School board directors provide citizen oversight of school districts. They hire, supervise, and work with a superintendent who manages the daily operations of the district. Directors are responsible for setting policy, adopting budgets, making decisions about facilities and curriculum, and long-term planning. Successful school boards are collaborative with a clear sense of vision that is informed by the perspectives and values of individual directors.
Ultimately, a school board’s job is to meet the needs of all learners and nurture them into democratic citizens of the world. If elected, I will bring a set of three overarching priorities to accomplish this work.
Test scores alone cannot reveal the full picture of our equity challenges. If we want to transform our schools into models of equality, we must expand our understanding of both the opportunity and achievement gaps. We must confront our own community’s racism and classism and examine how they impact district policies and funding.
We must address equity holistically and with honesty. The inequalities many of our students and families face have had generations to root and spread throughout our community. They will not be remedied by an equity vision crafted by a small group over the course of several months. This work will take time. It will be difficult. It will challenge how we see our community, but we are equal to the task. To do this, we need:
- An Equity Vision and Plan that are built in an atmosphere of transparency, engage community and government partners in the process and include an extensive plan for public comment and feedback.
- Equity objectives that are aspirational and measurable.
- Equity goals that are part of a broad system of accountability that uses more than standardized test scores to measure student and school achievements.
- A willingness to act quickly when clear problems are revealed. In Olympia, homeless, low-income, special education, and students of color are disciplined at 3 times the rate of their peers. These students can’t wait for us to act.
Enthusiasm for the concept of “school choice” is based on the idea that public schools cannot provide the individualized education that every student needs. The Olympia School District is living proof that this idea is false. Our schools are filled with rich and diverse learning options and alternatives born out of grassroots community efforts. Now it is time for the district to offer broader support for existing and new options. We can be a model for what innovative programming can and should look like in modern public schools. To do this, we need:
- A district culture that encourages educators and the community to design and test non-traditional school models and innovative ideas within our neighborhood and comprehensive schools.
- Increased seats in public options or alternative programs at all levels. These are not charter schools. They are public programs that are in high-demand and help us meet the needs of the diverse learners in our community.
- Pathways at the middle and high school level that include a broad array of applied learning options alongside rigorous academic offerings.
- More opportunities for dual credit and certification programs within school buildings.
Engaged communities are the foundation of great schools, and great schools engage all kinds of students. Our schools rely on the time and talents of educators, families, volunteers, and community champions to offer the enriching and supportive environments students need. Unfortunately, the opportunities for these experts to have substantive input in the board’s work is inconsistent and severely limited.
Additionally, the focus on student test scores in a handful of subjects as the primary evidence of achievement has chipped support away from the many other programs and experiences that make learning fun and build well-rounded, life-long learners. This high-stakes environment of test-based accountability and the limited time for enrichments have a negative effect on the social and emotional development of students.
The school board needs to re-imagine community and student engagement for the 21st century. To do this, we need:
- A district culture that values building-based staff and volunteer’s diverse experiences and expertise as vital to organizational decision-making.
- An engagement plan that includes better use of technology to give students, families, and the community access to the work of the board and expanded opportunities for feedback and involvement in governance.
- A student-centered culture focused on making sure schools remain welcoming, safe, and fun environments.