Neighborhood: Carondelet (formerly Dutchtown)
Occupation: Adjunct sociology instructor, mom
Political experience: Until now it’s been voting in every election
Your take on opening schools during COVID-19: The data seems to show that reopening schools with appropriate precautions when there is low community spread is reasonably safe. For most children, virtual schooling has been difficult – my children have certainly struggled (and are struggling), and I understand the push to return to in-person school, particularly as the burden of school-at-home has impacted primarily mothers. However, I’m very concerned about the impact of re-openings on our teachers, on their physical and emotional health and their continued involvement in a profession that seems to continually be devalued.
I look forward to sending my kids back to in-person school in the fall, schools with vaccinated faculty and staff, well-ventilated buildings, and the classmates we dearly miss.
Your take on the use and closure of existing school properties: The closures are the inevitable result of racist disinvestment in our city, particularly north city, the proliferation of charter schools, and the district itself’s emphasis on magnet schools. I support the difficult quest to “right-size” the district and will advocate for more support and care for neighborhood schools, so that they are the best and easiest choice for parents.[Superintendent Kelvin] Adams has indicated that if a building whose school closed remains in SLPS’s hands and there is once again enough children wanting to attend that location, the school can be restarted. In light of that and the growth that NGA may bring to North City. I will particularly advocate for the buildings in the most recent round of closures to be well maintained, and if possible, used for/by their community.
Your take on reducing crime and violence in the school system: I will encourage and support policies like the use of restorative justice and trauma-informed consequences, as well as pursue policies that will reduce the number of suspensions. In addition, I’ll try to enable teachers to have more support and care so that they can manage their classrooms well without immediately going to punitive measures. I hope to help lead SLPS into a culture that is explicitly for Black children, quick to encourage and nurture and care, slow to punish and penalize. I also want to make sure the presence of the safety officers in the school provides protection for students, faculty, and staff, and doesn’t make the school environment feel constantly policed.
Beyond these things, I think it’s important to note that that crime and violence in the school system is a reflection of what’s happening all around our city. No child should die by gun violence, and yet the number here in St. Louis we have lost is devastating, and the burden to bring it to zero falls on all of us.
Your take on ending inequity within the school district: While the school closures are such a loss, the reallocation of funds provided by closures will provide more resources to each school remaining. I will hold the administration accountable to its stated goals and plans in that regard.
In addition, a great deal of the inequity within SLPS comes from the differences in PTO funding among the schools. The neighborhood school my younger children attend (which we love!) does not have a functioning PTO, while my oldest daughter’s magnet middle school has an active PTO that had around $30,000 in their account at the start of the school year! The schools into which more resourced families sort themselves benefit from their resource sharing, while other schools, particularly neighborhood schools in struggling neighborhoods, will not have access to those sorts of resources, and though the funding from the district is about equal on a per-child basis for each school, this imbalance of extra resources creates disparity. To end this inequity in the district we must foster a sense of connection to the district as a whole, not just a family’s individual school, and create ways for more equitable dispersion of resources.
And to create more equity between the districts, we need to figure out a better way to fund schools. Obviously, that’s a legislative goal, not something within the purview of the school board, but as a school board member I will reach out to our elected officials to see how we can improve things at the state level.