What do you believe is the fundamental role of education?
The fundamental role of education is to educate and empower all students to become life-long learners and contributing members of society (this also happens to be Boundary County School District’s mission statement). I think every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, gender, learning/physical ability, etc. deserves a quality education that affords them any and every opportunity to pursue whatever path they wish to as an adult.
How would you promote rigorous academic instruction and excellence in your school district?
I would promote rigorous academic instruction and excellence in BCSD101 by doing what I am currently doing – being a part of the process. I am currently the appointed board member that attends our Career and Technical Program meetings aimed at revamping our CTE offerings to include certifications in programs that students can earn prior to graduation that allow them to transition seamlessly into the workforce with a marketable skill. As a current board member, we also use data to help steer our academic ship, so to speak; this data comes in the form of state testing (3rd-10th grade), IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator, K-3), and national tests to include PSAT, SAT, and ASVAB. These tests allow the district to focus attention on areas that need improvement while still maintaining efforts in other areas. Board members also listen to parents, staff, and community members on what we want our educational experience to look like throughout our district, and we have working groups that allow all stakeholders to come together to continuously revise what courses we are offering, what outside support we can leverage in the way of local businesses, IDLA and college courses, and prioritizing limited resources in order to get the biggest and best “bang for our buck”. Lastly, we are continuously refining our curriculum, most of which is based on the state’s set rotating curriculum cycle that allows educators to update curriculum every 6 years. This curriculum cycle allows educators the opportunity to review different curriculums that best suite our district and our students while at the same time conforming to Idaho State Content Standards.
How do you define Critical Race Theory? When implemented in school policies and curriculum, do you think Critical Race Theory differs from simply “teaching history?”
I personally can’t define CRT, so I googled it and am using Britannica’s definition which is “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color”. CRT is not supported by Idaho Content Standards, and our school district does not teach it. I believe the perception of CRT that makes it different from simply “teaching history” is that it takes it one step further by trying to make white people feel guilty about being white, and that everyone that is not “of color” is racist with the ulterior motive of using their whiteness for personal economic and political gain. In this context, CRT is quite frankly, absurd. What I do support is teaching history – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and developing critical thinking skills in our students that allow them to come to their own conclusions based on their upbringing, their own philosophical beliefs, and their own experiences.
How do you define Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? Would you encourage the implementation of any SEL model in your school district? If so, which model and why?
I define SEL as learning to control your emotions in a school and social setting that allows you to be productive and engaged while at the same time meeting your needs as an individual. Several sites on Google define Social-emotional learning (SEL) as the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. Either definition works for me, and yes, I support SEL in our district. We average about 20% of our student population that has social-emotional issues, and the impact at school can cause disruptions, delays in learning, and harmful behavior. We implemented Second Step for Elementary level in our district for K-5 last year; the modules our educators are focusing on are self-awareness (emotions), self-regulating (how to deal with emotions), bullying, self-management (organizational skills), responsible decision-making (caring and constructive choices), and relationship skills (healthy and supportive relationships – how to be a friend). Educators focus around 20 minutes each week on these topics, at a grade appropriate level, that allows them to address particular issues that might have arisen or to ward off destructive behaviors by instead building each child’s kit bag for positive social, emotional, and academic outcomes. This year, the Middle School and High School are each collaborating internally and with local mental health professionals to develop their own curriculum focusing on social media issues, bullying concerns, teen dating awareness, and mental health issues. Their proposed curriculum will come before the school board for approval as all curriculum choices do, and then this curriculum will be integrated into next year’s academic focus.
How would you respond to the Idaho State Board and Department of Education’s recent dissemination of resources such as the SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools, which argues that schools should adopt anti-racist practices, focus on social justice, and conduct staff-wide implicit bias trainings? Should teachers be required to attend these kinds of trainings?
In general terms, I want our schools to be free of racism, and I want every student regardless of race/gender to be afforded equal opportunity and access to a quality education. I believe our educators are already doing that. If training were to be mandated concerning these topics, I have no issue with that, but as with all training, it will be in line with our community beliefs and district goals.
Should your school district be required to teach a sex education curriculum? If so, should this curriculum include instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity? Should parents and guardians be required to provide consent before their children participate in any sex education curriculum?
Yes, I believe our school district should be required to teach a sex education curriculum, and we do. Yes, parents/ guardians should and do provide consent prior to any sex education instruction. No, I don’t believe our curriculum should include instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, and we don’t. To be specific, in our district, the first sex ed instruction is given in 5th grade, it’s about an hour long, and we refer to it as the “puberty” talk. The boys and girls (in separate settings) are taught about the changes in their body that are either occurring or about to occur physically and emotionally, the need for more frequent showers and the use of deodorant, and for the girls, what menstruation is, what symptoms occur, how to deal with them, and who to see if they should need help during school. This levels the playing field for every student, because for about 70% of our students, I believe parents are involved with the sex education of their children, but for the remainder of our students, there is little to no parental involvement in any educational aspect of their child’s life. We have very few parents that opt out of this one hour class, and parents are invited to attend (which a few do). In middle school, students receive sex education instruction as part of Health class, learning about the reproductive system, at an age-appropriate level for 6th to 8th graders. Finally, in high school, students receive another instruction on sex education as part of Health, again as part of the reproductive system that is age appropriate for that level of learning. At no point in our instruction do teachers address gender identity or sexual orientation as it is not a part of the reproductive cycle nor is it supported by Idaho Content Standards.
How should school districts respond to the Idaho School Boards Association’s recommendation that transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify?
My understanding is that this is NOT ISBA’s recommendation at this time, however they do have a draft policy that is in alignment with Federal Laws should this topic become a reality for our state. Our district has responded by not changing our policies at this time, but I do want to emphasize that we treat EVERY student in our school district with dignity and respect. I personally do not support bathroom/locker room usage based on preferred gender identification. I also know that the federal government has enacted laws that are counter to my belief, with numerous states currently fighting these laws/directives, with recent court action in Virginia that was upheld by the Supreme Court that awarded $1.5 million to a transgender plaintiff concerning this very topic. I DO NOT support this because I do not want my daughter to have to change in a locker room at the tender age of 12 with children of the opposite biological sex; I feel as though my parental rights would be violated by exposing her to what I believe could be inappropriate situations that I don’t condone, and I believe her rights would be violated because she shouldn’t have to change in front of a biological male. We are watching this closely, but ultimately as a board member, I have an obligation to follow all local, state, and federal laws. Much more to follow on this, I am sure.
Do you support mask mandates in schools as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy? Do you support implementation of any other policies or practices designed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19?
Let me start this topic by saying WE WANT KIDS IN SCHOOL! That being said, I do support mask mandates in schools as a LAST RESORT to slow the spread of COVID-19; however, as I type this (Sep 30th), our school policy remains “masks encouraged” with other mitigation strategies in place like distancing students in class as much as possible (3 ft), frequent sanitation in our schools, promoting hand washing, encouraging parents to keep children home at the first sign of sickness, encouraging open dialogue with school officials when/if a child is sick, testing as appropriate, offering remote learning when kids are sick/quarantined, voluntary vaccinations, etc. Our superintendent is also tracking our staff and student infection and quarantine numbers closely that allow us to see very quickly if we have a sharp increase in infections and where the infections are occurring, which ultimately allows us to make quick decisions in order to help slow the rate of infection.