October 4, 2020

Leslie Marie Neilson

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictBoyne City Public Schools
City:Boyne City

How long have you lived in your district?

20+ years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I believe we need to take care of our most vulnerable members of society… right now those are our children pre-K through Grade 5. I believe we do this creating healthy school environments for our children, teachers, administration and support staff to learn and teach in. Our district is poised to set our district up for success if we take actions that will ensure we have safe school buildings for our children. I believe our schools should be built with energy efficient technology so that the money we save can be reinvested in our children, teachers and our communities. I also believe that we should have programs for in place for all of our children, not just children who are on the college track.

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

One of my sovereign truths is that all children should be entitled to an education provided in a safe and healthy environment. Attempts by our school should be made to address all of the needs of our children, especially children who are at risk. Children who get good grades, and are involved in sports, drama, band, etc. only make up roughly 50% of our school population by the time they reach 12th. There is currently quite a bit of inequality with regard to the amount of resources allocated to students on the college track at our school and virtually none for the remaining students. I believe it is possible to make our schools learning institutions that teach our children real life skills that they can use and carry beyond our into the world, which can then become professions. We also need to make sure children’s nutritional needs are met in order for them to learn effectively. We also need to stop standardized testing and allow our teachers more autonomy.

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

Thank you for asking this question!!!! Schools would be built using geo thermal technology, solar panels and wind turbines. All schools would be built with day lighting so minimal artificial lighting would be necessary. Positive air flow HVAC systems would be throughout all classrooms and buildings. In addition to this, UV air purification systems and ozone technology could be implemented to ensure healthier environments for our children. Rain water collection systems would be implemented and the water from these would be used to flush toilets and water the grounds, etc. Greenhouses would be on all school campuses where children could eat their meals. The greenhouses would act as learning tools for all grades. Students in the high school would be able to learn hydroponics, pest control, about agricultural, floristry, etc. Food grown in the greenhouses would be used to feed the children organic, healthy food. Hospitality programs would be on campus and use the food grown to make real food to feed the children. High schools students could learn about geo thermal, solar, and wind turbine technology which could become trade programs for the schools. Furthermore, data collected from the use of these technologies could be used in science and math classes, so students are learning real life scenarios and the impact of their decisions on the world around them. I would also like to see more air field houses… college campuses are using them more because they are so affordable and as we live in a cold climate it would allow athletes longer seasons.

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

I believe there should be several layers to decisions about our schools. Currently only parents who have children who are exceling are making the decisions. We need to figure out how to get input from parents who are not involved. If we cannot do this, I feel we need to be aware of the needs of all of our children and work toward meeting these needs. I also feel our students and teachers are the most under utilized resource for information. Currently board members who are not in the schools, may not have any children or grandchildren in the schools and have never taught are making decisions. I believe children and in particular teachers should be included on all of the decisions affecting our schools. As a board member I would like to bridge this gap and open up a dialogue between students and teachers.

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) Addressing the needs of our most vulnerable –> pre-K through Grade 5. Making sure safe, in person learning continues to be an option.
2) Creating more programs for high school students who are not planning on going to college
3) Ensuring students who graduate from high school have the necessary knowledge and life skills to succeed in life.

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

1) Stop standardized testing
2) Ensuring children are reading and comprehending by the time they enter middle school.
3) Creating schools where children not only graduate, but that they also graduate with life skills.

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?

Children are going to have to continue to wear masks. I believe our school district is doing an excellent job with what they have to work with. Going forward though, I believe we need to focus on creating healthy environments in our schools so that once COVID is no longer a worry, we will be ready for the next health crisis. Doing this will ensure our children are healthier and miss less school, which results in better learning and education.

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

The top priorities should be 1) replacing our aging buildings 2) ensuring our pre-K through Grade 5 students can continue to learn in person and 3) taking care of our teachers. I do not think more money should be spent on sports or athletic facilities. Although I think athletic programs are important, I think it should be noted that the first thing society got rid of was professional sports. We need to take care of our youngest at risk populations first.

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

Minimal if any. This practice should be evaluated and revamped by our teachers, not legislators in Lansing, many of who don’t believe in public schools.

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 don’t feel I am qualified to answer this question as I am not in the schools and I am not a teacher. The one thing I can say based on conversations I have had with my 17 year old son is that more classes that teach life skills should be offered. As far as what to keep the same, again, I don’t feel I am qualified to answer this question. I feel our teachers are the best people qualified to answer this question as well.

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

We should be doing as much as we can. Teachers and support staff do so much more than just teach. In some cases they spend more time with our children than parents do. This is sad, but true. We need to ask them what we can do to support them and do everything we can to do it.

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

As I understand it, our district currently handles these situations quite publicly. If a child is acting out, there is usually a good reason and we should work to try and help figure out the root of the problem, not just condemn the child. We do have to look out for everyone’s safety though, so again, I feel we need to be getting feedback from our teachers as to how they think situations regarding discipline should be handled.

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

I will be honest and say I am not well versed in special education in our district. I am looking forward to learning more though.

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

Equity is of utmost importance in our country and schools. We must continue to educate our students, teachers and support staff so that they are teaching their students tolerance. Much of our districts students are from low income families and we must teach them it’s not about what a person has, it is about what is inside that is important.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Not at this time.