October 14, 2020
School District:Kalamazoo Public Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Michigan Education Association, Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, Western Michigan University College Democrats, Promise Advocacy for Children & Community Transformation (PACCT), Advocates for KPS LGBTQ+, Mi Liberation, -Stephanie Moore, County Commissioner District 1 -Tracy Hall, County Commissioner District 3, Board Chair -Jen Aniano, County Commissioner District 6 -Zac Bauer, County Commissioner District 2, Chris Praedel-Kalamazoo City Commissioner
Are you an incumbent?
Why do you want to be a school board member?
I’m Megan Maddock, I’m running for the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education because I am passionate about youth having all the opportunities that a high quality public education affords them.
I am a special education teacher and have dedicated my life to being an educator to vulnerable youth. I believe education is a right that creates openings not afforded to enough young people in our district. I know that with equitable support, growth and success are possible for all our students.
What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?
Educational justice to me means dismantling the white supremacy in the education system. The work to dismantle a system that has existed for so long means we need to assess the areas we have disproportionately over-represented groups of young people such as in special education, suspensions and expulsions, and honors and AP courses. We must do the work as a district to create equitable practices and policies that provide opportunities to all our young people in the district.
If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?
This public health crisis and the discussion of returning to school has really shined a light on what is important in education. We see the need for connection and socialization over the need to perform well on standardized testing. Moving forward as we continue education amid a pandemic, I think it is paramount we focus on the skills we want our young people to have like empathy, resilience, and problem solving, and give school workers, administration, families and students more grace and understanding as we are all in this together.
Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?
In conversations with families, I’ve learned how some do not always feel their needs and interests being heard by the board or with the urgency they’d expect. I believe the role of a board is to provide a safe space for all community members invested in public education to bring their ideas and concerns to the table to feel heard and valued.
Our community has a vested interest in the wellbeing of our children and as a public school district, we want to support the whole child. I plan to increase family and community involvement through the creation of an advisory committee that meets regularly with the board. The goal being to have a stakeholder group that leads the conversation on how to better engage with and promote transparency between the district and community. I want the community that supports our district to be drivers in the work toward a more equitable public education for all our KPS young people.
Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?
My top financial supporters are friends, family, and community members.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?
My plan is to combat systemic racism to provide equitable opportunities for all students, strengthen community, educator, administration, and family partnerships, and support new innovative practices in our district.
If elected, I will advocate for policy creation that equitably protects and supports our most marginalized student populations, calls for data and accountability, and focuses on restorative rather than punitive discipline practices.
I plan to increase family and community involvement through the creation of a stakeholder advisory committee that meets regularly with the board.
I will advocate for more innovative alternative education practices including middle college and trade courses, and push for a more inclusive and culturally relevant curriculum for all grade levels.
What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?
Advocating for more state funding is a priority. Additionally, I will advocate as a trustee for state mandated inclusive curriculum that is representative to the diverse population of students in public education districts. Additionally, I will advocate to have the required unscheduled observations removed from evaluations to be replaced with scheduled observations only. With the scheduling of observations, the teacher and administrator have the opportunity to pre-conference and discuss specific evaluation areas of focus as decided by the teacher and administrator leading into the observation.
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?
Families want a quality public education for their child and are struggling to endure the demands of a global pandemic. It is important that during these trying times, we continue to value the abilities of all our students, ensuring that the most marginalized of them are not left behind with the loss of funding, programs, and strains of virtual learning. As a board, we should listen to concerns from families and use that to guide the work we do, to implement policy and lead in a way that keeps equity and safety at the forefront of all decision-making.
I believe in listening to science and data, making the most informed decisions regarding the safety of in-person learning and measures taken to protect our young people. I believe the inequitable access to quality internet and technology is only exacerbated due to this pandemic and steps must be taken to mitigate these inequities. I believe COVID-19 has brought the issue of equity to the surface, and it is the board’s responsibility to encourage partnerships with the community, promote innovative solutions, and systemically work to repair harm caused by inequities in the system of education.
What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?
Our district should focus our spending priorities on staffing that best supports the overall mental health wellness of our students, keeping our physical buildings safe and an optimal learning environment, and bringing healthy and fresh foods into our schools to invest in the wellness and high quality education of all our students.
De-criminalizing our schools needs to be a priority, with the removal of SROs and the contract removed from the budget. Research does not support the policing of schools and has shown very little benefit of this presence. We are asking officers to do things outside of their scope of practice that other supports like social workers and community members could provide. Use that funding to create intervention teams that are trained in de-escalation techniques and can intervene only when necessary.
What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?
As a board, we should advocate for legislature that does puts less emphasis on standardized testing and finds a more equitable solution to measuring student outcomes. Additionally, I will advocate to have standardized test scores removed from teacher evaluations.
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?
