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Anita is a public school teacher in her 14th year in the classroom. Over that time, she has taught at all levels from elementary through graduate school across three different states. She has a doctorate in Romance Languages from the University of Chicago and a Master's in Secondary Education.
Our district’s rapid growth is our most pressing issue. LWSD went from 6th to 3rd largest in the state in a few short years, and that led to use of portable classrooms, larger class sizes, teacher shortages, and the need to address equity in our schools. I believe our district is making progress on all fronts. The voters approved a bond measure to reduce overcrowding and enhance learning environments without a tax increase to homeowners, several schools are being (re)built, the district has had success with staff recruitment and retention, and has convened its first equity team in May. If elected, I would work to continue the progress that has been initiated along with suggesting new ideas to pursue. For example, we should build schools that last; form workforce development partnerships with area colleges to address teacher shortages; and provide equity training to staff to raise awareness through conversations that would lead to concrete action steps.
Charter schools are private institutions, as our Supreme Court ruled. They are governed by private entities instead of locally elected school boards. They are not required to report the same standardized test scores, nor are they required to educate ALL students, which is very much unlike our public schools. Furthermore, there is a wealth of evidence that charter schools hurt students’ progress and perform worse than public schools. Finally, charter schools further defund already underfunded public schools, hurting the educational opportunities of public school students—particularly our most disadvantaged students coming from our poorest neighborhoods—and further undermining our public school system. For all these reasons, I do NOT support charter schools.
I understand the need for accountability measures; however, I believe that excessive testing has lead to increased rates of (testing) anxiety; a loss of instructional time; a significant impact on school districts’ budgets; and in Washington state, lower graduation rates as standardizes assessment results have been unfairly linked with student graduation. I also believe that our teachers are professionals trained to teach and assess their students, and while state and federal assessments are valuable, research shows that it is the classroom assessments, and ultimately student GPA, that is the best predictor of student success in college rather than standardized test scores. We must demand that our legislators work on finding a balance between regular classroom assessments that have never gone away, and the new state/federal standardized assessments in order to provide accountability without the negative consequences and excessive intrusiveness the current system has.
There are copious amounts of studies explaining the circadian rhythms of students, and how their rhythms fail to coincide with our traditional school start times, thus impacting their health, their ability to learn, their ability to achieve their potential, and even impacting the region’s long-term economic stability and wealth. LWSD has been studying the issue for several years, but because our students do not rely on public transportation, we must stagger buses, mitigate impact on extracurricular and after-school student employment, as well as be aware of release times for elementary school students, this proved to be a difficult issue to address without overhauling the entire system. I support looking for a creative way to address this much-needed improvement. For example, starting elementary school classes earlier in the day but with additional recess breaks so that we can also better account for younger students’ physiological needs.
To improve the graduation rate, I believe we should start by having more counselors on staff, lowering the class sizes, implementing positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), offering multiple opportunities for credit retrieval that are clearly and often communicated to our families, and making a greater effort to reach out to families through surveys to identify what support they need and what is the best time to schedule those supports to increase engagement ultimately offering family education seminars and forums.
In addition to adopting human dignity policies, modeling positive and inclusive behavior, providing education on what bullying is and how it impacts both the student bullied as well as the bully, we should also study where bullying happens. Recently published studies identify the hot spots for bullying in our schools. Not surprisingly, the hallways and the lunchrooms seem to be the two most unsafe areas. What both have in common is a large number of students with very few adults present, which then suggests a solution of ensuring more adults are present and visible, as well as educating students on the impacts of bulling on both the bully and the bullied. By staying informed and reading about the latest educational studies published, we can use the experts’ data and conclusions to help us address bullying and other issues in our schools in a more intentional way.
Our social studies teachers and the curriculum in place already address most if not all of the civics graduation requirements. What would be needed is a review of our social studies curriculum to ensure it meets all requirements set by the state, and if not, then a curriculum review and development lead by district’s master teachers should be convened and supported in order to make the necessary adjustments.
