Never before has a competent and strong board been so important. The next two years of recovery and reinvention are critical. As a parent and educational consultant, I see an opportunity for my unique skills to serve Stillwater. I was a public biology and agriculture teacher at innovative school districts, served SPS as a principal and school board member, trained teachers as a professor at OSU, led a school improvement network as the Chief of Staff, and now lead innovative school designs nationally as a consultant. As a previous board member, I can jump right in and get to work.
Innovation and education go hand in hand. The disruption caused by the pandemic has opened the door to really ask “what will our schools be like post-pandemic?” It is my hope we use this opportunity to reinvent, and not just recover. First, diagnostics and remediation will require innovative approaches to learning perhaps never employed before. Second, I would hope to see innovative strategies to support the social and emotional learning of students post-pandemic. Finally, I would love to empower our SPS site educators to engage in school design processes to create reinvention plans for their sites.
Those three organizations should build synergy rather than controversy. One of the greatest assets of SPS is access to a world-class career and technical education (CTE) center and a land-grant research institution! Unfortunately, these partnerships have not always been fully utilized. I would like to see SPS create a more strategic plan to partner with these other organizations, break down policy and procedure barriers that make it difficult, and open more regular communication. As an SPS educator, I witnessed powerful partnerships between these three organizations, but there is room for even more purposeful collaboration.
Since COVID, my time in schools has been limited. However, every week I put on my mask, deliver my two boys’ virtual work to the front door of Westwood, pick up the new folder of assignments, and head back to our house to support our boys in online learning. Prior to COVID, I spent a significant amount of time in our schools. As a previous board member, I have visited every school site. As a SPS administrator, I managed two school sites. As a parent, I have attended PTA meetings and met in schools with my children’s teachers.
I seek to retain the Board of Education Ward 5 position to which I was appointed September 2020. I believe education is one of the most important responsibilities of a community and I am motivated to use my experience and knowledge to contribute to SPS. My wife, Gerry Auel, and I have lived in the Westwood neighborhood since 1986. Our three children thrived in Stillwater schools and went on to successful careers. I taught ecology for 30 years at OSU and high school biology for two years during Peace Corps service in Tanzania.
I strongly believe Stillwater Public Schools should be open to innovative ideas and revisions to correct deficits and to adjust to changes in social and economic forces. For example, the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted issues that affect our education system -- social justice, adverse childhood experiences and information technology. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected low-income and minority communities, has likely increased childhood trauma and has increased our dependence on information technology. I support and encourage SPS to evaluate how these changes affect the education system and to make appropriate adjustments. The quality of education provided our students depends on timely and thoughtful innovation.
An active synergistic relation among Stillwater Public Schools, Oklahoma State University, Northern Oklahoma College and Meridian Technology Center benefits the entire community. We should seek creative ways to increase and strengthen the flow of ideas and expertise among these organizations. Open communication and cooperation about curricula, educational goals and teaching methods avoid inefficient duplication of resources and create better pathways for students and teachers to succeed. At present, over 200 Stillwater high school students attend the affiliated institutions on a daily basis. Providing our students access to multiple educational resources in the community is a very powerful asset.
As a School Board member, I have made it a priority to visit as many SPS sites as possible to interact directly with teachers, staff and students to learn firsthand about problems and opportunities. Most recently in December 2020, I visited the Transportation Office behind Lincoln Academy. Soon after being appointed to BOE I visited three of the six elementary schools, and later, the Middle and Senior High schools. I observed Zoom classes for high school biology and discussed music instruction with Scott Jackson, Stillwater Orchestra Director. This interaction has been vital to my understanding of the entire district.