Thursday, October 17, 2019

District 11 school board election questionnaires

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Four seats are open for the Colorado Springs School District 11 on Nov. 5. Candidates are Mary Coleman, Darleen Daniels, Jason Jorgenson, Parth Melpakam, Vincent Puzick, Joseph Shelton, Chris Wallis and Conner Sargent.

The following candidates responded to a questionnaire sent by the Indy.

Mary Coleman

Age: 37

Occupation:
Director of Philanthropy / Director, Board of Education

click to enlarge mary_coleman_photo_1_.jpg

1. What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?
In 2016 I was appointed to the Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education. In 2017, I was formally elected by the community to complete the remainder of my term. I am a committed and passionate leader who is experienced in leading a large school district. I understand the complexities, nuance, and relationships needed to be an effective leader.
In addition to my service on the D11 board, I am also the past president of the Leadership Pikes Peak Board of Trustees. I attended Harvard University on a Gates Family Foundation Fellowship studying Executive State and Local Government, where I learned how to be a transformational and bold leader. Additionally, I attended the Public Leadership Education Project in the summer of 2019 at Harvard University focused on putting outcome-oriented goals to the strategic plan of the district.
I am, first and foremost, a parent of two incredible children who attend D11 schools. My son is attending middle school and my daughter is in second grade. My children have attended District 11 schools since kindergarten.

2. What is your top priority or vision for the school district?
Achievement and equity are my top priority for the school district. We must hold ourselves, as adults and leaders, to the highest standards of transparency and accountability so all kids can thrive. We must build a system of accountability that instills the community’s vision for the district for years to come. We have a great responsibility to educate the next generation of Americans. My vision for the district is that we see, hear, and engage with all students in our classrooms. We must teach relevant and challenging curriculum to see test scores increase across the district. We must be sure that our team of energized educators are focused on serving and educating all students.
I have been a clear and consistent voice for student achievement, and how we must have a focus on outcomes.
Whether students graduate to a four-year college, pursue a career, move on to technical training, or join military service – we must be sure they’re ready.

3. How would you achieve that?

Teachers are under immense pressure to manage large class sizes with an increasingly diverse and complex student population. Our community has transformed over the last 20 years, and we haven’t always done a great job of transforming alongside the community.
Teachers must teach, first and foremost. They must have the space to focus on educating, and not on solving all of society’s most pressing systemic issues (like poverty and behavioral health needs). It is the District’s role to supply teachers with a well-rounded support system so they can be successful for our students. I would ensure that support was available so teachers can teach, and students can learn.
The District must review our class sizes, must be clear in our expectations and the agreed upon definition of “success”, must offer teachers professional development to excel in their roles, and must surround our schools with a high-quality support system.
I will continue to work diligently to pass an equity policy, which requires the District to view our system through the lens of equity so all children can learn with adequate resources and opportunities.

4. In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?

Having served as a Director since 2016, the passage of the MLO in 2017 was an exciting and pivotal point in the history of D11. I have been a component of MLO oversight for the last three years.
When the district first passed the MLO, we established an MLO oversight committee. This committee is comprised of committed community leaders who hold the district accountable for spending. The board relies on a variety of resources to hold the district accountable, and the oversight committee is a large component. When we first passed the MLO, we had so many applicants for the committee we couldn’t accept everyone onto the committee. We need to continue that excitement and engagement for service to have a well-rounded oversight process.
We made promises to our voters in the way we would spend and steward these new funds. I believe we, to date, have kept our promises and I will continue to work in that direction over the coming years. Whether speaking directly with a school PTA, a local business, or a single taxpayer, we have an obligation to update and inform the community on our process of spending MLO funds.

5. School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?
During my tenure on the board, I have been an active voice for student safety. I believe student safety has two components – one physical and the other behavioral.
Physical improvements have been needed across the district to ensure we have a safe physical space for learning. We have pursued grants to meet this need, which is a strategy I would continue to focus on through another term. We must also continue to review our policies and procedures to ensure we are following current protocol for understanding who is in our school buildings throughout the day.
On the other side of the coin of safety is behavioral health. We must ensure our student’s feel safe and secure when they are learning within our walls. As D11 continues to phase in the community MLO dollars, I believe we will offer the most comprehensive and high-quality system in the state to ensure our students are cared for from an emotional/social/safety perspective.

