Jill M. Oldson (NP)
Stay at home Mom and volunteer
Town where you live
Experience (300 characters max)
I have been involved in the Richland School district for 0ver 15 years as a parent, volunteer, and past employee. I have a graduate, and I one son who will be at Richland High. Serving on the board the last year has given me insight on what is working and what needs to change.
What unique qualities about yourself, your experiences, and your education separate you from the other seekers of this office?
I have lived in this committee for 23 years, 15 of those years I have been involved in the Richland School District as a parent, PTO president, volunteer, committee member and employee. In June of last year, I was appointed to the board after losing the 2016 election in a coin flip! After appointed I became involved on a state level with the Washington School Directors Association, attending conferences and currently participating a yearlong leadership program with about 20 board cohorts from across the state as well as serving on state committees. I have been active in legislative issues visiting both Olympia and Washington DC to discuss funding and educational issues. My daughter graduated from Richland High last year and my son will be attending Richland High in the fall. My husband and his brother and two sisters also went through the Richland School District. I grew up in Montana on ranch in Montana and received my BA in Psychology from California State University Fullerton
What, in your opinion, are the three most pressing issues facing your school district at this time?
1)Fiscal Responsibility - We need to ensure we are spending tax payer dollars in the most efficient way and still provide and outstanding education for our youth implementing the guidelines and direction of our community.
2) District trust and confidence - There have been several changes on a state and local level that has caused a lack of trust in our district and across the state. These added with what I feel was a lack of proactive communication from the district created at perfect storm. On a positive note it got our community involved and vocal. This is important for our district as the community are the people we are here to serve. Our mission and values need to be represented by the desires of the community.
3) Lack of transparency and accountability - Because we have an incredibly supportive community and a strong teacher base I believe that our district has become a bit apathetic regarding communication and sharing district details.
How would you address the one at the top of your list?
The school board has three primary responsibilities, budget, supervising and hiring a superintendent and district policies and procedures. Fiscal responsibility is one of the most important aspects of being a board member. The money should follow the values of the community. School districts have a limited amount of funding, so it is imperative that we listen to our stakeholders. All of them from parents, community members and taxpayers. It is our job to ensure that we are providing the best possible education in our community and doing our due diligence to make sure we are accomplishing this in the most cost-effective manner. My suggestions on this is to look at best practices and also utilize the staff that we have invested in for training to share this information with others in the district. I believe that with expanded collaboration and the pooling of knowledge we can cut back on waste and still provide the best education possible for our students.
How would you balance educational opportunities between schools?
Richland School District has approximately 13,000 students K-12. We have very diverse neighborhoods within our district some elementary schools with 100% free and reduced lunch to as low as 10% free and reduced lunch. These elementary school funnel into 4 middle schools and 2 high schools. Each school needs to be looked at individually and evaluated on the needs of the students it serves. I believe that as a community it is important the we provide the same opportunities for our students regardless of the school they attend. Our low-income schools receive additional state funding for various programs, but these do not cover all the costs associated with providing these students with the same opportunities. Programs need to be implemented to provide enrichment, this includes extra funding for field trips and activities that other schools may get provided by their PTO/PTAs. If we want to reduce or eliminate the achievement gap, then we must level the playing field.
How would you assure the safety of all students in your schools?
One the main things we need to focus on is the social and emotional learning of our students starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Many of the problems facing our schools and safety issues stem from mental health issues. Suicide and mental health issues are at an all-time high. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for high school students. These mental health issues put our students in danger in a variety of way. Either taking their own lives or the lives of others. I believe it is imperative to provide dedicated mental health workers in all of our schools the current funding model allows for one school psychologist and nurse for approximately every 1500 students. I believe we need to provide additional funding to ensure that we have an adequate number of individuals to serve the needs of our students. Building safety is also critical and as new schools are build we are ensuring these features are included.
What are the issues that need to be addressed to provide racial equality in the schools?
I believe that we need to address all equality issues in schools regardless of race, religion, gender or beliefs. Public education is a fundament right to all our students. I also believe this a case of equity not equality. Making all things equal does not offer the same opportunities for those that have less of an advantage to start with. These issues need to be addressed in looking at each and every child as an individual with strengths and talents regards of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Policies and procedures need to be in place that do not differentiate our students bases on anything other than their own unique characteristics. These are not just issues being faced in school this is an issue worldwide. We need to teach kindness, empathy, and acceptance starting at a very early age.
How should technical training be offered in the secondary schools?
This is a very important topic to me. I believe that we are leaving many students at a disadvantage in not providing them with the opportunity to look at all options available to them. Not every child is college bound but it is our responsibility to provide them with opportunities so that they can be contributing members of society and pay their bills. We need to spend time finding out what our students are passionate about and fuel that excitement. One of the first things I would like to promote is giving students the opportunity to explore different career options. We have a very supportive community with a large gamut of career options. I would like secondary students to have the opportunity to job shadow any career they have interest in, be that a lawyer, dentist, doctor, welder, mechanic, HVAC, teacher, etc. We need to capitalize on the skills that excite our students. By getting them excited and invested we will improve the graduation rate and success of our students.
How can the schools provide adequate education for homeless, immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking children at all levels?
There are currently state laws in-place that protect these children and additional funding is available to ensure they receive a good education. In addition to this each district need to ensure that they have the resources in place to assist these students. McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a ruling that ensures that special accommodations are granted to homeless students and these apply K-12. This ruling ensures that any homeless child receives the same opportunities as those living in a stable home. English speaking students that fall into the above groups receive assessments that determine at what level their education should begin. It is critical to district that ALL students have the same opportunity to learn. There is still a gap in the non-English speaking students. ELL teachers (English Language learners) are not always provided with the tool box they need to help these students.