Every student deserves an education, and a student who is removed from the classroom is not afforded that right. However, as with everything in life, there is no simple answer. I would expect there to be a disciplinary process in place, one that relies on positive behavioral interventions and supports, and that gives students opportunities to attempt to address whatever their reason for class interruptions is with their teacher, their counselor, and their administrator, before suspension is ever brought up as an option. We know that negative reinforcement has a much lower success rate at behavior modification than positive reinforcement, and I would hope our disciplinary policies reflect that.
Town where you live
Experience (300 characters max)
Degree in Early Childhood Education,
22 Year Parent and PTA,
16 Year Family Adviser at Seattle Children's,
15 Year Cub Scout Den Leader,
5 year Director Montessori School,
PTA Executive Boards for: Robert Frost, Kamiakin and Juanita High and four
PTA Golden Acorn Awards: 2004, 2007, 2009, 2015
Three major issues face our district:
and Shortage of Special Education and STEM teachers
Of these, the Opportunity Gap is most worrisome. As a district, we are supposed to be dedicated to making all students, future ready. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, children of diverse cultural backgrounds and children who don't have parent engagement do not receive the same opportunities. For instance, kids who lack equitable access to accelerated programs, outside of their home school, are at a disadvantage since we don't fund the transportation. Children who are non-native English speakers often have non-native English speaking parents who lack the understanding of our language to be engaged with their child's education.
Charter schools are a voter approved option in our state. We have 13 such schools in LWSD and they all have lengthy waiting lists. These schools usually have a specialization such as our STEM and our Environmental Studies schools. One of the most frequent comments people make to me when I am out door-belling is the lack of space for more students to enroll in one of our specialized schools.
We need to keep in mind how much time is devoted to testing and test preparation. It often feels, at the high school level, that the entire month of May is devoted to testing. Tests are a tool for parents and teachers to know what is working and what information children may have retained, but it is only one aspect of a students overall learning and accomplishments. We need to be timely in the administration and data collection of results of tests, so teachers get the information fast enough to help students. Also, we need to consider the financial cost of testing. Currently the SBA exam is just under $30 per student.
Bell starting times should be a community-based decision. LWSD has been gathering feedback from families about shifting to later start times for older students. Concurrently LWSD is moving to adopt a 7 period day. Both things create a delicate balance to maintain. The science behind the physiology of a teenager suggests that later start times are better. This gets tricky when parents rely on older students to watch younger siblings after school. I want to make sure everyone has a voice in these decisions and that those decisions reflect the needs of our community.
We need to be preparing kids in the 8th grade for success in upper grades, so that by the time they reach high school they understand how to balance their homework load and how vital it is to passing your classes to make it to graduation. We need strong guidance counselors, especially for kids in the opportunity gap. Mentoring programs could be of assistance as well as CTE and vocational options for kids who are not on the 4 year college track.
Social emotional learning can help address bullying by giving students the tools to make rational, responsible decisions with social awareness and empathy. All adults in the building need to learn SEL as well and not only understand it but embrace it. In LWSD we have trained students to be Safe School Ambassadors. These students have been taught skills to casually intervene in instances of bullying and to pass the occurrences on to administrators. About 30 new students in each high school are trained for these rolls each year.
Given the new 24 credit requirement to graduate, we need flexibility in order to successfully teach the new mandated civics requirements. This may take the form of civics being taught within a social studies class or civics being its own course or a service project. It is also possible that we move to a 7 period day, giving us more opportunities to offer civics instruction.
Data from LWSD shows that we suspend special education students more than twice as often as we suspend general education students. We also suspend students of color at a higher rate than the average. We must be mindful of the learning needs for ALL students. If it is necessary to remove a child from the classroom in order to allow other students to learn, we need to ensure that learning continues to occur for the student who has been removed. Staff should continue to be trained on positive behavior interventions and research based methods for improving student behavior. LWSD has gone to great lengths the past few years to make suspensions an "In-House" opportunity, rather than send the student home (which may be what they wanted in the first place and doesn't assist them in learning.)