Darleen Daniels 

Mary Coleman

click to enlarge Darleen Daniels
  • Darleen Daniels

Age: 50

Occupation: Mother of four, businesswoman, substitute teacher

1. What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?

I am running for school board because I have a heart to see students succeed in public education. I have a heart for service to the Colorado Springs community especially after participating in the D11 Leadership Classes, DAC, SAC and substitute teaching for two years. Additionally, I have participated in various trainings, volunteering, committees and networking organizations in the Colorado Springs community at large. Each opportunity has developed and sharpened my skills for community engagement and leadership.

Board Member: Women to Women Mentoring

Board Member: Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce

CO Founder: Thrive Colorado Springs

El Pomar Emgering Leaders Development Program

El Pomar Black Advisory Council

Graduate Class 2012: Leadership Pikes Peak Women Community Leadership Initiative (WCLI)

Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Icehouse Entrepreneurial Graduate

Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Next Level Graduate

El Pomar Board Governance Training

El Pomar Leadership Plenty Training

El Pomar College Readiness and Success Program, Ambassador

UCCS Pre-Collegiate Development Program, Ambassador

Leadership Pikes Peak Women Community Leadership Initiative (WCLI) Steering Committee

Step Up to Success Networking Group

Pueblo Business Women Networking Group

Diversity University Training

Business Network International (BNI) Member and Ambassador

Rodan +Fields Consultant Actor

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

My priorities are developing in my role as a board member; building rapport with the Superintendent, incumbent board members, teachers, staff, janitors, etc. and doing what’s best for public education in Colorado Springs School District 11. But the truth is, it’s not just my top priorities, it’s the community’s as well. Colorado Springs School District 11 held World Cafés, conducted student and staff surveys, composed committees, for community members, parents, students, educators, staff, and Colorado Springs at large asking, “How can we work together for excellence in education?” We all constructed the strategic plan, mission statement and plan for equity developed in 2018-2019 school year for the future of District 11. You can find District
11’s Strategic Plan at https://www.d11.org/cms/lib/CO02201641/Centricity/Domain/67/StrategicPlan.pdf

How would you achieve that?

As a participant in several World Cafés, surveys and committees, I will continue my partnership with the district and Colorado Springs community. Nothing will change as a newly elected Board of Education member. The first October 2019 World Café is held on Oct. 10. I will be there. And, District 11 is hosting three World Cafés in October 2019 for more community input. Please call the district office for more information. I am sure they will be excited to see you. You can view the previous World Café Summary Report here: https://www.d11.org/cms/lib/CO02201641/Centricity/Domain/67/District11%20World%20Cafe%20Report%20.pdf

In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?

A Mill Levy Override Oversight Committee is charged with the stewardship and oversight of the 2017 voter approved MLO. The committee is accountable and transparent with all efforts for funding and budget balances. Colorado is well below the national average in funding of public schools. See The Colorado School Finance Project article to keep you apprised of the challenges with teacher recruitment, retention and teachers’ salaries. https://www.business.org/hr/employees/.

Realistically, layoffs and school closures may come; but, we will all have to work together and endure whatever challenges Colorado and Colorado Springs School District 11 might face. I can tell you this: I will be involved as a newly elected board member and/or community member.

School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?

Colorado Springs School District 11 has safety for our students, staff, community and our buildings in the forefront of their daily operations. Constant measures are utilized to assure and evaluate student, building and staff, parental and community safety/security is in place inside and outside of the buildings. As a parent and substitute teacher, I have firsthand experience of being stopped for proper ID inside school buildings. The 2017 MLO has provided additional resource officers for our middle and high schools.

Dr. Parth Melpakam

click to enlarge Dr. Parth Melpakam
  • Dr. Parth Melpakam

Age: 51

Ocupation: Engineer

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of
education?

I am a parent of a sixth grade D11 student, who has attended D11 schools since
pre-kindergarten.  I served as the chair of the District Accountability Committee for the past two years, a member of the district Budget and Accreditation subcommittees and co-chaired the School Accountability Committee at Scott Elementary.  I received the El Paso County PTA Volunteer of the Year in 2018 and the “Friend of Education” award from Colorado Springs Education Association (CSEA) in 2019.

