take into consideration that there should be a small degree of flexibility when considering disciplinary actions. In regard to safety, preventative and proactive measures should be implemented and practiced routinely (e.g., seminars/workshops on bullying, violence, empathy, building trusting relationships with administrators). If we get to know our students on a personal level when difficult situations arise we can better support them.

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

Has a mental health professional, my top priorities around special education would be having the school-based model implemented in public school systems in our district. I also believe that we could find a way to hire more school/clinical psychologists to administer testing to get a clearer understanding of how many children in our district have special education needs. For those children who are already identified in having special needs we should have enough staff to support them.

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

My perspective on working towards achieving equity within the D7 district is clear. People who are in leadership positions have to be willing to hear the voices of people (without unwarranted biases, skepticism and criticism and hold themselves accountable to effective change.

Any other information you want to include or share?

No thank you.