ELi Asks: If elected, what would you pursue to change in our school district through the ELSB?

Thursday, October 23, 2014, 8:15 pm
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?

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. 

If elected, what would you pursue to change in our school district through the ELSB?

Response from Joe Borgstrom:

I think it’s incredibly critical that we improve communications and transparency to the district’s families and community at large and create better connections to resources like MSU, the City of East Lansing and the business community. I think we need to improve our academic culture to both assist those in need to close the achievement gap as well as to give more opportunities to and celebrate those who want to be academically, entrepreneurially and philanthropically successful.

Response from David Gott:

I would like to help work collaboratively with administration, teachers, and community to implement the necessary changes to close the Achievement Gap.  I would also like to see the focus of the Board to become more of a Policy Board and less political.

Response from Kyle Guerrant:

1. Closing the Achievement Gap - I would advocate to expand differentiated instruction and curriculum opportunities to nurture academic growth for all ELPS students. Whether a student is a high achiever, or struggling to grasp specific content, our educational offerings must meet students where they are, and challenge them to grow.

2. Increasing quality early childhood opportunities for families through partnerships and pursuing additional resources.

3. Creatively expanding opportunities such as STEM education & CTE offerings is vital to attract families to ELPS, making East Lansing a great place to live and work. I believe a local school board is a critical public link to public schools.

As a board member, I would also seek to improve board transparency, and rebuild relationships between parents and community members with their elected board.

Response from Nell Kuhnmuench:

The change I will seek will be to provide a more equitable learning opportunity for all students in our district.  This will require significant commitment to developing specific steps to be taken to address the “achievement gap” while providing all students – from our most talented to our most struggling learners - educational opportunities that challenge them to achieve their potential.

This will mean providing professional development that challenges our teachers to develop the most engaging techniques to differentiate their teaching for all levels of learners and to ensure our students receive instruction from the very best teachers.

This will mean holding the Superintendent accountable for recruiting new staff who more closely reflect the diverse make-up of our student body so our students see adults to whom they can relate and with whom they can feel safe.

It will mean creating classrooms and buildings where the adults provide an environment that affirms cultural differences and nurtures intellectual curiosity, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and effective communication.

It will mean establishing a learning culture that encourages creative thinking to be responsive to change.

It will mean enhancing students’ learning by supporting efforts to meet their basic needs.

Response from Kate Powers:

I would hope to work collaboratively with my fellow board members to balance our achievement gap, providing innovative opportunities for all learners- no matter their academic abilities.

Response from Yasmina Bouraoui:

I believe that East Lansing Public Schools must address the achievement gap, offer bold and innovative programming in order to grow its student population and  academic reputation, and address the district climate.

Addressing the achievement gap will require implementing multi-tiered systems of supports; having high expectations for all students; providing excellent, culturally competent teachers; attracting a highly qualified and diverse teaching staff; and nurturing authentic relationships with our students. In addition, providing an on-going professional development curriculum on cultural competence and differentiated instruction are crucial components to addressing the achievement gap.

East Lansing has not embraced innovative programming when it was a possibility in the past, such as the Confucius Institute’s Chinese immersion program, and innovative early childhood programs.  I would like to explore early childhood, early language immersion programs, STEAM/STEM programs, International Baccalaureate, Montessori, Reggio, Gifted and Talented, and other innovative programming for the district.

A divided community must come together to move forward in an inclusive manner which honors diversity, respect for one another, and in a climate which supports K-12 excellence for all. The school board must lead by demonstrating respect, civil discourse, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

Response from Karen Hoene:

One of the main issues that need to be addressed is our growing achievement gap. Students of color in our district have lower grade point averages and MEAP scores then those of their white classmates, even controlling for income and school of choice status. I would begin to address this gap by examining our current zero tolerance discipline policy and its disproportionate impact on students of colors. I would explore other approaches to discipline such as Restorative Justice.  I would also prioritize hiring professional staff that more closely represents our diverse student body.   As a school board member, I would seek to expand access to high quality preschool programs for our youngest learners as this directly impacts future school success.  I believe that the East Lansing Community would benefit from a high quality and affordable tuition based preschool program in addition to our Head Start and GSRP classrooms.  I would also like to see the district explore some non-traditional approaches to education such as Reggio, Montessori or Waldorf so that our families have a greater variety of choice when it comes to their children's education.

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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