I believe the priorities below are crucial to the success of our school district. Throughout the campaign I will add information about specific issues relevant to each of these priorities, and how I would work to address them.
Learning & Development
At the end of the day, what matters most is whether our students are developing the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. Our school administrators, staff, and teachers have worked extremely hard over the past two years to minimize the effect of COVID disruptions on our students. However, recent assessment scores have highlighted just how much of an impact lockdowns and distance learning have had on student learning – especially reading and math proficiency in grades 3-8. It is critical for our school board and administration to focus on making up the ground lost during COVID, and ensuring the effectiveness of curriculums and learning programs (like competency-based learning) is at the center of district strategic and operational planning going forward.
If we want students to have meaningful and trustworthy relationships with others, it is essential the interactions within our schools adhere to core principles that promote fairness and accountability for each individual. It isn’t enough for school leaders to capture these expectations in policies and handbooks, and communicate them to students. School board members, administrators, and staff need to also lead by example and show students how they hold their own words and actions accountable to the same standards – regardless of convenience or personal feelings.
Core principles important to social development include:
- An individual’s life experience should not be presumed (good or bad) based on physical characteristics, social class, beliefs, or other factors not related to their personal history.
- Accountability for words and actions should be based on objective standards and rules, not the feelings of individuals or groups.
Health & Safety
It is clear the school board and administrators are responsible for supporting public health initiatives. However, they do not have an inherent right to override the personal health decisions of students and their parents. In instances like COVID where a public health crisis is significant enough to consider mitigation measures that might have a negative impact on the mental and/or physical health of students (regardless of how minimal those risks are perceived), it is the school board’s responsibility to:
- Ensure any public health guidance being relied upon is sufficiently supported by scientific evidence
- Provide the public with the assessment performed to determine the personal risks to individual students are outweighed by the benefit to the community
- Track and manage mental and/or physical health concerns raised by staff, students, parents, and community members to ensure the risks to students are properly understood and outweighed by the benefit to the community.
It is clear the district takes the physical safety of our students seriously. In 2015, nearly $3 million was invested in containment, alert, and communication capabilities that are tightly integrated with the local police department. When tragedies happen like the one in Uvalde, TX, it is important for the school board, administration, staff, and local police to partner together afterwards and determine whether the lessons learned from those events need to be incorporated into our district’s emergency response plans.
The underfunding of special education requirements and English language services is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our school district. The lack of funding by the state and federal government can have an especially significant impact on smaller communities with a limited industrial and business tax base (such as Farmington). For the 2022-23 school year, the current funding levels result in a $4 million deficit to the overall budget while fully funding the requirements would lead to a $4 million surplus. With a similar deficit being projected for the 2023-24 school year as well, it is crucial that school board members, local government officials, and state legislators begin working together and working towards a long term sustainable solution.
At a time when enrollment and revenues are declining and costs (i.e., wages, healthcare, etc.) continue to climb, it is critical that school leaders continue to exercise sound fiscal discipline. While the administration is primarily responsible for developing the budget, school board members should continue to be actively engaged in the process by ensuring they understand the use of key assumptions, whether district resources are being managed efficiently, and how the the impact to students, staff, parents, and community members are considered when making significant cuts to programs and services.
It is essential that school board members demonstrate that they represent the best interests of the students and the community. Key components to building that trust include demonstrating to stakeholders (parents, community members, administrators, staff, teachers, and students) that school board members are willing to listen and engage with them, incorporate their feedback into board decisions, and take the time to explain why a vote for an unpopular or controversial action was in their best interest.