As the Chair of the DAC, I acquired broad insight into the various educational programs offered to our students, current operations of D11, financial realities of our district and provided detailed community feedback to the school board.  My involvement both at school and district level has helped me better comprehend all aspects of D11, from budget to curriculum to staffing, which will enable me to hit the ground running if I am elected.

I am passionate about public education and have a proven track record of engaging and building relationships with the D11 community by listening respectfully, communicating effectively, collaborating intentionally, and volunteering consistently.   Above all, I am committed to keeping the best interest of our students in all critical decisions.

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

Educational equity, collaborative culture and advancement of the whole student (academic, social, emotional, physical and cultural) form the top priorities of the new D11 strategic plan. I was part of the Core Planning Team that drafted the language and content of this strategic plan, after extensive community input. 

If I am elected to the school board, my priority is to ensure that D11 public schools provide safe and welcoming learning environments, unique and innovative educational programs, and neighborhood schools that are focused on meeting the needs of the whole student. All students must have the opportunity and access to a high-quality education so they can excel and reach their full potential in their chosen pathway (prepared for college, career, and community).  In addition, we must improve graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and close achievement gaps, by providing a balanced curriculum with necessary supports and interventions for all students.

Every staff member must be provided the professional development and resources necessary to meet the unique needs of each individual student at optimal classroom sizes. We must eliminate disparities based on socioeconomic status, race, and ZIP-code so that our entire learning community, including all students and staff, can thrive.

How would you achieve that?

My unwavering commitment is to always put “students first” in all critical decisions. This student-focused approach will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are primarily spent in the classroom instruction that inspires each student’s natural curiosity, creativity, imagination, and desire to learn.

Academic outcomes are directly impacted by attendance and behavior issues, critical factors that can be addressed through Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, reduces isolation, stress, and depression, and enhances students’ ability to succeed in college, career, and community. It empowers our students to be responsible, resilient, and respectful of others, thereby promoting school connectedness and academic outcomes. Bullying, discipline, and chronic absenteeism decline as students thrive in safe, welcoming learning environments. I will ensure policies, practices, structures, and resources that continue positive whole student support.

By aligning the district resources with the new D11 strategic plan, removing systemic barriers that prevent equitable educational access for all students, exercising fiscal prudence and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and strategically collaborating with our community partners, D11 will be able to the achieve its mission of being the premier choice for students and parents in Colorado Springs.

In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would
you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?

I first want to express my sincere gratitude to the voters for approving 2017 Mill Levy Override (MLO). It provided much-needed funds to compensate our staff fair living wages, address building renovations, hire additional school counselors and security officers, and focus on
improvements to student outcomes.

Transparency, communication, and responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars are fundamental for building trust within the community.  As Chair of the District Accountability Committee, I consistently advocated for the implementation of all educational programs with fidelity, so all students could benefit.  I will continue to be a vocal advocate of honest conversations, responsible stewardship of district resources, and practicing financial accountability. I will support the independently established MLO Citizens’ Oversight Committee and the biennial external audits as they review, monitor, and assess performance of individual Program Implementation Plans (PIPs).

Staff layoffs and school closures are linked to declining student enrollment and resulting loss of per pupil funding dollars.  Creative solutions to reverse this trend include better marketing of our schools, continuing to offer and build the unique and innovative educational programs (traditional, career, or vocational pathways), ensuring that our students grow and achieve at their full potential, and promoting our schools as vibrant community hubs.

School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring
students are safe and buildings are secure?

Incidents of school violence across the country are on the rise, causing serious concerns
for parents and school administrators. There is nothing more important than the
safety of our students and staff and the security of our buildings.  The 2017 MLO provided critically needed funds to address school safety and hire additional safety resource officers, school counselors and psychologists. 

The D11 building security officers are trained professionals and are equipped with the
knowledge and resources to diffuse potential threats to the safety of our
students and staff.  In addition, it is necessary that all district personnel are trained to recognize and react to any type of threats or emergencies.

I am also a strong advocate of incorporating Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in classroom curriculum. Providing effective SEL tools empowers our students to take personal responsibility and accountability for their behavior and conduct in our schools. It reduces isolation, stress, and depression issues and lowers bullying and discipline incidents in schools. Building positive relationships in school with trusted adults will promote school connectedness and encourage
students to share potential struggles or problems, thereby decreasing youth suicides and violence.

