This is not a very pleasant time for public education. The pressures on schools are immense both financially and politically. Why do you want to be on the school board at this time?
I want to serve on the school board because I believe I offer the experience, talents, energy, and commitment necessary to help lead the public school system during this time of financial stress.
I grew up in northern Michigan, and I have lived in Traverse City for the past eleven years. I have 5 school aged children, all of whom attend TCAPS Schools. My children range in age from 6 through 14 years old . Two of my children have attended the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program, two attend our neighborhood TCAPS elementary school, and one has Down Syndrome and has a high level of special needs. Three of my children previously attended the TCAPS Montessori school. In addition, my husband is a small business owner and employer, and I recognize the need for a well-educated local citizenry in order for our region to prosper in the future.
I earned a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, and I worked for the corporate legal department of a major public utility for more than five years. I currently work in the financial aspects of my husband's dental specialty practice. I believe my personal experience and interest in TCAPS school system, as well as my educational and professional experience, are well-suited to being an effective member of the school board.
What is the primary role of the school board and its members?
The primary role of the school board and its members is to provide vision for the highest level of student achievement possible, and to set policies designed to accomplish such achievement. The school board hires the superintendent to act as the Chief Executive Officer for the district and to ensure that the board's vision for the district is carried out.
In establishing the vision and the governing policies for the district, the board must be accountable to the school system's constituencies, including students and their families, taxpayers, teachers, and staff members. An effective board member will seek and obtain communication from all parties interested in the success of the school system.
How do you identify a good school or school system? What are the indicators of success?
A good school system is one in which high student achievement is demonstrated at all levels of intellectual ability and socio-economic status. TCAPS serves a wide range of students and abilities, and the district's primary mission must be to attain the maximum level of achievement possible on the part of all students. Indicators of success include objectively-measured student progress as compared to other similar public school systems, parent and student satisfaction with programs offered, and staff satisfaction with professional opportunities and development.
Evaluate TCAPS by the criteria you just described.
Although our community is fortunate to have a public school system which has consistently produced successful graduates and provided quality programming, improvements can and should be made. As a primary matter, the board should avoid cutting existing student programs when deciding upon necessary budget cuts. Parents expect, and students deserve, the highest quality of educational programming available. In addition, the district must strive to achieve higher student achievement at all levels of the educational spectrum. It is not enough to provide top programming to only the top-performing students; all students must be challenged and expected to not only meet grade-level expectations, but to exceed minimum requirements to the maximum extent of their abilities. Demanding excellence at all levels is the only way our district will become the school where the vast majority of parents in the area will want to send their children. Our district must produce well-educated graduates who will be prepared to enter into the next step of the global economy.
I believe that TCAPS must make an even greater effort to seek out the opinions of the stakeholders of the district, especially parents, teachers and staff. Parents are the district's customers, and the district must be responsive to their needs and desires, or we will continually lose students to other educational options. Additionally, the opinions of teachers and staff members must be sought and thoughtfully considered as the district attempts to provide the highest level of educational programming possible. The district cannot afford to disregard the opinions of these stakeholders.
Government officials in Lansing and Washington D.C. constantly talk about reform. Do you think TCAPS needs to be reformed? How?
I believe that TCAPS needs to focus on achieving the highest possible student performance, as explained in detail above. I believe that the State of Michigan's method of funding public schools needs to be reformed, because it is extremely inequitable, and our children are the ones who suffer due to such inequity. The members of the board of education need to actively work to promote reforming the state's method of public school funding, and I will do so if I am elected.
Do you think TCAPS has strong leadership? Explain where you see leadership failing or succeeding?
TCAPS currently has an administration that is hard-working and focused on proper financial management of the district's resources and on preserving current student programs. However, the leadership of the district needs to improve its communications with the public, parents and teachers. The leadership of TCAPS needs to work with all of these interested parties in order to forge effective solutions to the current budget crisis and to improve the educational success of our students.
How do you stay informed about education and what is happening with schools in Michigan and Traverse City?
I attend district meetings, including PTO, board, and committee meetings, I read numerous newspapers daily, I regularly read the district's web site, I listen to IPR, and I converse with other members of the public who value our public school system.
How well has TCAPS responded to the competition of charter schools in the area?
Although TCAPS was initially slow in properly responding to the competition of charter schools, the district has subsequently taken positive steps, including the creation of the TCAPS Montessori school and beginning to offer all-day every day kindergarden in some schools. The district needs to continue to compete, however, by offering all-day every day kindergarden in all elementary schools. I also believe the district could satisfy some families who might otherwise choose a charter option by offering additional programming, perhaps on an after-school, fee-for-service basis, such as supplemental (in addition to the basic offerings which already exist) elementary foreign language, art, and physical education programs. Magnet schools should also be examined, as other public school districts have achieved successful enrollment increases by instituting quality magnet programming. Further, the district needs to open its facilities to the public, so that parents are comfortable sending their children to schools which could otherwise seem extremely large and impersonal. For example, parents of middle-school aged children should have positive and welcoming exposure to the middle school environments well before they are at the point of deciding whether to send their children to the public middle schools.
TCAPS will likely have to make deep cuts in the years ahead. What would you most like to protect from cuts?
TCAPS needs to preserve student programs. Students' academic success is why the district exists, and the board must keep that goal as the primary focus. Cutting student programs will result in student flight to the competitors of TCAPS, and will exacerbate the already challenging budget situation, because reduced student numbers results in even lower funding for the district.