October 4, 2020

Lauren Christenson

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictPlymouth-Canton Community Schools
City:Plymouth

How long have you lived in your district?

36 years

Have you received any endorsements?

MEA, Plymouth Democratic Club, Canton Democratic Club, AFL-CIO, IBEW Local 58, State Representative Matt Koleszar, State Representative Kristy Pagan, State Senator Dayna Polehanki, Mayor of Plymouth Oliver Wolcott, Mayor Protem of Plymouth Nick Moroz

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As an educational interior designer, I work with multiple stakeholders with differing viewpoints on projects daily. Designers are problem solvers. I have experience working with school boards, administrators, students, parents, and staff of school districts throughout Michigan and Ohio. My ability to listen, research, collaborate, communicate, and think on my feet will serve well on the P-CCS board of education. I am also a leadership member of my local Moms Demand Action chapter and involved in our community. I plan to work hard and collaborate with my fellow board members and the superintendent to make informed decisions to place P-CCS students and teachers first. I know the value of a P-CCS education and want to represent my district and community to ensure all students have the best educational experience and opportunities available. I’m rooted here, I’m raising my children here, and I’m passionate about education.

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

To me, educational justice is about providing equity in education for all students. It’s about providing the services and support that is needed for student success. I believe P-CCS needs to continue this work to shrink the achievement gaps in our student population.

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

There’s no doubt the pandemic will change the way we function well into the future. Post-pandemic I would envision a school that district that has embraced technology, encourages and amplifies student voice, focuses on teaching resiliency, provides more opportunities to explore passions and deeper learning experiences, and has more rigorous cleaning protocols.

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

As stakeholders, parents and students should absolutely be involved in the decision making process. I believe they should be able to voice their concerns and share their opinions to the board and administration and we need to listen. Traditionally this has been done through citizen’s comments, phone calls and emails. I believe this can be furthered by hosting community listening sessions with the board and more frequent coffee chats with our superintendent. Collaboration and communication are key and should flow freely between all parties. Parent and student trust and support is important to the success of P-CCS.

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

My campaign has been supported through club endorsements and grassroots fundraising efforts.

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

1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Every student should have opportunities to succeed. I believe this can be accomplished through policy, continued professional development of P-CCS faculty and staff, improved support services for students, and creating a more inclusive curriculum.

2. Excellence through measurable goals in order to recruit and retain quality educators.

3. Better school safety through COVID precautions, promoting connections between students and staff, building upon restorative practices, and providing support services for students in need.

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

1. Advocate for better funding for public education.
2. Advocate for better funding for public education.
3. Advocate for better funding for public education.

Proposal A has significantly hurt P-CCS. Prior to proposal A much of the funding for public education came from local property taxes. Now we receive most of our funding from the state and while it is complex, we receive significantly less money per pupil as compared to our neighboring districts. Due to the decreased funding per pupil, over an extended period of time, we have been forced to privatize our custodial and bussing services and have had to make difficult financial decisions. I would strongly urge our community to connect with our legislators to advocate for increased public education funding. Locally, we are fortunate to have a community that is very supportive of public education and voted to pass the 2020 bond for technology and facility upgrades for P-CCS. The Wayne-County RESA millage is on the ballot November 3rd. This funding has more flexibility in use and can directly impact the classrooms and services P-CCS provides. I strongly support this millage and hope our community does too.

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?

There are so many challenges for education within the context of COVID. The pressing issue is return to school with the safety of our students and staff as a top priority. As a working parent of two elementary aged children, I truly want them to return to face-to-face instruction. However, I don’t believe we should be rushing to do so without understanding the risks and the metrics of what is deemed safe. Students are experiencing trauma due to COVID. They are vulnerable and need continued support regardless if we are remote or face-to-face. I think P-CCS needs to ramp up the support systems during this time as there is greater need across all socioeconomic backgrounds. The district has to work tirelessly to ensure safety protocols and cleaning procedures are upheld.

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

Right now I believe the top funding priorities are effectively spending the bond money that passed with community support in spring of 2020. I also believe advocating for the passage of the Wayne County RESA millage, which is on the ballot this November. These funds can and should be used for classroom improvements and hiring of key support staff. Items that can be deferred for later payment/investment should not be a priority.

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

I realize that standardized tests are a required metric for measuring student achievement and success. However, I don’t believe that this should be the only measure of student success. Many of the skills that students need to become productive citizens of our community cannot be measured on a standardized test. Therefore, I believe they should be deemphasize the importance of testing and should engage our children in deeper learning opportunities that included project based learning.

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 believe we need a more inclusive curriculum at P-CCS. Our curriculum should reflect the diversity of our students and be woven throughout the curriculum, not just highlighted during a small portion of the school year. I would keep successful portions of our curriculum including the leader in me program, the International Baccalaureate, and the build upon the wide range of program offerings that are available at P-CCS due to the size of our district.

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

I believe there is a great responsibility to support students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing. Staff wellbeing directly translates to student wellbeing. We need to create environments that support our students and staff physically and emotionally. This awareness can have a positive impact on attraction and retaining teachers. Student services and supports are needed to keep our students emotionally healthy and well.

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

I do not believe we need a school resource officer in our buildings. It brings a false sense of security and it can incite further trauma to our vulnerable students. We need to continue improve our restorative justice practices to address misconduct that focuses on healing rather than punishment and values accountability over exclusion.

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

The top priority for special education is to get our students back to face-to-face instruction with their support para professionals and other interventions safely.

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

We need to continue our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. We need ongoing professional development of our teachers and staff to include diversity, equity, and inclusion training. Support services need to be in place to shrink the achievement gaps, which greatly affect our minority populations at P-CCS. Our curriculum should reflect the diversity of our students and be woven throughout the curriculum, not just highlighted during a small portion of the school year. Our teaching staff should also reflect the diversity of our community. We need to continue improve our restorative justice practices to address misconduct that focuses on healing rather than punishment and values accountability over exclusion. These initiatives collectively can help create safe and inclusive environments for our students.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I want to share that Patrick Kehoe, Anupam Sidhu, Shawn Wilson and I have joined together to run as a slate for this election. We feel that each of us brings strong leadership, experience, innovation, and diversity to the board. We are parents of PCCS kids at all grade levels. We feel the slate is best positioned to meet the challenges of P-CCS faces and have the passion and the vision to help move P-CCS to greater heights. I look forward to earning your vote and working hard for P-CCS.

https://www.laurenforpccs.com/
https://voteyes4pccs.com/