Vince Puzick

click to enlarge Vince Puzick
  • Vince Puzick

Age: 62

Occupation: Education Consultant, freelance writer, retired

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of
education?

I have worked in public education for over 32 years: high school English teacher, literacy coach, district literacy content specialist, and the Literacy/Language Arts Content Specialist for the Colorado Department of Education. During the span of that career, I have had the opportunity to work alongside teachers, students, principals, district leadership, and state leadership toward school improvement and student achievement. While my experience has been more narrowly focused on literacy and English Language Arts, I have had extensive experience working with both developing and interpreting the results of student assessments, with analysis for data-driven decisions, efforts toward closing the achievement gap, and with systemic change initiatives at the building and district level.

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

While there are several priorities competing for the “top,” providing access to rich academic curriculum and excellence in instruction remains No. 1. Academic achievement for all students has to remain the top priority. As a school district, our mission is to prepare our student population for future success regardless of the post- secondary paths. Academic achievement for all students means that we provide opportunities for artistic expression and appreciation, for STEM educational experiences, for student agency toward more personalized learning, for opportunities to grow in civic responsibilities, and for athletics with their ability to build perseverance, team- spiritedness, and sportsmanship. That being said, academic achievement does not happen in a vacuum. We must assure that students feel welcome and accepted in schools that are physically safe, emotionally and mentally supportive, and provide equitable
opportunities.

How would you achieve that?

As one individual on the board, I hope to impact the conversation by addressing the challenges in an inclusive manner: listening to the concerns of the public, considering the best research on complex issues, and tapping into the expertise of fellow board members, district staff and administrators, and community stakeholders. It will be important to include multiple voices to increase equitable educational opportunities for ALL students. We must ensure that our budget reflects the values and beliefs expressed in the district’s strategic plan, and its mission and vision statements. Because the board is charged with decision making around policies and budgets, we must look systemically at the current state of the district to shape its future. We are tasked with identifying and eliminating the barriers to an equitable education – and removing them from the system. We must build partnerships in order to access the different levels of expertise within the district and throughout the community to meet these challenges.

In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would
you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face
layoffs or school closures?

As mentioned above, we need to filter budget decisions through the strategic plan, the
mission and vision statements. We also have to face the challenges that being a landlocked district face. We have such little real estate to grow and expand, so we need to offer attractive education options in our schools to keep current families and students here, and to attract relocating families into our district’s boundaries. Layoffs and school closures should be seen as a last resort, even a desperate measure, to balance the budget – not as simply a “Plan B.” Because the issues around budget cuts, layoffs, and school closures call for critical discussions, we need board members who are capable of facilitating dialogue to include multiple perspectives, be innovative, and not settle for answers that serve the status quo, past “solutions,” or are mired in complacent thinking. I bring those skills to the table.

School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring
students are safe and buildings are secure?

First and foremost, we need to be proactive and attentive to the school climate and culture in each building. Many of the recent threats, even in our own district, have been by students in our district. We need to ensure that adults in the buildings are establishing relationships with students so that each child feels as if they can turn to an adult to discuss their own concerns or to talk about concerns they have regarding a fellow student. I am a big believer in the idea of students connecting with “one caring adult” in every building – and we never know which adult that may be. In addition, while Social-Emotional Learning is not the end-all and be-all, we do need to provide instruction and guidance so our students see that they have decision-making power regarding their school environment. To that end, we need to continue to tap into resources like Safe-2-Tell and encourage students to use that and similar resources to keep
schools safe. Finally, while the presence of guns does impact a building’s climate, we need to ensure that our security personnel are well-trained and seen as a part of the community for safety and not as an indicator of a system under threat.

Conner Sargent

Age: 20

Conner Sargent
  • Conner Sargent

Occupation: Security Guard

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?

As a recent high school graduate and college student, I can understand a lot of the issues facing students attending our schools presently. I have also worked extensively with Colorado Springs Teen Court a restorative justice program that helps at-risk teens in the community, and helped to craft my school's first-ever student government and severed as it’s very first senior class representative.

