October 9, 2020

Nicole Ciganik

Pronouns: she/her
School District: Greenville Public Schools
City: Greenville

How long have you lived in your district?

22 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Meg Mullendore , Executive Director of the Montcalm Alano Club and Principal of Mully Consulting LLC.

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I believe that the district is moving in a forward direction and would like to see it continue that path. As a GHS graduate , I will always be a yellow jacket. I do see some areas where changes can be recognized from the experience , I will bring from working at the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District , similar to the outsider looking in regards to advocating on behalf of students and staff.

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

Educational justice is about working towards the elimination of inequities in the public-school system. I work with the most sensitive to difficult populations giving me greater insight into inequities in public schools. Whether that be the need to re-evaluate how we do an Individual Educational Plan , working with various community partners or with other school districts in a positive format. Bottom line is that inequities need to be identified , addressed , and eliminated.

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

In a perfect world , it would be a small teacher to student ratio , more community partnerships and developing a mentorship program that is beneficial to the mentor and mentee.

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

We must recognize that every voice has value , yet ascertaining how to accomplish that is where the difficulty lies. Frankly , major decisions made by the school board should NOT occur without soliciting the GPS district in any and all manners available , i.e. public hearings , surveys , emails , phone calls/text and in person. We must remind ourselves that we represent THEM not our “individual’ agenda.

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

None

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

First and foremost is making sure our students are getting the best possible education available. GPS is ranked number 293rd out of 890 public schools in the state and #8 ,753 in the nation. We can do better. Second is making sure we are good stewards of the financial resources we have available and getting the most bang for our buck. Lastly , develop a strong and enticing recruitment program to attract the best and brightest teachers and/or staff to work with our students which means we need to set the bar high; they are the ones who will be teaching our children.

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

Initially is that the allocation from the state of Michigan and Federal Government increase on a per pupil proportion. Second would be to not reinvent the wheel; Common Core leaves a lot of parents feeling frustrated as it limits their ability to sit down and help with student’s homework. They don’t understand what once took three steps now takes nine (a simple three digit number multiplied by a two digit number is not done in the same fashion as parents were taught) , additionally , it acts to create a disconnect with their children and results in a greater reliance on the teacher. Lastly as a district we need to evaluate , with the staff , why are there requirements for so many standardized tests? These tests lead to frustration for all as rankings and monetary allocations are directly attached to the results. Teachers feet are held to the fire and students have so much pressure placed upon them for these “tests”. If it is collectively determined that these tests are not an accurate representation of teachers and/or students , as a School Board we need to advocate on their behalf in Lansing.

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?

We do not need to anticipate challenges , we are seeing it daily , in the news , emails from school principals and conversations at work. COVID is here , how long , no one can answer that question just as not knowing why some are A-Symptomatic and others react so adversely. This is a learn as you go process plain and simple. There is not a right or a wrong answer for this question.

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

Education has always been the top priority and needs to continue to be. Education affords students an opportunity to go on to higher learning institutions and to prepare for the real world upon graduation , to a point. More funds need to be allocated to the special trades that are coming back , tool and die , automotive and other programs. There should not be limits on the number of students able to attend “trade classes” at the Montcalm Area Career Center.

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

I do not. Frankly , they are not an accurate representation of all student’s capabilities. For example , I have a friend , who is highly intelligent and can articulate very well and has advanced degrees , but they cannot take a standardized test. Their brain does not process that information in that fashion and as such they always have done poorly on ANY standardized multiple-choice test. I feel that each student needs to be evaluated on what method works for them. Can they do a standardized test , do they need visual prompts , or do they need to “write around it” until they touch on it , because they will. We need all to be represented by what works for them , not what’s easiest for the state to process.

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?

Elimination of standardized testing. Less reliance on technology and more on actual “text” and dry erase boards. Teachers want to teach and bluntly they cannot in large part due to changes in curriculum imposed by the state. The typical response tends to be the elimination of sports and the arts. We need to find a way in which to better incorporate those into the curriculum; it helps make a student , a son or daughter , more well-rounded.

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

Our district has a huge responsibility in supporting students and staff. Mental and emotional health is so critical now. Today we are seeing things we have not seen before; the local hospital sees a minimum of one youth attempted suicide a week , two parent households are at an all-time low and both parents working to stay afloat. The traditional family dinner is an unknown , bullying has become a beast of its own , so much in fact , that the school has an anonymous method in which to notify public officials without fear of retaliation. Eating disorders for girls and boys is at an all-time high , why , because it is the ONE thing in their life they can control. Our staff is bearing the weight of our students struggles and challenges. Child Protective Services is over worked and often does not respond to complaints filed. Today , our youth face so many challenges , carry so much baggage , that the school district formally needs to create a trauma team , some policies , and build a team from within the school system and the community. They say it takes a village , and it does and now is the time to rise to that occasion for our students and staff.

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

Every situation should be evaluated on a case by case basis because each student is unique and has a different background. To have an “across the board” policy does not address the issue with the individual nor does it really address the issue. Granted there are some exceptions to this rule , violence with a weapon or threat of a weapon obviously need to be treated with a no tolerance policy. I cannot tell you how many times I have read on social media about the bullying that takes place in our schools and depending upon who you are has dictated the level of accountability placed upon the student. Again , bullying should be no tolerance. To affectively address discipline and safety ALL ideologies need to be put on the table with a “best practices” strategy formulated based upon those that is consistently applied across the district.

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

We need to recognize that the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District is a partner not an adversary and we should be working collectively with them in all areas of special education which will benefit our students and staff. If a joint task force is created , including MAISD and GPS School Board members , so much more could be accomplished and shared that will result in a mutual benefit between the two districts.

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

Frankly , equity is the name of the game. There is always a need in which to evaluate and address being fair and impartial across the board , i.e. firm , fair , and consistent across the board regardless of WHO you are. This applies to staff as well , meaning because you are tenured doesn’t mean the same standards do not apply to you , again , firm , fair , and consistent across the board or credibility does NOT exist.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I believe that in putting yourself out there to make a positive contribution you must be a committed advocate for being a part of the solution , and not part of the problem.