Are you currently a school board member? (Y/N)
How many school board meetings did you attend last year?
All of them
Brief background bio (a single paragraph):
I was appointed to the Christina School Board in May 2020. I have been a member of the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee since 2010 and have served on numerous committees throughout the district and in the schools. I am a volunteer with Junior Achievement and a mentor to two students. I have a BS and MS in chemistry and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years.
I would like to see all of the children in our community have the opportunities that some of our children now have, such as the choice to choose a school that offers the programs they are interested in. I would like all of our schools to offer the extracurriculars and co-curriculars that bring learning to life and excite the senses and encourage curiosity and life long learning.
I would like to see active, positive support for our educators—our teachers, paras, support staff and yes, even administrators who work incredibly hard to support, encourage and excite our students every day. I want to see this support come from local community members, even those who chose a different path for their own children. But also from our local leaders; our representatives in Newark, New Castle County, and the State House. They live and work in our school district and represent the families living in and sending their children to the schools in our district.
My background is in chemistry. I am a trained researcher. I believe those skills allow me to ask relevant questions and look deeper into something I don’t understand well. I believe this allows me to become better informed about an area that I will be asked to vote on. I also recognize that new information could mean a change in my opinion and that that is ok, it is an opportunity to grow.
I also believe my experiences volunteering in the schools and on various committees has given me an opportunity to learn more in depth about different facets of running a school district and also to practice listening with the intent to learn.
The district should reopen schools as soon as possible, recognizing that safety and following the guidelines is top priority. It is clear that remote learning did not work for most (not all) students. We are social creatures, and our ability to learn well, happens with social interaction and engagement and hands on activities. Online learning is very limiting and incredibly difficult to do long term, even for the most dedicated students. The school board plays an oversight roll in the safe return to the buildings. The board should be aware of the guidelines and ask questions and follow up with the superintendent to ensure he is following these guidelines. It is also important to make sure that plans are in place for possible changes. The superintendent needs to be able to change quickly as circumstances dictate. The board needs to make sure he is prepared and give him the leeway to make those changes.
I am not sure you can ever truly be satisfied with the education outcomes, there is always room for improvement. There are disagreements regarding testing, how many, what, how often, how is it interpreted, especially the state test. However, if you talk with teachers, they are very aware of where their students are and who needs extra help to catch up. They are also very aware of where their students started and how far they have come. I believe we spend much of the time looking at student outcomes that we forget to look at the students’ needs. When the numbers don’t improve quickly enough, we are quick to blame educators and families and even the students themselves. I believe if we paid attention to the needs of each individual student and met them where they are and gave educators the space to educate, student outcomes would follow.
The primary role of a school board member is to work with the board, district, teachers, staff, families, students and community to develop a vision for the district. They need to communicate this vision and support the district in implementing the vision. Board members need to ask probing questions about plans and processes they are being asked to vote on. They need to be available to all members of the community to hear feedback and remain informed on the needs of the community so they make sure the vision is being followed. Board members need to step away from the day to day running of the district and let the staff who are trained and experienced in the various needs to do their jobs.
I am cautiously optimistic. Opportunity Grants give districts more flexibility and it is money specifically for the students who need it most. The main way for reaching and helping these students and their families involves people. With opportunity grants, all of the costs are born by the district (salary and benefits), there is no state portion like in units. As the cost goes up, if the grant does not increase proportionally, the cost to maintain the staffing level is born by local funding, or the staffing level must be reduced, which defeats the original purpose. If funding is maintained, then it is being pulled from another area in the district. The governor is excited about the $60 million increase in funding that will not become “permanent” until 2025. After that, the per pupil amount stays the same, but there is no adjustment for increased costs. Currently, the districts need to return $26 million to the state each year. So in actuality the increase is only $34 million––in 2025.