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

My vision for Colorado Springs School District 11 is to once again make it the pinnacle of education in the city, much like it was when I first moved here 15 years ago. Today District 11 faces many challenges like the fact that have lost over 1,300 students in the past 2 years and we have 23 percent of students who live in D11 choosing to go to other school districts, which ranks us at third in the state for most students who live in our district choosing to go elsewhere. We also face the issue of our schools are struggling to bring in new teachers, or retain teachers that we have currently, and we have schools that don’t have floor plans, hail damage on roof that are 5+ years old, and nine schools that don’t have A/C units. And while these problems seem daunting, I believe that we as a community can come together to right the ship and once again make D11 the premier choice for education in Colorado Springs.

How would you achieve that?

The way in which we achieve that goal is to begin getting students to come back into the district. My plans to do that are: Switching to a college schedule in high schools, as well as offering more credit reimbursement to help give students who need to work part or full time jobs — as I did — the flexibility to do so while still being able to graduate on time. I’d also like to partner with businesses to give students internships and apprenticeships in career fields that students are interested in pursuing as well as focusing on reducing the amount of homework students have to do and focus the in-class time to be more focused on hands on learning projects that help students learn to think critically, problem solve, and prepare them to thrive after high school. To fix our teacher retention issue I’d like to put more teachers aides in classrooms as well as reducing classroom sizes and switching to a more performance based pay scale so teachers can receive the raises they deserve. And for fixing school infrastructure I’d like to partner with various building associations and construction workers in our communities to help us upgrade our schools.

In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?

Honestly, with the current enrollment situation which has been losing 1,000 students last year and as of the most recent enrollment numbers we’ve lost another 300 students this year and are projected to lose another 400 students as well, it is not possible to guarantee there won’t be layoffs, program cancelations or school closures. However the way we can minimize layoffs and hopefully avoid closing schools or canceling programs would be by switching to a student budget system like they have in D49, which would allow schools to take care of things like infrastructure problems, ensuring that students have all the necessary tools they need for classes, and other items they and the community believe the school needs. By doing this we free up the school board to focus more on big picture spending like advertising, teacher pay, and other district wide programs like improving free school lunch programs. Switching to a Student Based Budgeting system has helped keep D49 afloat and I thoroughly believe it will do the same here by allowing the schools to focus on their immediate communities freeing up the school board to make decisions to get the district headed in the right direction.

School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?

As a security supervisor for Empower at Mile High Stadium (Broncos stadium), it is my job to make sure 18-40 employees are doing their jobs so that roughly 80,000 people get in and out of events safely and I take making sure roughly 26,132 students get to school and back home safely just as seriously. Which is why I believe the best way to ensure the safety of all of our students will be to partner with CSPD and private security contractors who have hundreds of hours of trainings to protect our students, as well as upgrading the security doors and kiosks at all of our schools so that parents and students needn’t worry
about their safety and security while at a D11 school.

Joseph Shelton

click to enlarge Joseph Shelton
  • Joseph Shelton

Age: 23

Occupation: Program Assistant at Inside Out Youth Services

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?

I am not a teacher nor a parent nor someone who has worked in schools. I am a former D11 student who went through the education process and has seen the inside to what our schools hold and what our district holds. During my junior year (Aug 2013 -May 2013), I was on Superintendent Dr. Nick Gledich's Student Sounding Board as a student representing Palmer High School. Currently, I am the Program Assistant at Inside Out Youth Services working to represent an underrepresented group of students inside of our community.

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

My top priority is bringing the students voice back to our Board of Education. I want to make sure our staff and community is being heard as well, however, Dr. Michael Thomas has hosted World Cafés to connect with the staff and community on the issues to which they hold. I want to make sure that our students are getting a well representation as much as every other person.

How would you achieve that?

I would achieve representation of our students by having five student representatives (Palmer High, Doherty High, Mitchell High, Coronado High and the Wasson Academic Center) that would sit on the board and have one vote with the majority taking that vote. I believe by doing this, our students will fully have a voice inside of their education and see what goes into their educations. I believe this will help support a student in speaking out for change and working on making change for their schools and the surrounding schools.

4. In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?

Colorado Springs School District 11 has done a great job in making sure the mill levy override is well spent and being used correctly. They have done this by holding an oversight committee and making sure every payment has been published on their website. If I am to get the honor of being elected, I want to get a whole line of the current budget and look to where anything may not align or may be getting misspent and make sure that we are able to properly move funding to where it needs to be in order to support our students, staff and community at large.

