School Board Questionnaire
What would be your definition of Inclusive Education and what are your views on inclusive education and examining the intersection of race, disability, gender, and sexual orientation and school policies to determine the impact on student performance?
Inclusive education is about treating all students equally, regardless of their race, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. It’s essential to create an educational environment where every student feels valued and supported to reach their full potential. I firmly support the principles of inclusive education, viewing it as both a moral and educational imperative. I am committed to examining how various aspects of students’ identities intersect with school policies to ensure equity and equal opportunities for all.
Inclusive education provides all students, regardless of their background, abilities, or differences with access to a high-quality education. When executed properly, it honors student differences and fosters a sense of belonging where every student feels valued and heard. It is not about everyone achieving identical outcomes (a concern that was brought up to me on the campaign trail), but rather focuses on removing barriers so students can access opportunity. For example, the elimination of certain student fees to promote participation in AP courses for low-income students. Demographic differences and intersectionality are absolutely important considerations when evaluating and understanding not only student performance, but the impact of other district policies (e.g. suspension rates, dress-code violations, and extra-curricular participation).
I am one of the two board members on the WCS Belonging & Inclusion Committee and its goal is to foster inclusive education. Some key focus areas for this work include:
● Foster a sense of belonging for all members of our Wyoming community
● Develop a school community culture that is equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist
● Create safe learning environments for all students regardless of lived experiences and/or background such as race, color, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, family-style, exceptionality, or socio-economic status.
We do this by:
● Engaging in professional conversations to continue our own learning in the areas of Equity,
Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
● Discussing and providing feedback on district plans, processes, and practices in the areas of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
● Assisting in development of ideas to address areas of opportunity in equity and inclusion
To me, inclusive education means all children regardless of physical, cognitive, emotional, or social differences or race or socio-economic status, belong in a safe and welcoming classroom together. The goals are to encourage a sense of belonging, to appropriately challenge academically, and to provide accommodations and support to meet each child where they are. The stated WCS mission is to “foster the academic growth and personal development of each child.” Inclusive education should reflect the district’s values, traditions, and stated mission. In Wyoming we are committed “ to creating a positive school community culture where students, staff, and families feel valued, connected, and a true sense of belonging.”
Research during the last twenty years in defining inclusive education in America, reveals inconsistencies – special education identification negatively influenced by race or gender, marginalized or excluded groups, inefficient policies, and social inequalities. Challenging these inconsistencies is ongoing. It requires understanding the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual students or groups of students, and providing additional supports. Our MTSS and intervention efforts address needs. New data gathering, assessment, curriculum review and collaborative teaching methods allow teachers to identify individual student’s needs and provide guided support more thoroughly than we have been able to in the past. This acquired data also helps us identify inconsistencies within our district. I believe our strategic plan supports our mission which is then articulated in our annual goals. A strategic plan scorecard monitors our growth. We seek to diversify our teaching staff and its leaders. And as a member of the policy committee we regularly update board policies.
Inclusive education involves at least two dimensions of the learning process. It involves the degree to which all students and educators feel valued and welcomed in their educational settings. And it involves the creation and use of adaptable teaching strategies, which allow educators to connect with and motivate all students to learn, regardless of their identities, backgrounds, or circumstances.
As an educator myself, I fully appreciate the need to understand my students’ sources of motivation, as well as any barriers there may be to learning. I also realize that effective administration does not always involve one-dimensional analysis. At times, multiple factors can intersect to impact the educational process. As a result, school policies and the administrators who enforce them need to mindful of this possible intersectional dynamic.
We all have gaps in our knowledge and awareness. And I’m committed to listening and learning in an effort to improve the student experience. In the end, an inclusive educational process requires collaboration and support from students, parents, teachers, and administrators.