My motivation to run is rooted in a call to civic duty and need to improve the school system for MNPS students, teachers, and administrators. There has been clear dysfunction on the school board for years now. I want to bring about positive change and help pull MNPS into the 21st century by incorporating technology and methods that are evidence-based. I want to provide the positive change needed in order to make MNPS an amazing school system.
The school board’s responsibilities are specifically outlined: Hire and set clear expectations for the Director of Schools, ensure continuous improvement, establish budget priorities, and keep the community engaged and informed.
We need to provide the autonomy and funding needed to our local school administrators so that every school in MNPS can be a viable, great option, regardless of neighborhood. With the proper support we can create equity for schools that have fallen behind. A major portion of this will be an effort to retain teachers by providing the pay they deserve and the wrap-around services that will allow them to focus on teaching.
We should embrace the new technology being given to students. This will better prepare MNPS students for a 21st century workforce. Providing this technology is not enough, we must also provide regular training and be sure that all students have access to wireless internet in order to utilize these devices. Bridging the technology gap will require the help of community partners..
I am also proposing that MNPS be consistent with the implementations of Restorative Practices and Social Emotional Learning. There needs to be more support provided at the school level as demand for these programs has only increased over the past few years.
A highly effective and functioning school board is one that puts students first and willing to set aside petty differences to do right by our children. For too long, our school board has failed in this fundamental responsibility and that’s why I’m running.
Dr. Battle comes to the helm with decades of MNPS experience and a wealth of knowledge. We do not need to change course now. Especially with the current COVID situation, we must rally behind Dr. Battle to offer support and help manage this unprecedented crisis. I do not mean to suggest that any director would be above replacing, but I feel we need stability. The board has made multiple changes in the past 5 years and I am suggesting we stay the course with Dr. Battle in order to alleviate the chaos that ever-changing leadership might bring to the executive arm of MNPS.
We need to look to Bransford Avenue and reassess the current support roles that are in place. Are they currently effective? Is this six-figure salary worth the output we are receiving? Is this a position that can be justified during a year where many students will not be in school and our landscape is ever-changing? Roles need to be redefined and the bar needs to be raised.
Consolidation is a difficult thing to see happen. Half-full schools are just not efficient. They also hurt student morale. We are not in a place that can justify keeping these schools open under such budgetary stresses. While it is difficult for a community to see a school consolidated, we need to think about what we can do to fill these schools back up again. We need to make them a desirable option.
I’m running to serve public school students and to do what’s best for them. I’m a product of our local, public schools and my daughters will be enrolled at their local public school this fall. I believe our local, zoned schools should have the same flexibility as public charter schools to try innovative approaches that work best for that particular school. I’ve seen that innovation work well already at Goodlettsville Elementary.
My focus is to ensure that every local, zoned school is one where parents are chomping at the bit to send their kids there. That’s not currently the case at every school and we need to change that.
The role of public charter schools should be to educate the public school students they serve, ensuring they are reading at grade level and making them college and career-ready. And we should hold the system accountable when we miss that mark.
The school board needs to remember that students come first. Coming into a meeting with personal agendas and not reasonably considering all options on the table leads to the fighting and bruised egos that we have seen in the past. This led to gridlock and drama that took the place of making real progress. Members should be able to maintain professionalism and work with one another, even if they do not always see eye to eye.
I think having public, live-broadcasted, board meetings has helped with transparency, but I would like to see more promotion of these meetings. An elected representative’s job is to represent the interest of their constituents. Therefore, it is imperative that citizens are made aware of issues coming before the board so that they have a chance to make their opinions known to their representative. If representatives aren’t making every effort to inform their constituents of these issues – through emails, text messages, social media, etc. – they aren’t using the due diligence necessary to perform their job duties.
I think we will have a hard time comparing this year to any preceding year. I think it’s important to assess how our schools are performing, just to measure the baseline, but this situation is like none-other we have seen before. I want to encourage teachers and administrators to take on this challenge to the best of their ability without fear of an unfair evaluation. We can use this year as a baseline for measuring any future academic years that may be similar if conditions remain unsafe. We must weigh how unprecedented this year will be and encourage teachers and staff to stay motivated by recognizing and acknowledging the challenges they will be facing. In any situation, tests and assessments should not be used for punitive reasons, but for learning purposes, so we can decide how best to improve our curriculum and teaching methods.
I support Dr. Battle’s plan for regular check-in’s and student-specific plans, as well as an initial assessment period to gauge where students are academically and create a plan for getting them caught up. We need to increase our wrap around service staff to meet the need for social workers and SEL-trained staff to help evaluate students at risk. I would also like MNPS to help facilitate the creation and support of “remote-pooling co-ops” or “pods” that would allow 4-5 students of the same grade level to work together during remote learning.