October 14, 2020

Sheree Conn

Pronouns: she/her
School District:Wayne-Westland Community School District
City: Westland

How long have you lived in your district?

40 + years, off and on.

Have you received any endorsements?

I’ve received endorsements from the following: William Wild, Mayor of Westland Jim Hart, President Westland City Council Mike Londeau, President Pro Temp Westland City Council Tasha Green, Councilwoman Westland City Council Andrea Rutkowski, Councilwoman City of Westland Mike McDermott, Councilman City of Westland Kevin Coleman, State Representative

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to become a school board member because students in Wayne/Westland deserve a world-class education. As our world rapidly changes, so too must our schools change for the betterment of our children. Better academic programs and greater enrichment opportunities are needed in order to meet the unique needs of our young learners.

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

Education justice means equal access to quality education for all students. For the Wayne/Westland School District, this involves schools and communities working together to ensure we identify and retain qualified teachers that can provide quality instruction. This includes securing the educational resources necessary to see that our kids have every tool available to help them graduate high school ready for college or a career.

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

Reimagining the way schools look includes a blend of real-life and online learning. Bringing more educational technology into schooling, kids spending more of their time learning time on screens, with programs individualized for each student so that we can meet them where they are.
Learning would occur at school, at home, in the community, and beyond.

Reopening schools need to take precautionary steps to keep students, teachers, and staff safe that include:
-Efficient ventilation systems
-More open spaces
-Reducing classroom sizes
-Increase bus routes so buses aren’t as full and require children that ride the bus to sit in a zigzag pattern
-Staying home if feeling ill, or who has been near someone with COVID-19
-In lieu of cafeteria lines, require that children eat in their classrooms with lunch brought from home or a boxed lunch provided by the school.
-Maintaining proper hand washing/respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes with elbow crease)
-Maintaining and providing adequate supplies such as disinfectant cleaners, hand soaps, and hand sanitizers
-Posting signs in highly visible locations that promote health safety measures

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

To educate parents about what is happening in the school, schools can sponsor family nights which focus on different education topics. So too, can we ask involved parents to contribute to the school blog or newsletter as a means to engage and increase parent involvement. Lastly, we can get families involved through online surveys. Google Forms and SurveyMonkeys are easy to create and distribute to parents via email, social media, and the school website.

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

I do not have top financial supporters.

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

1) Ensure students are outfitted with the resources needed to excel whether they’re learning in class, or learning remotely.

2) We can neither attract nor retain the best educators if they don’t feel 100% supported; we need to encourage teacher retention by creating and establishing clear pathways for teacher leadership, growth, and promotion.

3) Improve board communication and establish a culture of transparency and accountability.

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

We’ve got to think critically about the communities in which we live and work, identifying what’s important to the residents in our district. We need to take into consideration their backgrounds because representation matters, and embedding these values within our kids’ education is crucial to getting them engaged.

Funding should help attract highly qualified teachers, improve curriculum, and support additional programs that will have the greatest impact on our entire student population. My goal is to ensure funding supports the resources, programs, and services that our students need to be prepared to fully participate in the workforce and their community.

Emphasize workforce development, career & technical education (CTE) As an alternative to the traditional four-year degree, trade and technical schools offer specific vocational training for a wide variety of skilled careers with most requiring two years or less of training. We have an opportunity to address a skilled labor shortage, with hundreds of thousands of available jobs going unfilled because workers lack the necessary training.

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 protection of our children may be tougher to safeguard; in addition to processes in place to limit access to children at school, we must also ensure that bad individuals aren’t getting to our remote learners.

Along with face coverings and physical distancing, we can address COVID risks by having teachers move between classrooms, rather than having students fill the hallways between periods. Let’s allow kids to eat at their desks, or outside rather than in crowded lunchrooms.

Educators may begin to feel overwhelmed; but herein lies the opportunity to show them more appreciation, backing, and support as they play such a vital and irreplaceable role in these trying times.

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

Our top spending priority should be to address the resource inequities that have been quickly exposed through the emergency move to virtual education during this pandemic.
-We need to address massive food insecurities among children and families.
-Investing in technology equity as a component of emergency preparedness.

Increasing teachers’ salaries to commensurate with their added responsibilities (as a result of Covid-19). Our children additionally require sound, clean facilities; however, this doesn’t mean they need to be the most expensive–wise and conservative spending is paramount.

What should not be our district’s priority is transportation due to our busses being used less. 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 at different timing.

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

When done right, standardized tests can be great tools for learning and making sure everyone is on track. Without a clear objective however, they can take invaluable time away from actually teaching and developing our youth. Smart and calculated tests enable us to measure the progress of our children, so long as it’s conducted in moderation.

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?

Increasing transparency around what’s taught in our district’s schools including the curriculum selection process can help incentivize our district to make well-informed choices. In addition, we’ve got to better engage our teachers, supporting them in implementing new curricula, while providing them with the tools to collaborate meaningfully with one another as they familiarize themselves with new materials. Furthermore, professional preparation to help these teachers deal with diverse learning styles and disparate needs is crucial. I would like to see a more inclusive curriculum that is culturally relevant creating socially-just learners and a curriculum that meets students where they are. Ongoing professional development on effective instructional practices needs to be commonplace in our public schools.

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

Mentally healthy kids are more successful both in school, and in life. Schools are an ideal setting to provide mental health services to our youth and our educators. Students are more likely to take advantage of counseling when it’s made available in schools. So too, are mental health services vital in order to improve physical and psychological safety, as well as academic performance and problem-solving abilities.

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

I believe the district should reimagine discipline based on love and care for our young learners.

As a child, I had the good fortune of having authority figures who cared more about nurturing our spirits as young people than about criminalizing our behavior. It is time to get serious about real alternatives that get to the heart of what our students REALLY need.

-We should reallocate funds for SSOs to hire qualified mental health professionals.
-We need more counselors than cops. We need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, and it is only through the mediation of the deeper issues students deal with that this can be done.

A more holistic approach to restorative discipline can aid in fostering belonging rather than exclusion, and meaningful accountability over punishment. Students would have a strong sense of belonging rather than being at risk.

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

Our district should be heavily invested in instruction time, including 1:1s and small group instruction. We’ve got to provide consistent schedules that support young learners in developing productive routines. We must also invest in parental support, engaging parents more so we can better understand the moderate and severe needs of our kids.

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

We’ve got to ensure that students of all backgrounds come into equitable instruction by acknowledging students’ cultural heritage. Recognizing and implementing multiple perspectives into instruction helps students feel comfortable in their classroom environment, thereby enhancing learning for all of our young learners.

An important part of promoting equity means promoting inclusion and openness. This entails being respectful to each other, sharing ideas, opinions, and values. We must teach students self-awareness, how to disagree respectfully, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Furthermore, we can Invite parents into classrooms, showing students various representations of their culture and other cultures. We can bring people in from the community as guest speakers to share insights on current classroom topics. We can invite persons with physical or learning disabilities to talk about their unique experiences all in an attempt to establish respectful ways for students to have diverse experiences–thus better preparing them for life outside of the classroom.
We can improve equity by diversifying our school staff. Teachers serve as role models for students, providing them with real-life examples they might not otherwise be privy to. Community partners can also assist in making sure students are being equitably supported. Furthermore, we can implement culturally relevant teaching practices to aid in keeping our young learners cognizant of what’s happening in our world today.

Any other information you want to include or share?

The reason I’m running is to ensure that EVERY child in the Wayne/Westland School District is provided the chance to receive a high quality public school education. I’m committed to collaborating with our community to make every school across our district great, thereby giving our children a great chance at making the most of their lives.