My thousands of hours on volunteer boards and commissions here in Utah have provided me a unique opportunity of utilizing both my academic and professional skills to guide boards in making the best decisions possible. I work well with different viewpoints to collaborate on the best possible solutions.
I believe one of my greater strengths is to holistically evaluate an organization instead of separating issues into separate silos. This methodical approach leads to greater and clearer understanding and to help avoid unintended consequences and collateral damage. I’ve learned that one can become so myopic on a singular issue that they cannot see the greater whole. As a result, you will find in me a candidate that will work extremely hard and intelligently to learn, assess and evaluate issues to provide the best possible recommendations and votes for the complete good of the district.
All stakeholders regardless of the zip code in which they teach, learn and reside deserve the best possible support, guidance and tools from a Board to ensure the best possible education for a growing, changing and diversifying student population. I will bring a fresh untainted and unbiased perspective to the Board that will focus on both short- and long-term objectives that will best serve this community for generations to come.
For the past several years, I have made diversity and inclusion as a priority on several boards on which I have served. A true solution cannot be summarized in a soundbite but importantly we must adhere to the principle of equity. While different areas do have different needs and we should give exercise local control, we need sufficient oversight so we do not create so called "separate but equal" precincts.
Protocols and training regarding dealing with active and passive threats to a student, teacher, administrator or any Granite employee needs an annual or at a minimum biannual review.
Granite employees should feel at easy they can go to work in an environment devoid of both verbal, physical and sexual harassment. Updating designs of district facilities can help create safer and more supportive learning environments not just for students but also teachers and administrators.
In order to “break the cycle,” so to speak, is again to address situations as early as possible in a child’s education. Whether it’s bullying at an elementary level or other red flag behavior, we need to eliminate the mind-set, “they’re just kids”, “it’s just a phase,” or “boys will be boys” and instill a principle of consequences. I would hope that we could provide updated training for our educators and administrators on how to better identify and address these issues on a regular rotating basis.
The District needs to provide both substantive extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for its teaching staff. Unfortunately, Utah is ranked yet again last in per pupil spending and with potentially substantial budget cuts due to the covid-19 crisis, we need a financially literate board to help minimize the inevitable collateral damage. Not only does Granite need to provide more competitive starting and sustaining salaries for our teachers, it should not come at the expense of reducing para-educators and others ancillary support and programs.
Intrinsically, we need to give teachers more freedom to do what they do best and that is to teach. We can achieve this through minimizing the emphasis on testing and providing a safe, inviting and amazing workplace with up to date technology and facilities. We should provide more professional development opportunities so teachers can stay ahead of the learning curve.
I am not running because I am motivated by one or more particular issues. I have a strong history of serving the communities in which I live and serve and this is the reason I am seeking this opportunity to re-invest in the community and specifically the district in which I was educated and from which I gained so much. To reiterate, I believe we need to evaluate all moving parts and provide holistic solutions.
Nonetheless, we are undoubtedly shifting to a new paradigm in education due to the pandemic. We need leadership with foresight rather than simply relying on hindsight or "that is how we have always done it". We need to keep students not just engaged but to keep track of those that will slip through the cracks without proactive leadership and action. For the most part, we successfully operated in crisis mode the last few months but now it's time to garner that experience and operate with specific contingency plans in place for multiple scenarios in order to best serve all.
I understand how policy and investments can help kids to develop their individual potential. As a teacher of kids with serious disadvantages (I taught at an alternative High School!) and a mother of both high-achieving and non-traditional learners, I have a unique perspective. I understand the needs of all kinds of students and know how to tailor to them. In our large district of over 80,000 students, I will help our board set policy and guide culture that intentionally allows our kids to have individual educational experiences.
I understand how to involve and unite community. I will spend meaningful time at Community Councils, PTA meetings, Faculty lunchrooms, recesses, student lunchrooms, and sidelines of extra curricular events gathering feedback from all major stakeholders on the policies that I'll be voting on.
I recognize that relationships with other board members is crucial to making change. I will build trusting relationships and will be a good communicator.
My entire career was spent serving students who were so underserved throughout their education, that their ability to graduate from high school was now in danger. These students were 85% minority students, 75% low income, and spoke 60+ languages in their home. They were of all sexual orientations and all religions. They were young parents and gang members and non-traditional learners. I have had A LOT of experience helping marginalized students succeed!
Here are a few things I'll propose:
1. Diversify our curriculum. Our kids need to connect with what they are learning.
2. Be more flexible. This involves giving our teachers power. They should be able identify individual ways of reaching individual students.
3. Lower our class size. Too many needs in one classroom means less needs met. We can help with this by hiring great teaching assistants, lobbying the legislature, and appropriately allocating our funding.
First and foremost, we've got to celebrate diversity. It must be a thread that is woven through every class and every decoration in the school. Second, we need to hold our principals accountable for making sure that every student has 3 adults in the school who they feel will advocate for them. Third, when we rebuild our schools we need to do so intentionally to support the emotional safety of students. Fourth, we need to create a culture of risk taking and mistake making! Many of our teachers have classrooms where students learn to trust each other enough to make mistakes and to ask questions. This needs to become a part of our culture in Granite School District. Last, we need to put more resources into helping our kids with their mental health. This has become an issue that can no longer be ignored. I will work tirelessly to rally our community to find resources to help resolve this problem.
In our teacher shortage, attracting and keeping great teachers is absolutely crucial, so I've been talking with many teachers about how Granite District can make our schools THE place for teachers. Of course they have suggested things I would have thought about (and which I support!): higher wages and lowering class size.
They had some ideas that I hadn't thought about as well, which are doable: 1. Hire less teaching assistants, but pay them more so that we can have higher quality ones. 2. Solve the problem of the shortage of substitute teachers. (Our teachers need to be able to take days off when they need!) 3. Give us plenty of autonomy to practice our craft--no more mandates please. 4. When we need to move in a specific direction together (ie mandates), give us the tools and training we need before we need to put them into practice. 5. Give us a voice. We can be helpful in decision making!
COVID 19 has truly forced education into a new era. Our district must be proactive in taking advantage of its effects--which can be positive and lasting. Our teachers have had to completely revamp their curriculum and their grading, so this is a perfect time for us to fill them with innovative skills and ideas that they can integrate into their newly shaped plans. They can cater to 21st century learners: critical thinking skills rather than memorization, creativity rather than correct answers, team work rather than learning in a silo.
We must also determine how school will look now that we are in a pandemic world. Since we've never faced this before, the more minds we have on it the better! I propose a stakeholder brainstorm in which we identify all kinds of ways to handle these situations--especially since we don't know exactly what we will be facing.
We must also be innovative when we look at our budget. Since budget cuts are imminent, our priorities must be clear.