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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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. This guidance document, Navigating Change 2020 provides operational support and instructional support to schools for remote, hybrid, and in-person learning. 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.
How should any additional health and 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 U.S. Senators and House Congressional Representatives to encourage funding to support school needs.
What is the largest challenge facing schools right now amidst the pandemic, and how do you propose the BOE helps them solve it?
The largest challenge facing school district now is how to get students back in to in-person school safely. Many of our smallest school district have started school in-person and unfortunately several of those districts have experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases in their schools and have had to change the method of schooling. Going back to our Navigating Change 2020 document and the Gating Criteria will assist schools with guidance on how to safely reopen schools.
The best thing would be for students in-person for schooling but we do have to put safety measures in place to allow that to happen. Those safety measures could include spreading students out in larger spaces including looking for other options in towns with larger venues. It would also help to keep students in cohort groups and have the teachers move classrooms. If we did these measures it would be easier to contain outbreaks. The Commissioner conducts frequent Zoom meetings with Superintendents going over options for reopening schools.
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.
What should the Kansas BOE do to make sure at-risk students are not being left behind?
The State BOE has already given direction to local school districts to bring at-risk students back into the schools to provide services directly to them. Even if school districts are on remote learning they can bring cohort groups of 10 or fewer students in to work directly with their teachers. Districts can bring in as many cohort groups of 10 students as needed to be able to provide that instruction. Many districts are already doing this with Special Education students and other at-risk groups and the State Board is actively encouraging that practice. State Board is also encouraging local districts to begin to plan for the summer of 2021 to bring in students who the data shows are falling behind. That will allow more time and support to get students caught up.
What resources do you think Kansas schools need that they currently don’t have?
Schools could use additional funds to provide for the extra cleaning of schools. Once we get more school districts back in full time it will be difficult to have adequate space in order to spread students out. That may require having to rent some additional instructional space for our students. Also more COVID-19 testing protocols from the state would be very helpful in order to keep students and staff safe once they are back in the actual buildings.