As the campaign continues, I thought it might be helpful to share my honest opinions and maybe a little more information as to what I see in our schools. I will add more as the campaign progresses, but these are my opinions as a candidate for re-election to the Wyoming Board of Education and are not intended to be a formal statement representing the Board. Please reach out anytime if there is more you want to know!
As of 9/26/21
1) What is your most important reason for running for re-election to the Wyoming Board of Education?
After 13 years as a parent in the district and four years on the BOE, I continue to be passionate about our schools and want to put four years of experience to work in support of a Superintendent who listens, collaborates, and then connects the dots to do what is best for kids. I want to support an experienced, highly collaborative board in moving our schools forward in partnership with a Treasurer and Superintendent who are among the most highly respected in their fields. We listened to the community to hire and retain professionals that would reflect the best of what we want for our kids and our community. Despite the pandemic, much has been accomplished in the last few years, and I feel a responsibility to represent the whole of our community and to offer stability to a trusted leadership poised to do amazing things for kids. Quite simply, I believe in the direction of our schools and want to champion that.
2) What does a School Board do?
A school board acts as the governance team for the school district. While we serve as a conduit of communication between the Superintendent and the community, the Board is not like a school PAC or a task force. We do not launch individual initiatives and we are generally not involved in the everyday administration of the district. Rather, we focus on the big picture, learning all we can about our district and the needs of the community, and then we help to set the overall vision. The board’s most important role is to employ and evaluate a superintendent and treasurer. Equally important is our role as financial stewards of a $28 million school district budget. As our district is primarily funded with local tax dollars, we are accountable to the Wyoming taxpayer to maintain strong property values through strong schools. Most importantly, we are accountable to every child who moves through our district for an education that values each and prepares all for success.
3) Is the Wyoming Board of Education nonpartisan?
The BOE functions best as the “party of kids.” I am proud to continue a long tradition of upholding the board as the non-partisan body it is intended to be. I believe we serve kids best when we do not approach the board with a singular agenda aligned with a particular party. We serve a diverse community and are open to all voices in support of kids. While issues of public health and issues of inclusion have been politicized, I do not believe making our schools a culture war battleground serves children well. I believe the majority of our community, regardless of party affiliation, does not welcome this divisiveness either.
4) Do you still have kids in the district?
The youngest of our three girls is a junior at the high school. One of the reasons I ran for the Board four years ago was a sense of gratitude for the journey my oldest (WHS ’17) had just completed. I also thought that having so much recent experience in every building level would be a helpful perspective on the Board. It was and still is. Now, I have had four years to engage with all building levels in a variety of ways and because my children are older, I have even more time to dedicate to the board and our schools.
5) What do you feel is the role of the individual school board members in community engagement?
I think as an individual on the Board I try to be an advocate for public education and our schools specifically. I try to support our Superintendent and be a conduit between the administration and community with listening being a central focus. I try to be a role model for civil discourse and a champion for kids. I am always conscious that my response to others represents the Board, and over four years, I have learned much about a Board member’s role in advocacy, problem-solving, and listening.
6) What do you feel is the role of the Wyoming Board of Education in community engagement?
One of the things I enjoy most about being on the Board is being a team of five. It is a unique opportunity to collaborate and recognize that our importance only comes from the decisions we make together. With that in mind, we have very specific ways that we engage with the community as a Board. I think as a group, we are always looking for ways to be intentional about engaging the community. We each go to different meetings of various support organizations and report back to the whole. Most often, either the Board President or I, as Vice President, will respond to emails on behalf of the Board. I am proud of what we have done together to more formally engage our community at crucial times whether it be advocating for public schools during the voucher threat or in advance of hiring a new superintendent. Everyone on our current Board has contributed to improved visibility in the community and increased community voice through forums, focus groups, and surveys.
7) What are your views on the District’s finances and transparency about those finances?
During an election season, people will be discussing financial transparency and how we have handled finances. I am proud of how we have continued a tradition of financial excellence and want to highlight some aspects of our financial approach so there is clarity and confidence.
Every month our BOE finance committee meets for an in-depth discussion on the state of our school finances. We keep minutes that are available to the public and the committee comprises teachers as well as our Treasurer and members of the Board. The Treasurer reports to the larger Board each month at our regular meeting. Our five-year forecast is updated and approved twice per year in November and May. For a full view, our most recent report can always be found on our website under Finances in the Treasurer’s report. This is the best, most up-to-date picture of our district’s complete financial picture. I don’t advise the Ohio checkbook as a place for up-to-date or clear information on our district.
It is important to note that all votes on the acceptance of contracts, facilities, and supplies take place in open session of the Board of Education.
As a member of the finance committee, I am fully supportive of the adoption of our $5 million cash balance benchmark as one important indicator of financial well-being. This benchmark is also one helpful tool when appropriately timing a levy.
Looking to the future
Since their arrival, our Superintendent and Treasurer have taken the lead on new and important long-range planning. We are in a great position to begin our next strategic plan because we have established long-range plans in areas such as textbook adoption, technology, HVAC, and overall facilities.
The pandemic was cause for financial uncertainty and we were pleased to end fiscal year ’21 in a stable position. Our property values are stronger than ever and our income tax revenue remained flat in Covid which was also good news as we had forecasted a decline. Also expected was the new state funding model passed by the Ohio legislature which flat-lined state funding for Wyoming. When we ran our last operational levy in 2017, we predicted that we would need to run a levy within four years. Based on what we are seeing now, we believe this will be closer to 2023.
