Q: The term “transparency” has been a lightning rod term over the past few years - with both justified and unjustified topical points. But the reality is that over the past 2 years, the existing BOE has implemented the following improvements in communication, transparency and community involvement:
All BOE meetings are now live-streamed for greater community availability.
All BOE meetings are also recorded and archived for later community member viewing, as fits their schedule - further improving community availability.
The district finances are now represented and accessible in Open Checkbook.
The community-represented Planning Commission was fully implemented for greater and direct communication and involvement with community representatives.
The BOE works with the community-represented Diversity Advisory Board to continue improvements in our schools and educational opportunities for our kids.
LCSD has now implemented a new community newsletter to keep the general community (and not just parents of students) abreast of activities in the schools.
The Board involved the community in the latest search and hiring process of the superintendent.
So, the question to candidates is: Do you feel transparency is still lacking in the district? If so, what do you feel is still lacking, specifically, with regard to transparency, what do you believe still needs to be put in place, and how do you believe that can be accomplished?
A: You are correct that the term can be classified as a lightning rod. However, I agree, and believe, that we have certainly come a long way in a relatively short time - especially considering all of the changes were made to operations that had been in place for decades before I was part of the Board. As you also may remember, I was a strong supporter from the start of live-streaming BOE meetings, as well as producing more in depth meeting notes. The ability to now archive the recordings has lessened the need for those transcribed and printed notes, but those still can be improved.
As for the other items mentioned, Yes I believe there is a tremendously greater level of communication and transparency than previously existed - and not because anyone was intentionally seeking to not be transparent, but because, as mentioned, processes were simply occurring as they had for years before I joined the Board.
With that said, do I believe transparency is lacking? No. Do I believe communication and community involvement can be better? Absolutely. This is what we strive for, because a well informed community is also supportive and engaged in helping make the schools the best they can be, and in the path that suites the community as a whole.
Having worked in Lakota, I am very familiar with the ongoing community engagement meetings that are held routinely, on any number of important topics. I think this is an area we can still improve - to engage more of the community outside the formal groups such as the Planning Commission, which are important but still leaves room for additional input outside their scope.
An additional piece is simply being open to suggestions from the community on additional avenues of involvement. Look, we often “don’t know what we don’t know” and it is imperative to be open to outside suggestion for improvement and change. I believe I have been that, with all the changes I have helped implement, and I will continue to be open to new and expanded community interactions.
Q: I'm curious if you still stand by your statement made at the August board meeting that you have not seen any negative affects of masking children and have not talked to a single teacher that has seen any negative affects of masking? This is not a mask debate. I'd simply like to know if you still feel this way.
A: Thanks for the question. I do still stand by the statement I made regarding mask mandates and mental health. However, I did say that I do not speak for all teachers, nor have I spoken to all teachers. I have yet to have a conversation with one who disagrees with this assessment.
There is a mental health crisis that has increased during the pandemic; all research demonstrates that. Nevertheless, experts have well-documented that the benefits of in-person learning from educational, social, and emotional perspectives are indisputable. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and other public health agencies have made statements that the stability and safety of school settings are helped by the use of preventative measures, including students wearing masks. Masks have been proven to help reduce the transmission and spread of COVID-19, which helps maintain consistency, stability, and the other benefits of in-person learning.
I fully support continued conversations related to mental health struggles and concerns, and steps need to be taken to address the mental health needs of our students. However, blaming mask mandates for the mental health crisis is unfounded. What has been reported is that mental health concerns are related to the uncertainty of COVID-19, grief associated with the loss of family and friends, and a lost sense of normalcy. Other contributing factors to our mental health crisis are extended periods of isolation, financial uncertainty, and the helplessness and anger associated with the divide in the country and within communities.
We all know that children are resilient and look to adults for how to respond in stressful situations. When adults model resiliency, flexibility, accountability, compassion, understanding, and social responsibility, children learn to adapt in the same manner. Students, along with everyone else, have been asked to give up a lot and change their behaviors in ways that benefit themselves and those around them. Instead of blaming masks for mental health issues, I hope that we can all come together to help support and improve students' ability to be adaptative and help them navigate the social and emotional landscape of the community and the world.
Q: Why did I get a robo text to vote for you? Do you view this an invasion of privacy?
A: I apologize for the inconvenience and concern over the Robo text you received. Please know that my campaign did not send those. I was endorsed by an outside group Elect Educators Everywhere, and didn't know about the endorsement until they had already deployed their texts and ads. Elect Educators Everywhere is a third party that works in election time and advocates for teachers. As registered voters, our information is out there as part of that registration for anybody working the election.
While I am grateful for the support of outside groups and endorsements, I also understand it can cause confusion around messaging and tactics. Thanks for sharing your feedback, and I hope I still have your support on Election Day! Happy to answer additional questions if you have any.
Here is the web-site for the organization that sent the messages in case you wanted to research them further.
Q: What is the most recent book you have read?
A: The most recent book I have read is Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. I chose this book based on the recommendation of one of my students and just how excited she was when sharing her passion and love for the work. Even though the book is meant for a YA audience, I recommend it to all. Not only does the story stress the importance of family, community, relationships, and privilege, but it deals with issues of racism, socio-economic disparities, and cultural discrimination. This is truly a powerful story!