How will you, as a Board member, impact the J-D schools and community?
My impact and contribution to the J-D schools and community will be my visibility, accessibility and consistency. I submit that School Board members should be visible within the community and the schools. Not just during graduation but at events, times of celebration and in times of need, during homecoming and to undergird student led events. My passion for being accessible to the community not only through electronic means, but to have discussion and times of dialogue regarding the concerns of our district. To report on our goals, we are meeting the standards of the Strategic Plan and give updates and information on how the goals are being met and when there is a question or challenge, how we have resolved them to keep moving towards the expected outcomes and measurables.
If elected, what would be the main goal of your agenda during your time as a Board member?
My main goal is to approach our District with a “global perspective.” Jamesville-DeWitt has a wonderful mix of so many people, and that is what makes us special. I am committed to keeping that in mind as a Board member. Global for me encompasses making our schools and classrooms universally accessible for all children. That we reflect the diversity of our children in our curriculum and in learning styles. That we are willing to be intentionally inclusive and not exclusive when we look at materials that our children will use to learn. My goal and passion is to ensure that all children of our district will know that they are celebrated, accepted, and embraced so that they leave our global district to face a global larger community well prepared!
Many areas in the school receive less attention than other areas, both financially and publicly. Do you believe they should all be covered equally? If so, how would you make sure all areas are covered equally?
Every area of our school should be supported and they should know that they are being supported. This will require an audit of all programs. To discuss and view from a sound fiscal perspective, to ensure that the expected outcomes are being met and exceeded. This will require work and intentional effort. I am committed to doing this. We have parents and community persons that I am sure will assist with these assessments so that we also can additionally bring in parents and the community to be an even more active participant in the success of our great district.
Moving forward, how would you plan to make changes to our materials, classrooms, and other areas of the school?
It is my thought that change must be done with deliberate and careful consideration. I compare J-D to a large ocean liner! If an abrupt turn happens, it can cause harm and damage to the ship and the occupants. In order to turn the ship, it must be done slowly and with guidance and patience. We need to move some things in another direction, but it can not be done harshly and without thoughtful planning. We have a long journey ahead, but this “J-D Ocean Liner” is equipped to move forward and with some change of direction but we will get to our destination, of that I am sure!
What do you believe is the most pressing issue facing the J-D district?
I don’t think there is one main pressing issue, but there are many issues that are intertwined with each other. We must face that there is a need for greater diversity within all of our buildings. Not just in the classrooms, but in support staff, administration and paraprofessional staff. I submit that our schools should reflect our district and presently that is not the case. With that being said, if we keep in mind the Strategic Plan we will see the pressing issues of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, a Culture of Wellness, Curriculum and Programs, and Family and Community Engagement, and we will meet the pressing issues. I was a part of the Strategic Plan Group. It was a room full of bright ideas and innovative thinkers. A lot of work and time went into the Strategic Plan, and I am convinced great things will happen if we continue to use it as our model for change and development.
Many community members likely want to hear your stance on pertinent issues right now. What is your stance on the SRO position? What about the budget shortfall and COVID-19 restrictions being lessened?
The SRO position was a very delicate and personal matter for many within our District. I respect the expressions of all. As a commissioner for the Town of DeWitt Police, I understand the need and embrace the need for safety for all, especially our students when they are entrusted into our care. Not only is their physical safety a concern, but their emotional and interpersonal developmental safety a concern. I submit that the same passion and vigor that went forth regarding having an SRO, the same passion and energy should be evident when we discuss alternative and complementary positions, such a therapist, counselors and peer counselor training, so that we are ensuring the “wholeness” of the students. I respect the process! Engaged listening and to refrain from drawing unfair conclusions will only help us move sensitive matters forward in the future. Hearing from the students and the parents is important and creating a space and forum for them to speak is needed, and that is not always best done during the Board meetings. People want to be heard and have a right to be heard. Not just with the matter of the SRO, but also on how we are going to meet the budget shortfall and what are the best practices for the wellness of our children during this worldwide pandemic. We have to take the time to hear and assess the matters and then come and make recommendations that have taken into consideration the thoughts of those most affected, again I say, our children! I want all of our children to be safe, to grow and to learn. They will best learn how to model that behavior from us. We may not always agree, but we can have respectful and mature discussions and come to a mutual resolution.
What do you think of the position of student Board representative?
Having a student Board representative is necessary. We need to hear from the students! Their input is critically important and adds a much needed perspective and voice that may be missed if they are not in the Board meetings. Having a student representative on the Board also prepares them for being an active part of their community and the operations of the District. We need to develop young leaders and being a part of the Board is most definitely a great place of preparation and development.
Do you believe administrators should have the final say over material published in the school newspaper, rather than students making the executive decisions?
If the school newspaper is written by the students and for the students, then the students should have the lead in content selected. However, faculty oversight should be in place and should review the content to ensure that what is being published falls within the guidelines of the District and journalistic integrity. We have outstanding students that will soon be writing perhaps professionally. It is here at J-D that they will learn they have certain liberties but there is always a chief editor that will assist in making some of the hard decisions on what can and can not be printed.
What are you going to do to make sure students’ voices are heard?
Ensuring that the voices of students are heard is so important. I have witnessed what happens when people don’t think they are being heard. We must develop avenues of discussion, forums, small group discussions and most importantly develop a level of respect and trust that is unilateral. Just as students desire to be heard, Board members also want the students to hear their thoughts and suggestions as well.
Whose opinions (students, parents, or school officials) should carry the most weight in establishing school policies? Please rank them in order of value.
Ranking this question was difficult, but I suggest that first and foremost when establishing school policies. 1. The Students. 2. The Parents and School Officials. Please let me give insight into the aforementioned suggested ranking. Our students are the reason why we are here! They are the reason why all of this is being done. We must remember it is about the students! Students come from families. The parents and students come as a complete and total package. The school officials are here to develop policy, ensure that fiscal accountability is maintained, and that we are supporting the teachers and staff of our district. However, without students and parents we could not do our job — there would be no job! Our teachers work diligently and with great commitment and dedication to ensure that our students not only learn, but are guided into being strong and productive members of our community. The staff of our schools, and that means all staff, not just instructional, are here to teach, model, and guide. We are all on the same team, not to outrank each other but to support each other to ensure that our students are given everything they need to face a global world with confidence and assurance because they were nurtured, developed, and educated by the Jamesville-DeWitt School District. We are interdependent on each other! We are better together!
All Board member articles 2021:
Carolyn Souser: https://jdrampage.org/meet-board-candidate-carolyn-souser/
H. Bernard Alex: https://jdrampage.org/meet-2021-board-candidate-h-bernard-alex/
Emily Costello: https://jdrampage.org/meet-2021-board-candidate-emily-costello/