I believe that property values go hand in hand with stable districts who can retain top-notch leaders. After listening to the community, we have hired one of the best who reflects our community’s values. This board will work hard to maintain needed continuity and to support our Superintendent and Treasurer.
8) What has the district done to address the concerns of special education families?
When we were looking for a new superintendent, the Board recognized the concerns of this group as a high priority. We are a smaller district in terms of resources but there are also advantages to our size in terms of collaboration and communication. Specifically, the district has taken steps to form a parent liaison group and created a new position (starting this month) in the district to support these families. From a learning standpoint, all special education teachers have now been trained in Orton-Gillingham and ESSER funds have been set aside for the training of more teachers on this multi-sensory phonics approach to reading. Most importantly, the work that has begun at all levels in the district with curriculum mapping and the multi-tiered system of support(MTSS) provides a crucial framework for personalization of instruction and intervention within the classroom and as each child progresses through our district. These tools can help empower our teachers to better know each child academically, emotionally, and socially. Our goal is to meet children where they are and grow them from there. This benefits all children but is especially important with children whose educational needs won’t fit the norm. If you have questions about how this can help your child, please reach out to your teacher, principal, or the central office staff.
9) What are your views of the district’s efforts to address belonging and inclusion?
This has been a topic at Board meetings as well as in emails to Board members about our curriculum. Wyoming does not teach critical race theory (CRT) but we do stand against racism and acknowledge its history and reach. Our curriculum is aligned with the Ohio Standards of Learning. By contract, we trust teachers to thoughtfully teach the hard parts of history and to help students become critical thinkers and problem solvers. Our goal is for students to be well prepared for an increasingly diverse and complex world. As well, when students feel accepted and safe in their classroom, they learn better. While equity and inclusion are often discussed through the lens of race, the work of belonging intersects in a number of ways. No matter gender, sexual orientation, religion, academic ability, or political point of view, our job is to support kids and to give them firm ground from which to launch. I believe that teaching students to think about the full scope of history and the facts of science has the power to create empathy, not division.
10) What do you think is the single most pressing educational priority for Wyoming City Schools (WCS) as we look beyond the pandemic?
I would say meeting each child where they are emotionally, intellectually, and academically, and then helping them grow from there. This requires a great deal from the teacher in being able to know each child and then differentiate within the classroom. It also requires strong communication horizontally within a grade and vertically from grade to grade. It also requires ongoing formative assessments and an inspiring, creative curriculum that still follows all state and national standards. Offering a rigorous curriculum that encourages resilience and a creative mindset is quite a balance and I am excited by the leadership on this from our teachers, principals, and superintendent.
11) What are some of the top issues facing Wyoming City Schools (WCS)?
Addressing the growing mental health needs of our students
Creating a strategic plan and appropriately timing the next operational levy
Addressing the issues of our aging primary buildings
12) Where could the Board make improvements?
In the next four years, I look forward to being more available in person. Every time I am at a school or community event or just having coffee at WyCoCo, I realize how much more there is to be gained from connecting offline and in-person. I think there are ways to listen and learn without speaking for the Board on matters that have not yet come before it. Collectively as a Board, we talk often about the best way to connect with and represent the whole during the pandemic and after. We learned that people appreciated being able to watch Board meetings on Zoom so we will begin recording our monthly board meetings beginning in late September. We need to find new ways to connect with our empty-nesters, those with kids who have graduated and those who have yet to experience our schools. This group makes up two-thirds of our district so it is important to hear their voices and communicate district happenings to them. As a Board, we will continue to respond to every email we receive but I also see us looking for a variety of ways to relay information- in writing, in person, by website, and even by video chat.
13) What are your views of masking and the district’s approach to the pandemic?
Nearly 18 months ago as it became clear that the pandemic would greatly affect our school year, the Board passed a resolution allowing our Superintendent to make decisions regarding school closures, covid mitigation, technology, and supports for teachers and students. Because of Tim Weber’s steady leadership, we recently renewed this resolution. The entire board has supported our Superintendent’s efforts to follow local data, science, and medical experts in Wyoming as he guides our district through uncertain times. We have learned a lot through the course of the pandemic and I support continued flexibility and adaptations in our plan as things evolve. There was a lot of angst in the community over masking recently. Our goal is to keep kids in school. We want to reduce spread and quarantines. Masking indoors is our best option right now for doing that. We have a responsibility to educate our students in a safe environment.
14) Where is Wyoming in the rankings of best schools?
It depends on which rankings you consider. There are a lot of rankings out there and we tend to focus on a few that relate more to academics. For example, in the most recent listing that came out in the spring of US News and World Report on high schools, we moved up to number 3 in Ohio and 123 out of nearly 18,000 schools in the country. Other rankings aren’t as focused on academics so we don’t follow them as closely. Niche is fun and we did receive an A+ but they also consider things like food and sports. As a district, we try to balance the emphasis we give to rankings with an appreciation for the quick thumbs up they do give to a community’s schools. Four years ago, there was concern about putting too much importance on a ranking and not enough on the actual student experience. I think if we continue to focus on the substantive ways we can impact students, we will likewise continue to rise to the top of the rankings we care about.