October 4, 2020

Lori Ajlouny

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictBirmingham City School District
City:Birmingham

How long have you lived in your district?

40 years

Have you received any endorsements?

MEA, BEA, Fems for Dems

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a Birmingham educator, I will offer my 31 years of experience as a teacher, my vast knowledge of our community and BPS to improve the quality of our distinguished district. During this current time my top priority and focus is getting our students and staff back in the classroom safely. This is what I have been working on since March of 2020. I am proud to announce a Return to School Plan that is being passed this week. Being the mother of four children, I know how important it is to invest in education and provide equity for all students. I understand how to work collaboratively to build relationships with educators, parents, and community members. I pledge to serve with transparency, fully informing the public in order to make the best decisions for all stakeholders of our community, and to ensure transparency at all levels to successfully accomplish district mission goals.

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

I have served on the district’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee for the past 22 years. Being a minority myself, I fully understand the meaning of educational justice. To me it means that education justice involves schools and communities that work to provide equitable and adequate distribution of highly qualified teachers who can provide quality instruction, equitable access to educational resources, advanced courses, and a focus on restorative justice to ensure that all students graduate high school.

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

I see many changes for the better happening. I see flexibility in the technological and physical way school is set up and delivered. I see flexible schedules and start and end times change for the improvement of students’ mental health and well being. I see creativity and dedication from our teachers and administrators. I see kindness and inclusion towards all. The pandemic has altered the cubicles or silos where we once worked to where, collaboration becomes a natural form of working together as team.

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

Parents, students and families are one of our most important stakeholders. Working collaboratively with all stakeholders who deserve a voice in shaping our district’s educational future will provide the outcomes we can be proud for our students.

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

My family and friends are my top financial supporters

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

First and foremost I, as a current sitting trustee, have a priority of getting our students back in the classroom for face to face learning. The pandemic of Covid-19 has altered our course and impacted the quality education our children deserve. Second I would place high value on creating a balance between all stakeholders . Third, transparency is a high priority on my list. Being in a position of making decisions for over 8,000 children makes me humble. I want to the community to be fully informed why, how and what decisions are being made that impact their children.

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

1. The right to educational opportunity. Education needs to be challenged and reshaped, giving everyone an opportunity to succeed – from the students, to the educators, to parents, and business community.
No matter where students live, they should have access to the same high-quality educational opportunities as any other student in Michigan deserves. We also have to invest in our teachers. Teachers across the state should have equitable opportunities to learn and excel in their profession no matter where they live and teach.

2. Educational reform: to be successful at becoming a top performing state Michigan must develop a coherent and cohesive strategy for children, and implement that plan with continuity for long term goals. To do this we must implement strategies, use evidence and data to
correct course, and continue with progress on key goals.

3. Expand access to quality publicly-funded preschool for all four-year-olds and three-year-olds by 2024

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?

The entire year of 2020 has been a challenge for all our students and staff. What I anticipate as a growing challenge is the scenario that we may well return to school in a hybrid school situation and then get move by governor’s orders back to phase 3 where we have to close our schools once again. Our school district has been the first to establish a local group of health care specialists in a committee called the Health Advisory Board who have contributed amazing information using science based data complied into a metric system we use to keep our students and staff safe. BPS has use this advice along with other studies to set and implement safety protocols in every building and educational setting including sports at every measure.

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

That is a very difficult question for me to answer because I have several top spending priorities. I can think of closing the achievement gap and creating equitable opportunities for all kids. I can think of preschool programs to invest in children from the ages of 3 and 4, I can think of safety and security for all students and all schools, then there is the mental health and well being of our future generations, pathways to higher education…….. I am sorry I cannot choose one priority, list above are all high priorities, and I haven’t even finished my list……

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

I think standardized is becoming archaic. One test given each year to measure where a child is or determine what university a student qualifies to enter is not a fair measure of any students’ capabilities and qualifications. Standardized testing is a snapshot of a moment during a test-taking day. What we should be looking at are student portfolios, narratives and essays. They are far better measures into know who a student is and what they are qualified to do.

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 have sat on numerous curriculum committees viewing and piloting new curriculum programs. I am keen to say teacher input is invaluable in these decisions. I would put classroom-running and curriculum-building decisions in the hands of the schools with input from the community. What I would keep is the rubric we have used to guide us in our choices listed below:
Learning how to build our Curriculum
Describe our vision, focus, objectives, and student needs.
Identify resources.
Develop experiences that meet our objectives.
Collect and devise materials.
Lock down the specifics of our task.
Develop plans, methods, and processes.
Create our students’ experience.

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

For both students and staff, schools offer an ideal context for prevention, intervention, positive development, and regular communication between school and families. School-employed professionals like school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers know the students, parents, and other staff, which contributes to accessibility of services. In fact, research has shown that students are more likely to seek counseling when services are available in schools.
In our district we have taken measures such as these, for both students and staff:
Encourage Social Time.
Schedule in 30 minutes or an hour every week where students can be social and focus on something other than the curriculum. …
Run Lunchtime Clubs. …
Have an Open-Door Policy where students can seek out an adult to talk.
Make Mental Health known not as a negative stigma but a condition to be treated like any other illness
Organize a Wellness Week.

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

One simple answer, provide security of course but more importantly invest money and training in restorative justice practices.

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

The purpose of special education is to enable students to successfully develop to their fullest potential by providing a free appropriate public education in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) They have established four goals for students with educational needs:
1. Equal opportunity
2. Full participation
3. Independent living
4. Economic self-sufficiency

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

Educational equity is a required condition of justice, fairness, and inclusion, and it must be embedded into the education system, at all levels, to ensure that students have access to rich educational opportunities and can meet their fullest potential. In order to achieve equity a district must create these goals:
1. Design-Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.
2. Practices-Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce grade retention.
3. Resourcing-Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I believe my tenure as a board trustee allows me to hit the ground running if I am re-elected and maintain a semblance of continuity. This will save time from the learning curve needed for such tough decisions especially in today’s crisis of the Covid pandemic.