October 4, 2020

Maggi Kennel

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictAnn Arbor Public Schools
City:Ann Arbor

How long have you lived in your district?

36

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes, Ann Arbor Indivisible

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I am eager to draw from my experiences as an AAPS parent, volunteer, equity advocate and as a medical researcher to help guide the policies that will make the School Board a more effective force for our children’s education.

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

Achieving educational justice is when students do not have to conform to feel successful and when educators become adept at responding to student needs. Our school district needs to focus on the marginalized students and create an environment that will allow them to flourish. This includes creating more opportunities to keep kids in school, have aids and tutors to there to keep students on track to achieve their potential, work to understand implicit bias in our school district, become culturally empathetic towards our students, and co-create a classroom culture where every learner feels inspired to participate.

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

Schools will be looking for ways to incorporate the investments that have been made due to the pandemic to create a new vision of school. Many school districts have purchased computers for all students, new software that will allow students to learn beyond the classroom and the ability for more students to be reached, even when at home. There will need to be a review of what works and doesn’t work in teaching students. This will include reviewing all of the changes that have been implemented over the last year, the training of staff and outcomes that are seen as schools work to transition back to in-person learning. The ability to close achievement gaps by utilizing the best of the changes to help reach more students in more ways would be the ultimate goal while retaining the best that in-person connections bring to schools. There will also be the ability to see and better understand which areas did not work during this pandemic. A combined hybrid of this learning review will result and create a new vision for schools moving forward.

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

Parents and students should be directly involved in providing ideas and feedback to the school board. I would like to see a student advocate at each school that reports to the school board members. For the younger students, this would be families and for the secondary schools, this could be designated student per grade. This would allow for better insight directly into the school experience of students and families. I would also like to see a teacher representative from each school that is anonymously able to report to the board as well. This would give better insight the Board to provide areas of improvement that the teachers believe need to addressed by taking out the fear of ramifications. This will create a more complete picture for the board to direct school decisions from.

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

I have a community based campaign with supporters from many areas in the district.

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

My top three goals for the Ann Arbor Public school district are an equitable education for all our students, responsible leadership and inspiring academic achievement for our students. We need to minimize resource disparities in our district and proactively plan support resources appropriately. Our leaders need to increase the transparency and accountability with regards to school funds, while implementing change to protect our environment. We also need to inspire students with teachers that are not heavily weigh upon with testing and metrics but can create imaginative content that engages the students to learn.

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

My top three goals at the state level are to increase the resources for social and emotional health, better partnerships with teachers to create clear evaluable learning goals and change the funding at the state level in how tax dollars are distributed to districts. These goals would work in concert to generate a more complete process in education with the student learning goals as a priority, not a metric.

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?

Currently, during the pandemic, we are seeing issues that we thought were small fissures in our the academic system but will lead to the greatest educational disparity that we have ever seen. These include the lack of resources for our most vulnerable population, our students. My district needs to focus on creating sustained access to resources for our vulnerable families. The plan to re-open schools will need to be clearly laid out and expectations understood by families. Schools will need to create floor plans that direct traffic, socially distance the students in classrooms and have masks/hand sanitizer/sinks available for students and staff throughout the day. The ventilation in our schools will need to be addressed as many of the buildings are old and in need of upgrades before the pandemic. Every angle of the school day will need to be reviewed to create the best plan to ensure safety for all.

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

With our current school status of virtual learning, this allows the district to focus on creating change in areas that were already approve with the passing of the $1billion dollar bond. Many of the promised changes included better ventilation, lighting, open spaces and more. These focused changes can be started on now with little to no people in the school buildings. This prioritization would decrease disruption when schools re-open and help facilitate the return to school. There are also the redistribution of targeted projects that the bond was going to focus on that will not be the priority now. For example, we will not need to replace our bus fleet that quickly with less use over the last year. By redirecting funding to projects that both need to be done and have a higher priority due to COVID, projects that were promised to the voters through the bond approval can still be delivered but in a different timing.

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

Standardize test are a metric that has been long discussed. Many parents fee, understandably concerned about their children being judged on the basis of tests that, in some cases, don’t seem to reliably correlate with actual learning or with successful college and career outcomes. These tests also favor those with the access to resources to successfully study for them or work towards improvement, increasing the inequities of the educational system. Freeing teachers of the constraints of a testing-focused curriculum will help teachers to inspire each student to meet their full potential and decrease inequitable standards for college bound students.

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?

Our schools offer a wide-variety of subject matter in many forms. The one thing I would work to improve is the basics of the human experience. Students need to come out of public school with an understanding of what the world expects out of them as an adult, so teaching increased understanding in civic duty, tax structures, job opportunities and other roles and responsibilities would create a better foundation for functioning in society. There should also be a bigger push for problem solving learned behaviors. Problem based learning exists now but to a limited degree so increasing access to it across different topics would help build confidence in students moving forward.

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

We have seen the last few years that social/emotional wellness is becoming the cornerstone of what we need in education. The ability to support the whole student and teacher, will increase their confidence, ability to learn/teach and will create a better sense of community for the school school. Students and teachers have the ability to recognize when their limits have been reached. If we can’t build in space in our curriculum for mental and emotional health and well being, then we are failing to teach how to be a well balanced person. This is a crucial skill for life.

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

Schools in Ann Arbor have been installing monitored entrances to the buildings for many year. We do not have police officers in our schools. Our schools should work to create a district that looks for root causes of behavior changes and assist in solving these. Discipline needs to be compassionate and not be a reason that sets a student back from learning. Creating a caring culture in our schools with counselors that work to help student thought tough times will lead to less serious problems in the long run. Schools can also partner with community resources to assist with alleviating root causes if needed.

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

Special education needs to become a more proactive process. Parents are not always the ones to identify that there student is of need and schools need to be better funded to have more resources available to assist in diagnosis and implementation. Creating tools that help families understand the needs of their student better would be a priority. This could mean partnering with local groups that already exist, creating a network of families to support each other and working to advocate for appropriate resources at each school. We need to be able to support our most vulnerable at every step, to ensure an equitable education that allows students and families to thrive.

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

Increased inequity is one of the biggest issues in the district and drives our achievement gap. Equity through education affirms that every student’s educational experience matters. We need to work so that students of color can enter school as their most authentic selves and feel supported and safe. Partnering with community organizations and leaders to better understand the realities that students are facing will allow the Board to put into place better policies to work with families and students. Creating a cultural that welcomes input from all students will lead to a trust and partnership with the school. As many of these issues are not unique to Ann Arbor, working with our neighbors in Ypsilanti School district to create better support models would benefit both districts and unify our schools with a common goal, increasing accessible education for all students.

Any other information you want to include or share?