Neighborhood: Central West End
Political experience: None
Your take on opening schools during COVID-19: SLPS working with the teacher’s union did a good job of opening back up and offering a hybrid model of instruction for elementary students, and opening middle and high school in a responsible manner. We need to make sure we learn from the disruption caused by the pandemic. It exposed disparities that we already knew existed such as food and childcare insecurity, but it also showed the importance of flexibility, community partnerships and the power of making investments in technology.
Your take on the use and closure of existing school properties: School closings are terrible, but the reality is that we have a public school system that is built for the city of our past that doesn’t adequately serve all of the students of today. Severe under enrollment of buildings hurt the district as a whole. Now that the decision to close buildings has been made, we need to make sure the promises of reallocated resources to fund additional social workers, counselors and nurses as well as expanded literacy programs, electives and high school internship programs is robustly implemented. We also need to stay engaged with the community as partners to make sure that local leaders and groups are not just interested in last minute appeals to stop school closings but are working with us every day so history does not keep repeating itself with more closures.
Your take on ending inequity within the school district: We need to invest in our neighborhoods and communities affected by systemic racism. Schools where children are disadvantaged and as a result are underperforming academically need much more support to improve learning and address physical and
mental health disparities.
Your take on reducing crime and violence in the school system: Safety officers must be appropriately trained to work in the school setting so they are not just security guards but part of a support team led by social workers and counselors. Students in our district suffer from a disproportionate level of trauma caused by a range of issues from housing and food insecurity to unimaginable violence. Learning can be impossible if these issues are not dealt with. We need more resources to provide enough counselors, social workers and nurses to care for our kids rather than criminalize them.
We are limited in finding the resources to accomplish these goals by inadequate state and
federal funding but also by some things that are under our city’s control. First, we need to
force our local city leaders to address tax incentive abuse to reduce the $30 million each
year that these programs take from the SLPS budget. Second, we need to address our
transportation costs which are the result of an outdated district design that emphasizes
magnet schools over neighborhood schools.