School Board Questionnaire
How can Wyoming hold true to its values to promote DEI even if the Ohio Department of Education and lawmakers take strides making this more difficult (e.g., curriculum restrictions, censorship / book bans, etc). What would you do to support educators and administrators hoping to live up to those values?
I believe that we should champion Wyoming’s educational principles by actively participating in policy discussions, rallying community and educational allies to safeguard diverse learning environments. We should empower our teachers and administrators to facilitate critical discussions and thoughts within the given frameworks, and tap into alternative educational resources to expose students to an array of materials and viewpoints beyond the standard curriculum. Constant, clear communication with the community and adherence to legal advice would be crucial in successfully steering these obstacles while steadfastly maintaining our commitment to inclusive education.
This question alludes to legislation that has been proposed in Ohio and passed in other states that utilizes vague terminology like “divisive” or “controversial” concepts. Frequently this type of legislation has a “chilling” effect in the classroom as educators are fearful of getting in trouble or fined for saying the wrong thing. I support investing in ongoing professional development for Wyoming educators and administrators, so that they have the confidence to continue to deliver our children a high-quality education that includes the discussion of complex issues. I believe that Wyoming students are quite capable of engaging in developmentally appropriate educational activities that address topics like race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Moreover, I believe these types of educational experiences are an essential part of college and career readiness and becoming an informed citizen in a democratic society. These learning opportunities work best when they are facilitated by well-prepared, professional educators who feel strongly supported by the community. On a personal note, I have been very impressed with my children’s teachers in Wyoming. My kids have written papers on topics that range from challenging the school dress code to arming teachers and they have never been told what or how to think. Rather their teachers have pushed them to think critically and conduct rigorous research on their selected topics.
We regularly and fully support our educators and administrators living our Values, defined in WCS Strategic Plan to be 1) Academic Excellence, 2) Character & Integrity, 3) Belonging & Community, 4) The Whole Child.
What we are doing is expanding teachers’ awareness about how they can connect with, engage and support the development of every child in their classroom, fostering a sense of belonging, and how they address issues that get in the way of belonging & community. Most of this doesn’t require any change to any curriculum, so are not limited by curriculum restrictions or book bans.
When parents have concern about their child reading a book in Wyoming, they are invited to engage with the teacher and/or the school levels curriculum department to discuss their concerns and address the situation reasonably, which has helped limit broad discussions in our district regarding book bans. This practice “includes” the opinions of parents who don’t want their children reading books with the N word or other content they determine not appropriate for their child and allows it to be addressed at the most local level.
First, this board supports its teachers, administrators, and staff and values the incredible work they do. It is possible to address state mandates while adhering to the values Wyoming holds true. Our administrators and board members maintain contacts and communication links with legislators and lobbyists. We have reached compromises early in the legislative process that way. Each member of the current Board has participated in lobbying, has attended state wide meetings, or has passed resolutions over issues important to our district. Nevertheless, similarly to a question answered earlier, the work of the schools must be supported by and reflect the values of the community. That partnership is crucial.
On a local level, I have been involved in Wyoming with complaints about books, about curriculum restrictions, and about censorship. I am a school librarian media specialist. I served as chairman of the English department. I have served on the Board of Education. In those three capacities I have dealt with this. We have a detailed protocol for complaints about books and the curriculum. Alternative titles and projects are offered when needed. Should a parent make a formal complaint, there is informal discussion, a more specialized inquiry, an independent committee’s (admin, teachers, media specialist, parents) hearing, with due process, and right of appeal.
Further, our labor contract with our teachers discusses issues of complaint and of academic freedom. I helped write part of that contract language. In addition, there are board approved policies about complaints, about anonymous complaints, and about curriculum as well as about anti-racism.
Wyoming City Schools has strong values that should be maintained regardless of the politics of the moment. To the extent that state authorities seek to restrict or undermine our values, I am committed to being vocal and transparent about our values and our commitment to the protected freedoms of all students and teachers.
I question the constitutionality of many legislative proposals that seek to restrict public schools from teaching evidence-based subjects, providing valuable sources of literature, and/or developing more inclusive methods of learning. Should these proposals become law, I would support efforts to challenge their legality, as they appear to undermine our teachers’ and students’ First Amendment rights to expression, thought, and association.