Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.
Retired educator, former science teacher at middle school and high school level, middle school principal – Robinson Middle School, Coleman Middle School, high school principal – Southeast High School, Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools, Wichita Public Schools. Education – undergraduate degree from Kansas State University – biological sciences, Masters degree from Wichita State University – Curriculum and Instruction, Science Education, license program, Wichita State University – Building Level Administrator, District Level Administration.
I have two grown sons who both attended Wichita Public Schools, both married and one a firefighter, one an industrial engineer and one grandson. I am a fourth generation Kansan with three generations having attended Wichita Public Schools.
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Did you support school closures to control the spread of the coronavirus?
By closing schools the Governor was able to slow the spread of COVID-19 initially. The Kansas Department of Education and the Kansas State Board of Education had about 72 hours to put together guidance for the schools for the Continuous Learning project. While it was not perfect it did provide an opportunity to get students engaged in learning remotely. We certainly had problems with connectivity and students not having devices to access online learning but schools were also able to provide packet learning which helped in the short term.
What should the Kansas BOE do to make sure students have the right tools and technology for at-home learning?
Kansas BOE has put together teams of over 1000 teachers, administrators, and board members to work on a much more comprehensive guidance document for school districts for this fall when school starts back up. Many school districts that did not previously have adequate technology for their students to be able to learn online were able to purchase electronic devices with their CARES money this summer. I believe most if not all school districts will have better access for technology.
What safety measures should schools take to control the spread of the coronavirus? Do you support a hybrid version of school with a combination of virtual and in-class learning?
The new guidance document, called Navigating Change will have extensive guidance for schools to follow to control the spread of COVID-19. All of these procedures from cleaning to how to organize a classroom and move to other classrooms are in the document.
There will be multiple options in the guidance document for school districts to chose from regarding the type of schooling for the fall. The three options are 1) On-site Learning, students and teachers would be in the school buildings with safety procedures in place, 2) Hybrid Learning, students would spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time learning virtually from home, 3) Remote Learning, students would be doing all of their learning from home. I would imagine districts will use a variety of those three options during the school year depending on what the health situation is at the time.
How should any additional safety measures be funded?
School districts were provided with CARES money from the Federal Government. Many of the districts have already spent that money making sure they have technology and other supplies to deal with COVID-19. I do think schools will need additional funding depending how long this pandemic lasts. I would like to see additional stimulus money come from the Federal government and the State Board has been working with our Federal Senators and House Congressmen and women to encourage funding to support school needs.
What can schools do to promote social and racial justice?
School districts can work with the Social, Emotional and Character Development standards that the state has to support all students having a more equitable opportunity in their school buildings. They can also use the history-government standards to look more critically at the history of our country and determine inequities and how to remedy those inequities. We also have a Civic Engagement component of our State Board goals. This is a prime time for schools to help their students get more involvement in civic activities in both their schools and their communities.
What are the top 3 things you think deserve your immediate attention and what action would you take on them?
My number one issue would continue to be social and emotional supports not only for the students but for the teachers as we go back to school in these uncertain times. The State Board established a School Mental Health Advisory Council three years ago and I am the State Board representative and Chair of this Council. We continue to meet regarding supports for students. We look at our Social, Emotional and Character Development standards and determine how to better focus our support for students. We also have a School Mental Health pilot programs going as a partnership activity between various school districts and their Mental Health Community groups throughout the state. These partnerships allow students to receive mental health support during the school day at school.
The second item would be to continue to focus on postsecondary supports for our schools. We have established an Individual Plan of Study for each student that allows them to look at options for themselves for after high school. Often times these students are able to start work on their interest area during high school time so that they are more prepared to be successful after high school.
My third issue would be Kindergarten Readiness. We have worked hard the past few years trying to expand the options for communities to have Pre-K programs that meet the needs of their local communities. In partnership with the Children’s Cabinet and several grants the State Board has focused on expanding the opportunities for Pre-K throughout the state. As more students are involved in Pre-K more students will come to Kindergarten prepared. We have also implemented a Kindergarten Readiness screener so that parents and schools can determine what these incoming Kindergarteners need as they first come into school.