ELi Asks: About Diversity

Sunday, October 26, 2014, 10:28 am
By: 
Rebecca J. McAndrews
East Lansing High School

In an effort to provide the community of East Lansing a closer look at candidates running for School Board in the upcoming November 4 elections, ELi gave every candidate the opportunity to answer a list of questions regarding their goals and ideas for improving education in East Lansing. Candidates were provided a 200-word limit per question and ELi’s publisher selected the order in which their answers appear through a random drawing of names.  

The answers to ELi’s previous questions can be found in these articles:

Why are you running?

Why are you qualified?

What would you change?

What are your fiscal priorities?

What are your views on reconfiguration?

A total of eight candidates will vie for four seats on the East Lansing School Board, each with a four-year term attached.  While every candidate was provided the opportunity to participate, Jeffrey C. Wray did not respond to ELi’s invitation. 

Four of the candidates running have published a joint statement focused on commitment to diversity (http://www.nellforelschools.com/joint-statement.html).  If elected, what specific actions can we expect those who signed to take in relation to the objectives outlined in the joint statement?

Response from David Gott:

I like the statement made on the surface, but I am not trusting of the acceptance of PAC money for those candidates.  I believe a local election should be won on the merits of the candidates and not on the depth of their pocket books.  As an educator, parent and stake-holder in this District I want people, like myself, that have a vested interest and will experience first hand the impact of any of the decisions made by the Board.

Response from Kyle Guerrant:

While I was not one of the four candidates who signed the joint statement focusing on diversity (nor was I given the opportunity to sign the joint statement), ELPS has a wealth of diversity that spans beyond racial and ethnic backgrounds. In my opinion, it is the foundation of the unique identity of the district.

Response from Nell Kuhnmuench:

This statement was developed and signed by four candidates, including me, who each had/have students in the ELPS schools. We shared thoughtful conversations about their experiences and discovered many shared progressive values about education.   We created this statement to provide our community at large an opportunity to learn about those shared values, as they will inform our work on the Board.  We hoped this might start conversations among all the stakeholders of board decisions who consist of all our residents, students and their families, not just those with students presently enrolled.

The community can expect these values will be considered in the decisions we make.  We will strive to ensure our schools are caring places where students are supported in pursuing their individual abilities; where diversity is honored and celebrated; where every student feels safe, welcome and valued and is allowed to flourish, learn and grow; where students will be encouraged to share their knowledge, energies and talents in service to their community; that each will reach their individual potential in a generous and rewarding environment.

Our community can expect that the signatories will feel comfortable asking each other to consider or re-consider any decision in light of these values.

Response from Kate Powers:

I was not approached regarding signing this joint statement.

Response from Yasmina Bouraoui:

I was one of the candidates who signed proudly signed the joint statement.  I have addressed in question #3 some of the things that can be done to address the achievement gap.  Unfortunately, the reconfiguration has lead to spreading our resources even thinner as it relates to English Language Learners (ELL students) and students receiving Title I Services.   I foresee identifying ways that those students can be supported, including offering Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS), offering interventionists, Title services, and differentiated instruction.  We must also find ways to challenge our accelerated learners.

Response from Karen Hoene:

By signing the joint statement, I was making a personal pledge to keep equity, inclusion and a commitment to diversity at the forefront of my decision making process as a board member.   In getting to know Nell, Yasmina and Jeff, I was comforted and excited to learn that they shared this value and commitment.  I am not able to give any specifications at this time as I don’t know what issues will come before me as a board member.

Response from Joe Borgstrom:

I was not one of the candidates who signed this statement, nor was I asked. I do believe the diversity that exists in East Lansing Schools is an asset. It was one of the reasons my wife and I decided to move to the district with our family 8 ½ years ago. I believe those who do not think diversity exists in our schools has not set foot in our classrooms. I am proud that our schools celebrate diversity and have passed on the traditions of Red Cedar to Glencairn and would love to see this expanded to all elementary schools. I think the district should continue to find ways to inject different cultures into the education of our children. It is important that our kids understand they part of one world, where they fit in it and how they can change it for the better.

Disclosure: Rebecca J. McAndrews has two children who attend East Lansing Public Schools and is a substitute teacher for the district.

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