October 4, 2020
School DistrictRoyal Oak School District
How long have you lived in your district?
20 years and 7 months
Have you received any endorsements?
I am waiting to hear on several endorsements
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I want to be a school board member because:
– I have kids in our schools and have a stake in their education
– I am a new and passionate voice
– I want to be a part of RO Schools continued growth and excellence… we still have more to do!
– I want to be a part of bringing Cultural competency, understanding and awareness to all students, teachers and leaders
– I would like to bridge the gap between what the school board does and what our community thinks they do.
– Communication is key and the whole city should want to be involved in the growth and empowerment of our youth.
– I believe that the school board should be a representation of our city’s residents and cultures
– I believe that our school board should have some parents with school aged children on it. We are living the Dream ??
– I would like to bring my experience in education and healthcare to the table.
– This experience can shed some light on how health impacts a child’s learning, growth and success
– Chronic disease, mental health, nutrition and family dynamics are all determinants of educational success
I am running because I love my city, it’s residents and I want to make a difference anyway I am needed
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
Educational Justice to me is making sure that every student has the same high quality education regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. Parents, students, educators and community members must come together to demand this justice and stand strong in condemning any and all policies or laws that threaten to take it away.
In terms of educational justice in my school district it can be seen in the way students of color are disciplined and made to feel “less than.” It also is apparent in the use of police officers for non-violent disciplinary actions by students of color.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
If I could reimagine the way our school district would look after the pandemic, it would be more broadly diverse than it is today. Every student would feel safe and have educators who put their needs first. Every child of color would have role models and mentors within our district that they identify with.
Every classroom in every school would have the most up to date technology and curriculum would include more cultural diversity.
The health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, would be a priority for each school district which would mean additional funding to make sure every student’s basic needs are met (food, shelter, support and safety). We cannot expect a student to thrive and achieve more academically if their fundamental needs at home are not being met.
I truly believe that the items above can be met if we have the right people on the school board and in community leadership positions.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
I believe that parents, students and families should have a seat at the table when it comes to decisions that impact their lives. This would mean that committees, programs and leadership positions would have to be widely available and communicated to the residents so that they can join in the work.
There are currently opportunities in my district where residents can become part of the solution: The Cultural Competence Engagement Committee is an example.
Many residents are not aware of all the ways they can be involved, whether or not they have a student in our schools. I, if elected to the school board, would like to be a community liaison and work on drumming up more community involvement in our school board, school foundation activities and student service needs.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
My financial supporters are friends, family and residents in my community. I do not have any large donors at this time.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
1. Diversity: In terms of teachers, leaders and curriculum improvement. As a ROMPA member I support our mission and goals to make our schools a safer and more equitable place for students of color. Every child of color in the Royal Oak Schools should feel safe and have educators who put their needs and quality of education first. Every child of color should also have role models and mentors within our district. The School Board should also represent the community by being diverse and having representation from parents who have school aged children.
I believe one way we can implement change quickly is to supplement the curriculum with additional subject matter on diversity throughout the entire year. In an age of technology, subject material is readily available and can be added to enrich the learning experience.
I am currently a part of CCEC (Cultural Competence Engagement Committee) and more specifically the co-chair for the Recruitment, Hiring and Retention sub-group. We are working to find new ways to attract and recruit diverse and well qualified candidates while ensuring that the interviewing process showcases what is working well in our district and what we want our future to be. We are also working on a retention strategy that includes quarterly anonymous surveys so that our educators can share their concerns and needs in a safe environment and without fear of retribution.
Our city has a young generation of diverse students still in elementary school who need us to provide a safe, accepting and empowering atmosphere for them in order to grow and be successful. WE need to make impactful change now.
2. Healthy and safe environment: As a healthcare professional my passion is to assist others in living healthier lives: physically and mentally. As we are dealing with a pandemic, our school system has been working on putting in place what they believe are the healthiest and safest options for our students and teachers. If elected, I would like to enrich this effort by ensuring that all students have resources that improve their physical and mental wellbeing. If a child does not have enough food to eat or live in a safe environment how can we expect them to focus on their education? The mental health of our students is also important and while there are some Social Workers in our school district now, I believe we need to review to see if what we have is enough. Brainstorming other options and collaborating with community resources could provide additional support to our student population and their families.
I believe it’s equally important that our students feel safe when they are in school. No child should have anxiety about the teachers, leaders and other school employees they come across during the school week. As a school board and elected officials we need to listen to what the community and our students are telling us AND investigate the issues. This needs to be done timely so that issues can be resolved and action taken where needed. Law enforcement should not be brought in to handle behavioral issues when there is no threat of violence or injury. It is the job of the administration along with counselors and parents to work with the students when behavioral issues arise. Scaring a child with a police officer should never be the answer.