5. School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?

I believe that teachers are meant to educate not eradicate. I do not support arming our teachers with any type of weapon as I believe it is a threat to other staff, students and law enforcement
as they respond to emergencies. The National Association of School Resource Officers has already stated that they are against arming teachers. I do support of the arming security guards when they have completed rigorous training. In 2014, D11 approved arming school security guards. I also support having one main entrance in schools and having that as an area for signing in. Palmer High School currently has one entrance with a security guard at a desk. This entrance is the only area where students and the community can come into. This will allow for safety of all who enter the buildings, as it will make sure all people who are in the building are known and are seen by a staff official.

Chris Wallis

click to enlarge Chris Wallis
  • Chris Wallis
Age: 36

Occupation: Operations Supervisor

What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?

I am a PTA dad and member of the School Accountability Committee at my daughter’s school. I regularly attend school board meetings and work groups. I am a Colorado native with a degree in communications from the University of Denver. I am committed to serving the community by adopting a “listen first” approach and implementing solutions that are supported by meaningful research.

Professionally, I have had the opportunity to be part of a variety of teams, both big and small. I
have had the privilege of managing teams as small as 10 and am currently managing a team of nearly 100. My management style and philosophy is grounded in the idea of service. To me, an effective leader is one that is proficient in removing obstacles from front-line staff so that front-line staff can operate to the height of their potential.

What is your top priority or vision for the school district?

As a community, I would like to see us all commit to attaining the district’s goals outlined in the recently established strategic plan. The Colorado Springs community was heavily involved in the development of this plan and it is essential that the community continue to be involved during its implementation and ultimately its evaluation. The most pressing challenges of D11 are ensuring students are offered a world-class education across all schools, provided with the support necessary to develop their emotional competency, and prepared for the careers of tomorrow. Society is changing and education needs to change as well to meet the needs this changing world will present. While we might not fully know what the challenges of tomorrow are, we can make some good assumptions about the skill set that will help future leaders meet those challenges. In doing so we will be making sure that students can meet the height of their potential and prepare them to lead in a world that needs leaders.

3. How would you achieve that?

I intend to address these challenges by working with educators to implement a curriculum that emphasizes curiosity, creativity and kindness and aligning resources to meet children where they are. The needs of a student can vary dramatically on an individual level and from school to school. We can develop a world-class curriculum that is effective for all students and still allow for programs that seek to meet the unique needs of the community in which a school lives. On a practical level this means working to develop and expand special classes that will emphasize the process of inquiry and a multi-sensory approach to learning, building curriculum around Social and Emotional Learning in kindergarten and reinforcing this learning at all levels, and developing a budget that is considerate of the unique needs of each school and the particular neighborhood it serves.

In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or
school closures?

Budgets are the real-life manifestation of our values. As we pursue the goals of the district we must ensure that the budget we create aligns both with the strategic plan outlined by the community and the needs of students on the ground. In other words, our budget must address our aspirations and our realities. The 2017 MLO was a tremendous success for the students of D11 and with it comes the tremendous responsibility of good stewardship. One critical element of our success is ensuring that we can attract, retain, and continually develop outstanding educators. If elected director of the school board, I will prioritize a wage that reflects the essential role the play in society and professional development that will allow them to remain at the forefront of effectiveness in education. In demonstrating the value we place on educators, we will establish D11 as a highly desirable place of employment that will in turn establish the district as a highly desirable place of education.

School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?

A sense of safety is a foundational element to the learning environment. It is not an understatement to say this country is facing a crisis with regard to school safety. While there are many factors that may contribute to this crisis, one thing we can introduce proactively are programs that integrate social and emotional learning into the curriculum. In conjunction and concurrently with this curriculum, we can ensure that students that might need additional attention beyond the scope of an educator’s training are identified and referred to a robust safety net that may involve the assistance of outside mental health professionals. Student resources officers (SROs) also play an important part in the safety of schools. It is essential that SRO are extensively trained in healthy communication skills and de-escalation techniques that should generally be their first response. Lastly, it is important that we consistently audit security procedures to ensure they are being applied with the sense of vigilance they require. A well-developed security plan will only be as effective as our commitment to its consistent implementation.

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