This is the second installment of responses from candidates running for the four open seats on the East Lansing Public Schools Board in the Nov. 8, 2022 election.
Candidates were asked to respond via email to three questions on issues of interest to ELi readers. Questions were generated from a reader survey and showed definite trends easy to narrow down to three top topics. Responses for each question were limited to 250 words and the order of responses was chosen in a random drawing.
Here is how five responsive candidates answered the second question:
Academic excellence and a focus on educational outcomes are key concerns for ELPS parents and residents, especially in our post-COVID environment, based on what they tell ELi. How do you propose supporting rigorous academic curricula while also supporting the physical and mental health and welfare of our diverse population of students?
I don’t think “rigorous academic curricula” is at odds in dealing with the physical and mental health and welfare of our diverse population. The schools need to apply rigorous academic standards to ALL students equally. Doing so is consistent in dealing with the physical and mental health of diverse student bodies. I don’t think it’s an either/or matter. Parents knowing what is going on in school will also better equip them to address many of these issues with their student at home and give their child counsel to use when faced with issues in these areas at school. Also, getting students who have struggled the most academically additional help to catch up is needed.
I support providing teachers with adapted curriculum that helps students thrive and get back on track from the loss of learning over the last few years. I’d also support the purchase of software or apps that students can use at home to work on skills they might be lacking or hiring tutors that can help students after school. For mental health, I support hiring more mental health staff for our schools. They can be there in times of crisis and also teach students ways to cope with big feelings and feel supported through these challenging times.
I believe “rigorous academic curricula” looks different for every child to be determined by that child’s parents/caregivers and teaching staff.
We need to be extremely conscious of all factors when determining what is academically appropriate while at the same time, assessing the social and emotional needs of the child. We must focus on the whole child in this determination.
Also, in order to support our students, we need to support our teachers and staff in terms of mental health and manage expectations all around.
In school, goals are not a finish line, they are simply a benchmark to see how students are progressing year after year. The pandemic pumped the brakes on many students’ educational journeys. The focus now should be on getting students back into a groove, where they can build on their learning. The pandemic also showed us new ways our children can learn. Some students took well to remote learning, while others struggled to receive the individualized attention they needed. Tutors, resource teachers and classroom assistants should be available to assist with learning.
Mental health is a huge concern, not just for our students, but also for our teachers and staff, who have been asked to try to provide the same level of education, with fewer resources, and less ability to connect with the students. We should utilize every available avenue to get mental health services to anyone in our district who is struggling, because a school community is an ecosystem, where the wellbeing of the whole community is dependent on the health and wellness of each individual. The students and families that make up East Lansing Schools are among the most diverse in the state, and they deserve a board that recognizes that diversity as exactly what it is — not only a gift, but also the key to a well-rounded education that creates world changers and global citizens.
When I’m talking with my kids about academic performance, I always talk about how grades are not a measurement of who we are, but grades help define your opportunities both in school and after completing school. Separating academic performance from negative impacts to health (physical or mental) is fundamental to the rest of the conversation.
ELPS has a strong tradition of supporting the health (both physical and mental) of students as a necessary component of academic excellence. Throughout the pandemic, when my son was online learning, teachers would find quiet ways to figure out if kids were struggling with food security, experiencing unstable housing, etc. By asking those questions, they could help make sure kids who needed it got connected to services so we can make sure our kids aren’t experiencing food or housing insecurity.
I want to build on this work by understanding the billions of dollars that are being made available for mental health in schools in the coming years. I want to make sure ELPS is getting as much of that funding as possible. I want to make sure we’re maximizing food security so we know kids are healthy.
With a strong student support system in place, it sets the table for students to excel academically.
I appreciate this question because there is a false impression by some in our community that I do not support advanced course offerings. This is not true. I believe in supporting all students and ensuring they are learning at their full potential. As a researcher who studies education equity, I also know that the most privileged students have historically received the most resources, something researchers call “opportunity hoarding.” It is not an easy thing to talk about (in 250 words, at a Board table, etc.) because some perceive moving forward with an eye toward equity to mean that “their students” (meaning, quite often, wealthier white students) will receive less opportunity. I absolutely support the idea that some students need to have an academic challenge that is beyond the traditional curriculum. I just want to be sure that the students receiving that academic challenge reflect the demographics of our school community overall, and that providing these opportunities do not compromise the integrity of our overall academic offerings. All students deserve a fun and enriching learning experience.
Other candidates on the ballot:
The five candidates who did not respond to these questions are Lind Brown-Wren, Steven J. Davis, Kath Edsall, and Tyler Allan Smith.
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.