To help voters in the East Lansing Public Schools district make informed decisions in the Nov. 8, 2022 election for school board, ELi reached out to the 10 candidates to seek insights into their stances on issues. Each individual was asked to respond to three questions generated from a survey of ELi readers. The survey responses showed definite trends and were easily narrowed down to the three top topics. Responses for each question were limited to 250 words and the order of responses was chosen in a random drawing. The 10 candidates, including incumbents Terah Chambers and Kath Edsall, are vying to fill four open seats. Five candidates did not submit responses: Lind Brown-Wren, Steven J. Davis, Kath Edsall and Tyler Allan Smith.
Here is how five responsive candidates responded to the first question:
Please name the most important issues locally and nationally that led you to run for the East Lansing School Board and clearly state your position on those issues? In your response, please describe where you stand on the political spectrum (conservative, progressive, libertarian, etc.) and give specific examples of how your political orientation influences educational topics and issues that will affect students, staff and residents in the East Lansing Public School District.
I am a progressive candidate inspired to run for school board because we value the diversity, commitment to excellence, and opportunities at ELPS, and I want to contribute to the care of this unique place. I am also inspired to run because I have three kids at Marble, MacDonald and ELHS. My wife Carin is also the music teacher at Donley Elementary.
My campaign is focused on improving mental health and educational gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, supporting teachers, and continuing the fantastic work ELPS has done to serve such a diverse student body through a focus on equity and inclusion.
Professionally, a lot of my work focuses on utilizing data and technology to help measure gaps in care in behavioral healthcare, justice-involved healthcare (jails/prisons), state Medicaid programs and health disparity work. If elected, I intend to bring this experience to the table to focus on improving mental health for our students, to focus on eliminating achievement gaps between demographic groups (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender), and making sure that all Trojans have the support and opportunities that help them live their most authentic life in school and after.
As a board, we achieve this by representing the community in interactions with the ELPS leadership team. That means asking questions, that means taking recommendations from ELPS administration, that means having hard conversations where we serve all by listening to all.
There has been an assault on public schools across the country and even here in Michigan by those who would benefit from an uneducated, scared public. As a lifelong progressive, I believe that public schools should be a bastion of unfettered access to knowledge. A place where young people cannot only learn the basics and be prepared to become productive members of our society, but also to find their spark, their calling, their passion. Hiding ideas or alternate viewpoints from them will only cause harm. I want to ensure that East Lansing Public Schools is a place where ALL students feel safe, welcome and challenged. I graduated from East Lansing High School with critical thinking skills that allowed me to have a long career in television journalism and production. A successful education looks different for everyone and everyone should be able to find their own definition of success in an environment that supports them.
The East Lansing School Board is a non-partisan group and, thus, I do not see my political beliefs playing a role in that position. However, I will say emphatically that I believe in the rights of all students and have used my platform on the school board and in my role as a professor in the MSU College of Education to advocate in particular for students from minoritized backgrounds. East Lansing is a special place and one of the places that makes it so, is the support for students to be who they are. However, not all students feel that way and so I see it as my responsibility to continue to work with our ELPS teachers, administrators, and community members to continue working toward the goal of providing this type of nurturing space for all students.
The issues that lead me to run are the lack of transparency in the Board and an unwillingness to engage in back and forth discussion on the record. My goal is to have the board engage with parents and caregivers and make sure the parents and caregivers have all information needed as to their child’s cirriculum, assignments and everything else related to their child’s education. Also, I would like to make sure parents and caregivers have a thorough understanding of the Board Policy Manual and any changes being made to it. I want to help the children of the district get the best education and get back to higher scores on state assessments. The issues facing the schools are not partisan issues. Seats on the East Lansing Board of Education are non-partisan and listed as such on the ballot. Trying to make them partisan distracts from solutions.
I’m a progressive and I aim to center student needs to continue to create opportunities for all our children to succeed.
While I do not currently believe ELPS is under attack, I feel the entire public education system in the U.S. is. I am running to not be complacent.
Our educational system is in crisis and I felt the pull to dive deeper to advocate for our students, teachers and staff. ELPS is on a positive trajectory, I want us to continue to build on this and reflect our thoughtful community.
While this is a non-partisan role, I will lean more toward focusing on student needs vs. ideology. However, my progressive positioning pushes for me to dive deeper into equity and inclusion initiatives and representation for all students to feel seen, heard and safe. It is my goal also to achieve bigger systemic change in education, pulling from my experience behind the scenes in order to do so.
Most important issues: Students’ and teachers’ mental health and academic progress after the pandemic. Safety within our schools, and maintaining an equitable and supportive educational environment for all students. I tend to be more progressive on the political scale, which to me just means I support all students and don’t support a specific ideology being taught in public schools. Parents are able to teach whatever values they want in their home, but a public school should be a space for all students.
This story has been updated to reflect the proper spelling of ELPS School Board candidate Lind Brown-Wren.
Editor’s Note: Candidate Mike Feldpausch contacted us on Oct. 4, 2022 to say he had sent replies to ELi’s questions by the deadline. We have found no record of the replies, but are now including his answer above in an order determined by the roll of a die.