As we learn more about how to provide equitable education and dismantling the systemic barriers that prevent marginalized students from succeeding, we must adjust the curriculum we implement so that it is culturally relevant to all our students. Additionally, we must value the abilities of all our students, those with exceptionalities and those that do not fit into the standardized mold of public education that has fundamentally remained unchanged. Students who struggle to progress within the general education public school setting should be offered the option to explore alternative school programs, not as punishment, but as an opportunity to discover their passions and a field of study they would not have had the opportunity to pursue previously.
I believe we should assess current school curriculum to align with current research and best practices regarding antiracist education and abolitionist teaching practices. Additionally, adjust curriculum to ensure the history and modern systems of racism are taught. I will advocate to evaluate school social emotional learning (SEL) programs, supplement or replace with SEL directly related to racial healing, self love and celebration, and fight to adopt a social justice curriculum across all schools. Lastly, I want to explore the implementation of early/middle college and trade certification programs for our students.
What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?
Teachers are unpaid, overworked, and undervalued. We must invest in our teachers by paying them a salary reflective of the work they do and offer flexible benefits programs to address the varying needs of all educators. We need to set our teachers up for success with smaller class sizes, positive school culture, and opportunities for professional growth. A focus on the mental health of school staff would greatly improve employee retention and prevent burnout. We are facing a teacher shortage not because teaching isn’t an appealing profession, but because we haven’t shown how much we value our educators. To improve the quality of education in our public school system, we must focus on the investment in our school workers.
Schools need better mental health services for students experiencing crisis, in need of support, and everything in between. A shift from punitive punishments to restorative practices will invest in the overall wellness of young people and decrease the frequency of behavioral issues.
How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?
I believe our district would be safer if we focus on de-criminalizing our schools with the removal of school resource officers. The history of SROs in schools began with the implementation of zero tolerance policies. Much research into the effectiveness of SROs in schools shows that oftentimes SROs are being asked to perform duties outside of their scope in practice and training. The presence of SROs in schools is linked to higher rates of arrests for minor crimes, that oftentimes do not lead to arrests in other schools where more proactive, restorative, and de escalation practices are present.
Additionally, to keep students and staff safe, the district should establish a unified district plan for a multi-tiered system of supports for behavior to address student behavior, requiring documentation of each step before any decisions are made regarding removal of a student from the school.
Implementing a tiered system of support for students with behavioral challenges tells every child that there is no such thing as a throw-away person. Behavior is communication. Youth are communicating a need that is not being met when challenging behavior arises. It is the responsibility of the district to support this belief by putting in the necessary work to address the much needed racial healing and proactive strategies to keep every child engaged and enrolled in the district.
What are your top priorities around special education in your district?
As a special education teacher at a juvenile home school, many of the students I work with come from our local district and have a diagnosed disability. One area of improvement I’d love to bring more attention to is the fact that our students with IEPs and 504s are currently not able to attend KPS alternative programs because they do not have special education teachers and supports in place. Unfortunately, this oftentimes means when we try to transition KPS students back to the district, there are no schools available for them that can provide the appropriate accommodations, meaning we end up sending them to another district, resulting in the loss of the Promise.
Additionally, after meeting with different parents of students with exceptionalities, I’ve learned there are some barriers to accessing courses in education for the arts, education for employment, and career and technical education through an equitable lens that supports their children in their accommodations.
Additionally, I’d like to advocate for a community and family advisory committee that can better inform the board of rising concerns in special education from their own personal experiences and thoughts on improvement. As a public education district, it is my hope to bring more community collaboration and support into the district to address challenges that may otherwise go unknown on a larger scale.
Lastly, as a board, we have the opportunity to implement policy that supports and protects our most marginalized students, those with special needs especially. I will advocate for policy creation that calls for more positive intervention practices, including a district-wide multi-tiered system of supports for students with exceptionalities, as well as policy regarding specific supports and preventative services that will be utilized to prevent a child with a disability being removed from a school, be it suspension or expulsion or another route of removal.
What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?
Research shows students of color are disproportionately on the receiving end of punitive disciplinary practices such as suspension and expulsion. We know systems of racism and privilege exist in education. Special education has been severely underfunded for years. To ensure all our students are given an equitable chance to obtain a high quality education, we must institute policies within our district that directly reflect the cultural competency, empathy, and high standards we expect of our students.
Additionally, I think community, parent, admin, and teacher partnerships are essential to the functioning of an equitable district. Kalamazoo has so many community members invested in the success and well-being of our young people, it doesn’t make sense not to have their input. The creation of a parent/community advisory team that meets regularly with board members would help bridge this relationship and promote more positive and collaborative opportunities.
Any other information you want to include or share?
Similar to a parent/community advisory team, a student advisory team would be beneficial to inform the board of what is actually happening in our schools, thinking of unique solutions, and how to best serve our most marginalized groups of students. It would be paramount to have representation of students of different age, grade level, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and cognitive function to make input from this advisory group representative of the district as a whole.