When you talk to prospective voters about what the Board of Education can–and cannot–do, what do you tell them? Simply put: What are the roles and responsibilities of a Board of Education?
When I think about the Board of Education, it comes from a duty of service in my mind, serving the community, and that is a reason that, as one of my platforms, community outreach and listening to the community is such an important one. You know, the Board of Ed is really meant to do exactly that, right, represent the community as a whole with the guidelines and following the guidelines that the state mandates for public school districts.
COVID affected the academic performance of students in Verona, around the country, and around the world. How should Verona schools get student success back on track and how will you get the administration and the community to support that?
I love this question. Again, just kind of looping back to my platforms in the Learn aspect of it. There is a student-focused approach and specifically in that I speak to something called response to intervention, which is an intervention program where we have teachers who are able to support students who fall right in the middle of the road, right? It’s not necessarily students who already have an IEP [Individualized Educational Plan], but it’s students who, maybe just a little bit below benchmark, and teachers are able to go in and support. So those interventionists, that’s what they’re typically called, are there to support the general ed classroom teachers, as well as those students to ensure that all students’ needs are being met and to ensure that any gaps that we see with our students are being supported through this intervention.
What should the role of parents be in public school education?
I think that a parent’s role in a child’s life is incredibly important in all aspects, including public education. As a parent of two young children myself, I am very much involved and expect to be very much involved in all aspects of their life. I also am an educator. And I understand the role that both educators and parents play in a child’s life and I think that both roles are incredibly important. But when speaking specifically to parents, I think that parents have a really important role in education. You know, research shows that a strong home school connection benefits children.
Over the last several years, there’s been an effort to politicize school board elections with state and national issues that are not related to local education and school governance. How would you handle this politicization?
Simple, I am here to serve the students of Verona and the residents and parents of Verona period. In the end, keeping student needs in mind I think helps to just keep us on a clear path. This goes back to service. I’m here and I want to have the opportunity to serve the students of Verona period.
Recently, the BOE got an evaluation of Verona school culture from Grand River Solutions. What is your assessment of diversity, equity and inclusion in Verona schools?
I was happy to have the opportunity to listen to the findings from Grand River. And to be honest with you, I wasn’t really too shocked or surprised with any of the findings. I think that a lot of what we heard in response to Grand River are things that we hear in many different districts. And I think that, you know, it’s important as educators to take data and to move forward and to think about how we can best serve our students using the data that is collected. It’s a simple best practice, really.
On your platform, you focus on increased class size and lack of facilities. What do you mean by that?
When I say class size, I’m referring to the students in classrooms. You know, we’re seeing up to 24 or 25 students in a classroom, which, again, personally speaking, as an educator, can be very challenging to meet the needs of 25 students, particularly at the elementary level. So when I’m referring to class sizes, I’m speaking specifically to that and then, to facilities, it’s just as simple, the space, right? So if we’re breaking up classrooms to try to limit the amount of students and then we need to find space to put these students, so if we’d like to stay in that range of under 20 students then we need to find room. I know that this year, in F.N. Brown for instance, they added an extra kindergarten classroom. So it’s really just the increase of students in the class and finding the facilities and the spaces to put the overflow of students coming into district or in district. I just want to be clear: When I say coming into district, I’m referring to when we have our kindergarten classes coming in and not necessarily people moving into district; just our class sizes are expanding.
What specifically would you do about town expansion that the BOE hasn’t done already?
Well, I guess this goes back to facilities and thinking and planning for the future. So as the town is expanding, we can anticipate that the number of children that are moving into town could also expand. So we need to ensure that we have proper facilities and space for everyone. And I think that again, tying back to even the COVID, your question about COVID and interventions and additional support, I think it’s really important that we have foresight. And that we think ahead to ensure that we’re prepared for an increase of students and we’re prepared to serve and provide services across the board for all students that are coming into our district. So when I speak to that, that really ties into I believe that’s in my leadership column because it ties into having foresight, to thinking ahead and making sure that we’re prepared and ready for new families coming in, and that we’re able to support all of our students. I know that we hired, through ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] funds, some instructional coaches and some interventionists. But that’s not long term, because once those funds are over, we need to then think about how we’re going to be able fiscally to support increase of staff needs in order to support students.
What are “safety-first” policies in a school district and how would they be implemented?
Safety is a very broad term. One example of safety first is considering the types of policies that we have in buildings to protect our children. Safety first is whether or not we, as a community, feel as though we need types of security in our buildings. Again, that’s a community discussion to have. And also, it’s something as simple as crossing guards, which seems maybe like a minute point, but it’s really important. We live in a wonderful community where we have community schools and children are walking around and it’s really important that we have crossing guards in enough areas to ensure that students are getting from point A to point B safely. I have noticed this year that there was an increase of crossing guards, so I’m really happy to see that.
School administrators, not the BOE, are responsible for curriculum. Why are you advocating for the BOE to do a curriculum review and what do you mean by “best educational practice”?
The administrators write the curriculum, the Board of Education ultimately approves the curriculum. So that is why I put advocacy for it; not that I’m writing the curriculum. I have an understanding of all of that. But I do think that it’s important that, as a board member, we’re looking at curriculum. Best practice is a little bit of a jargon in education. It refers to the most current types of research-based educational practices that has proven to be most successful for students. When approving curriculum, or when thinking about new hires and new positions, new roles that we may need in district, keeping that lens in mind of curriculum and best practice in mind. When working as the board, with the administration to hire new teachers where need be, implementing new services, that the hiring part of it is where the board comes into play and ultimately the board does approve the curriculum, so it’s really just having another lens, another eye on it.