October 4, 2020

Mary K Thomas

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictUtica Community Schools
City:Sterling Heights

How long have you lived in your district?

8 years

Have you received any endorsements?

MEA and MRCC

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I currently serve as the Vice President of the Utica Community Schools Board of Education. I am seeking re-election to continue the work to shift the culture and re-engage our community.

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

As a board member, I believe that this principle is reflected in the adoption of budgets that allocate available resources to meet student needs. In the context of UCS, this means leveraging the recently passed enhancement millage to bolster services provided to students.

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

I think it is important to recognize a one sized fits all approach to education does not always meet student needs. We need to continue to explore all options on how we educate our children and provide opportunities to engage our in house educational experts to exercise their creativity and resilience in how school will now look.

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

It is important to be actively involved in our educational community. At all stages of development, the district needs to engage with our parent community to solicit their input and feedback in the decisions we make that impact our students daily.

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

I am still actively fundraising

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

1. The current pandemic is the most pressing problem and the challenges associated with ensuring student safety. This naturally exacerbates the chronic problem of underfunding in Michigan public schools. 2. Utica is in a unique position as well were we will be choosing a new superintendent during a pandemic. 3. Additionally, the curriculum used in UCS is going to need to reflect the post-pandemic economy.

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

1. The state need to offer three tiers of diplomas and adjust graduation requirements based on the students long-term goals and post-secondary plans. 2. Increased open lines of communication between state elected leaders with local elected leaders to understand the unique challenges faced by school boards in meeting the needs of their students.

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?

Utilizing the information we have and the availability can pose a challenge. We are constantly adjusting our plan to align with state and national guidelines to ensure student safety is always at the forefront. I think each school district needs to make that decision based on local conditions, community expectations, and health department guidelines. It is very important to rely on the experts in the field for guidance on how to open as well as evaluate the resources available to meet these needs.

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

Given my background as a counselor, increased access to social – emotional supports for our students, especially during a pandemic, should be prioritized in our budget.

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

I believe it is important for educators to have data to best individualize instruction and interventions for students. It is important if we utilize assessment, we actually use the data as a tool to benefit 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?

Curriculum decisions need to be teacher driven. It is evident that we need to broaden our career and technical education offerings.

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

Given my background as a counselor, increased access to social – emotional supports for our students, especially during a pandemic, is paramount.

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

I think one of the best ways to have safe schools is by adding back support staff in the form of hall monitors, school counselors, and social workers. Infrastructure is important, but it cannot take the place of interpersonal connections. This is another area I would like to allocate resources from the enhancement millage.

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

I think that we have outstanding professionals in special services in our district. My hope is that we can expand our special services department as additional monies become available.

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

Again, there is no greater indicator of organizational values than its budget. Additionally as we look for a new superintendent, valuing educational equity must be a priority for the new candidate.

Any other information you want to include or share?

If re-elected, I am hopeful for the future in front of us and working to create a new climate and culture within UCS.