To say that the last 12 months have been difficult is an understatement. It’s been the most challenging year that any of us have faced, but we will get through it together. COVID has affected every aspect of our school district operations – from our curriculum and the way we deliver it, to how best to support our staff and students academically and socially and emotionally, to our facilities and budget. The impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years and we must continue to address these challenges together.
The Issues We Face
I hope to continue contributing to the planning process as we navigate the constantly changing pandemic environment. Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are not out of the woods yet. My experience on the Task Force and direct involvement with the administration throughout this crisis makes me uniquely qualified to help ensure an eventual safe and smooth return to school for all learners, and to work towards bridging the academic and social-emotional gaps the pandemic has created.
I will work to continue to improve communication between the Board and the Community. Just prior to the pandemic, the Board was on the verge of implementing a policy to broadcast our meetings. Obviously, that has now occurred, but the videos of the Board’s Zoom meetings are still not easily archived or searchable. I will advocate for quick implementation of a more accessible process. In addition, I believe it is important for the community to have opportunities to interact with the Board outside of formal meetings, such as holding town halls at both building and district levels, which is much more conducive to having a dialogue. We also have a new Communications Director and, although he has been extremely busy dealing with pandemic communications, he will ultimately help the Board improve communications more generally as well. I will also continue to advocate for a collaborative decision-making process which includes all stakeholders so that all voices—students, parents, staff, administration, and community, are heard. I have also always been, and will continue to be, available to speak one-on-one with community members about any concerns that might arise.
Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility
Schools are arguably a community’s most important assets. As a Board member, I take my responsibility to oversee the financial management of these assets extremely seriously. Our ability to provide a world-class education to the students in our District is dependent on the prudent use of the funds that the taxpayers (70% of whom do not have children in our schools) entrust to us. As Chair of the Finance Committee for four years, I am well-versed in the District’s budgeting, fund accounting, audit, and tax levy processes and am committed to continuing the excellence in fiscal management this District has demonstrated throughout my tenure on the Board. Not only has our conservative approach allowed us to retain excellent staff, greatly improve our aging facilities, and maintain balanced budgets while abating $4.5 million in taxes and reducing many of the fees charged to families, it has enabled us to spend millions of dollars to mitigate the risks of the current pandemic so that our students and staff can return to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition to a New Superintendent
The Board and Superintendent must work together as a team, with the Board enacting policy and providing vision, and the Superintendent being responsible for implementing those policies and vision, and for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the District. After serving on the Board for the past eight years, I clearly understand these two distinct roles and that it is critical for the effective functioning of the District for Board members to respect these boundaries. I am excited that we will have at least two new Board members after this election and believe that I can assist with the onboarding process while maintaining stability and support for the incoming Superintendent.
Continuously Monitoring the Effectiveness of Programmatic Changes
It is critical to effectively plan, execute and monitor curricular and programmatic changes. Recent changes to math leveling, gifted education, and standards based grading are all examples of instances where the Board used data and feedback to make programmatic changes. Once implemented, we again looked to data and feedback to make modifications to the way changes were initially implemented in order to better serve the needs of all students. Once we return to more normal operations, I will advocate that the Board continue to monitor the data and gather feedback from all stakeholders to ensure we are achieving the intended results of all of our initiatives so that we are best meeting the needs of all students.
You can hear for yourself my views on these important issues and more. The clips below are from the interview I had with the D109 Caucus.
In this clip which is a bit over 4 minutes in length, I give my closing statement to the D109 Caucus. I share my thoughts on what makes a great school board member and what's important to me as I seek another term on the D109 school board.
If you are interested in viewing the entire interview, it’s on the D109 Caucus site. Click here to view their page.
I would like to express my thanks to the Caucus for allowing me to share these clips on my site.