3. Modernization of classrooms and curriculum: work to equip all classrooms with the latest technology and use best practices in enhancing the curriculum to meet the varied needs of our students. Inclusion of culturally competence material in all subjects.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
1. Increased funding for public schools
2. Cultural Competency requirements added to State mandated curriculum
3. Affordable College and/or support for Trades training
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?
Royal Oak School District in the beginning of COVID-19 seemed behind when compared to other school districts in the area. Many students and parents felt as though the spring semester was unsuccessful academically and hoped that the next school year would be better.
Over the summer the school board, leaders and teachers worked hard to ensure the 2020-2021 school year went off without a hitch. As a high school parent, I am satisfied with the start of our school year. I cannot speak to the middle school or elementary schools success.
I believe our school district must remain transparent in decision making and communicate plans as they become available. One of the larger complaints from district parents is that they felt out of the loop on what the school year would look like.
I believe that our school district should use research and the expert advice of the CDC and World Health Organization when deciding on when the students should return to the buildings and not be bullied by political agenda.
Our district had brought on county public health nurses to address the concerns of COVID and support the needs once our students return to the classroom. Additional training and support of the leaders, teachers and support staff is also ongoing.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
– Staffing for lower teacher to student ratios
– Additional support staff: Social workers and behavior health counselors
– Modernization of curriculum and classrooms
Not a priority:
– Police presence in schools
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
I believe that standardized testing should be used to gauge the learning needs/deficits of their students. I don’t believe it should be used to determine funding, overall excellence of a school/district or ability of a student.
Because not all students test well, I don’t think a score on a standardized test should count against them. Specifically in terms of where they are accepted for post secondary education.
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?
If I could have the power to impact my school’s curriculum directly I would start with a more culturally diverse curriculum. I believe that many of the text books we use are not authentic in their history and lack a broader view of the world. I believe that all cultures and their successes/failures should be represented in each subject where applicable.
I would like my district to look at best practices across the state where course options are broader and extracurricular activities can earn school credit (Model UN for example).
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
I believe school districts have a large responsibility to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of their staff and students. Both spend approximately 8 hours per day in the classroom and require the safety and support of the district. Like any company, the health of its employees/community, is a top priority. One cannot succeed and thrive if they aren’t feel supported and safe.
Also, if a school identifies issues with a student, I believe it should be in their best interest to work with the student, their parents and any supportive staff to resolve any issues. When a child feels supportive and safe, they can focus on their education.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
I believe that schools should handle non-violent disciplinary events with the help of the principal/assistant principals, counselors/teachers and the students parent(s). I do not believe it is ever ok for a police officer to be brought in to handle a non-violent, non-threatening issue. Research also shows that police officer presence in a school or in non-violent situations has a negative impact on students of color.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
I believe that special education programs in my district should received increased funding in terms of support, educator training and improved curriculum.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
Cultural equity is one of my top priorities as I mentioned previously. I believe it takes a whole community to realize and admit that racial injustice exists on all levels and then to want to change this injustice.
I believe our district has begun this work by the creation of such groups like the Cultural Competence Engagement Committee , but that we still have more to do. We have to go beyond saying what we are or what we want to be…. there has to be action and commitment behind the words.
Any other information you want to include or share?
I am a dedicated member of the Royal Oak Multicultural Parents Association and have lived in Royal Oak for over 20 years. I am married and have 2 children at Royal Oak High School: Bryan, who is entering his Senior year, and Maddie, who is entering her Sophomore year.
I am a first generation American on both sides of my family and am proud to share that I am of Lebanese and Maltese descent. I was raised to value hard work, honestly and integrity while embracing the strength and fortitude that makes living in our country so great. In my teenage years my family was hit with tragedy when my younger brother died and it was then that I realized my passion for helping others.
I am a graduate of Michigan State University where I earned a BA in Psychology and then went on to earn by BSN in Nursing. I have been a nurse for 23 years and have not regretted my decision to enter into this selfless profession once. Being a nurse has given me a chance to help others, save lives and share my empathy and compassion when it was needed most. I have loved being a nurse so much that I volunteer at the high school as a guest lecturer in the Medical Skills program. I also have experience as an educator, project manager, leader and community advocate which I believe will help me as a School Board member should I get elected.
I have been very involved in Royal Oak through the PTA, Choir and Drama Boosters, Royal Oak athletics, Gilda’s Club and Stagecrafters theatre. I love our community and want to make sure it continues to grow for future generations. We have seen good and challenging moments in our city but I believe, at our core, we all want the same things: a safe, healthy and successful community to raise our families.