Experience and Involvement
Describe your personal experience and involvement with the public schools within the past five years that qualifies you as a school board member?
I have spent the last ten years working in the fields of K-12 and higher education. In my current position I work with schools directly as a Project Manager at Tacoma Housing where I am leading an effort to design and implement a Children’s College Savings Account Program that will initially benefit students at Lister Elementary School and First Creek Middle School.
Prior to coming to THA in November of 2014, I worked at the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction as a Policy Analyst. In this position I helped write legislation that the Superintendent put forward to the Legislature, I analyzed legislation to assess its impacts on schools, I participated in conversations about some of the most pressing issues facing K-12 education, and I was a part of several teams working to generate innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing schools across the State.
Specifically, I was part of the team tasked with transitioning our state funding formulas from those the State used to allocate funding to school districts between the mid-1970s and 2010 to the new prototypical school funding model the state uses today. I worked as staff to the State’s Quality Education Council, which is responsible for overseeing the ongoing implementation of the program of basic education and the funding necessary to support that program. I also staffed the Highly Capable Program Technical Working Group, the Learning Assistance Program Working Group, and acted as one of two State Transformation Specialists working specifically to build statewide capacity to implement evidence based practices in early literacy instruction.
I also interact with schools from the perspective of a “bonus mom” to three boys and a mentor to students who attend or have attended Tacoma Public Schools.
What are your top objectives if elected to the Board? What would be your highest educational priorities for the school district?
- Continuing to find ways to engage every student. Our students reflect the diversity of our community. Meeting the needs of our diverse learners is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we must meet because every student deserves an opportunity to see him or herself as a capable learner. I am committed to working to achieve this vision for our students, because I know that in order for them to thrive in their lives after high school they must leave with a strong sense of self-efficacy, have positive aspirations for their futures, and have the knowledge and skills required to persist down their postsecondary education or career paths. I think that in order for us to achieve these goals we must focus on student engagement.
- Supporting our educators. I believe that our educators are the backbone of our schools. In order for our educators to meet the community’s high expectations for academic and professional excellence we must make their professional growth and development a priority.
- Ensuring that Tacoma has a sustainable financial plan to continue to support the initiatives that have been successful at boosting student achievement in recent years, in spite of uncertainty about state funding. As the state Legislature continues to debate the future of K-12 education funding our district needs to make sure that we have a sustainable plan to continue to fund these initiatives so that students in Tacoma have a stable educational future.
- Ensuring that we have a balanced assessment system. I believe that assessments can play an important role in helping teachers hone in on specific areas where students need additional challenge or support. They also play an important role in helping to ensure that schools aren’t performing in ways that lead to disproportionate outcomes for certain groups of children in a systematic way. Moving forward, we need to look for ways to better align our local assessments with required state and federal assessments in order to reduce the time taken from instruction.
Ultimately my highest priority as a board member is to create, adopt and revise district policy to promote equitable outcomes for our students.
What do you think about Charter Schools?
I believe that all students should have access to high quality schools be they traditional public schools, charter schools or independent private schools. I think that nationally there are examples of high performing charter schools that are serving students well, and there are also examples of charters schools that struggle, so it is difficult for me to say whether I do or don’t support them in all cases.
Given that charter schools are here, as a school board member my priority will be making sure that Tacoma Public Schools are the premiere option in the community. I do believe that TPS should have a positive working relationship with the other school systems that serve students in Tacoma including charter schools, private schools and nearby tribal schools, so that as a larger community, we ensure that all students in Tacoma have access to high quality educational opportunities.
What do you think about Common Core?
Common Core State Standards are Washington’s latest iteration of math and English language arts standards. Washington has had learning standards for the last 20+ years in the areas of English language arts, science, math, social studies, arts, educational technology, world languages, integrated environment and sustainability, and health and fitness. Historically our standards have been known as Essential Academic Learning Requirements, and the state has also had more specific learning target for each grade level, know as Grade Level Expectations.
What is different about Common Core State Standards is that they are a national rather than a state-led initiative, and the standards are designed to be more rigorous then our previous learning standards were. The goal of these standards is to ensure that students graduate college and career ready.
If implemented well, I think that the Common Core State Standards will make the transition for students who move between states more seamless, and they have the potential of raising the high school preparation standard. However, if these standards are not implemented well they have the potential of making education opportunity and achievement gaps worse as schools and districts that are more affluent or that have more skilled staff will be in a better position to manager the transition, and ultimately their students will continue to out perform those students who attend less affluent schools.
As we continue to move forward with the implementation of Common Core State Standards my goal will be to make sure that they are implemented well throughout the district so that all students have an opportunity to meet the high standard that they set.
Do you think that there is currently an appropriate balance between school administrators and teachers?
I am not sure what the specific ratio of school principals to teachers is, but I think that we are at a time where the role of principals is changing. With changes to the statewide teacher and principal evaluation system, and the move to new State learning standards, principals are being called on to act like instructional leaders rather than just building administrators.
As instructional leaders principals are being asked to do more observations of instruction and to provide their teaching staff with coaching to help them improve their practice as teachers. As the role of principal changes I think we have to think differently about what the right span of control, or the right ratio of principals to teachers is, in order for them to be effective in their role.
Evaluating student learning
In lieu of standardized testing, what other methods should be used to evaluate student learning?
I think that there are multiple valid and reliable ways to evaluate student learning. Two of which include performance demonstrations and portfolio projects. I think that performance demonstrations that ask students to demonstrate what they have learned are a powerful way of engaging students in the learning process and giving them practice at communicating what they have learned in their own voice. Similarly, if portfolio projects are guided by a framework that students are allowed to fill in with their own evidence this can be a way of not only providing their teachers with insight into both what they have learned to date, and how best to continue to engage them in the future.
Problems of Poverty
What do you see as the school district’s role in educating students who face the problems of poverty, family problems, and/or lack of the English language?
I see the role of the district with regard to educating students who face the challenges created by poverty and family problems differently from its role in educating students that lack adequate English language skills. I separate these two issues because I think that it is ultimately the district’s responsibility to find ways to increase the English language proficiency of its English language learners while at the same time preserving their access to core instruction. These students are entitled to receive both language and content instruction and it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that both of those needs are met. This is not to say that the district shouldn’t engage the community in its effort to meet students’ language development needs, but I believe that the districts should lead this effort.
On the other hand, I don’t think that schools alone can fix every challenge that students face in their home lives. I think that school districts should be conscious of the fact that many students face barriers that impact their readiness to learn at every level of the K-12 system and in response should try to create structures that prevents these challenges from cutting off students’ access to opportunities to learn. These structures might include a breakfast after the bell program, a school-based health center, a partnerships with the local housing authorities to provide vouchers to homeless families, or specialized school-based counseling services in severely impacted neighborhoods. I recognize that these types of structures require resources that are often in short supply, but I think that districts, rather than individual schools or individual teachers should aim to provide these types of supports for students who need them in order to learn.
2522 N. Proctor Box # 279
Tacoma, WA 98406