Last week, my opponent and I participated in our first round of School Board candidate forums. I asked myself what I would be listening for if I were a voter instead of a candidate. What do each candidate’s words tell you about their values? Their vision for improving our schools? Their ability to be good stewards of public trust and public funds?
If I were in your shoes, I’d be evaluating each candidate along the lines of what’s listed below. (And these are my minimum requirements--not the longer list of what I wish every candidate would bring to the job.)
What’s becoming clearer every time we have one of these candidate forums is that some in our community are treating this election as a single-issue race. That issue is how APS has operated during the pandemic and how it is now handling the last weeks of this school year.
I say “has operated” and “is now” very intentionally, because the issue is not whether we will have a five-day, in-person instruction option in August. That commitment has been made.
So I encourage you to ask yourself and others this question: Is this election really about a single issue, which will be over by the time the new School Board member takes office next January?
Some in our community may object to the way I am characterizing the “single issue” of pandemic response, and they’ll point out that the issue is really a larger lack of accountability: the School Board’s accountability to the community, and the Superintendent’s accountability to the School Board.
Accountability is essential. Public trust in our school system has been badly eroded over the past year, in significant measure because there hasn’t always been clear accountability for decisions made. The clearest demonstration of this is the fact that the School Board never took a vote on APS reopening plans. I have gone on the record stating that I believe School Board members should have voted over the 2020-21 school year instead of receiving information in the form of monitoring updates from APS leaders. This would have signaled to the community that elected officials were taking ownership of the problem and that they felt a sense of shared responsibility to push for schools to open as quickly, fully, and safely as possible.
I have called for accountability on a range of other issues, too, because accountability and its counterpart, transparency, are core values that have to be manifested in everything we do.
So if accountability is valued by both candidates, and if the pandemic is behind us by next January when the new School Board member will take office, then what does this election come down to?
I think it comes down to which candidate is in this for the long haul and whether you believe they bring the values, experience, and ideas we’ll need over the four years ahead. We have serious work in store to rebuild public trust, plan for growth, balance the budget, fully support our staff, eliminate inequities, and ensure every student is seen, supported, challenged, and valued.
If you believe I’m the candidate who checks the boxes, and if you believe I will work tenaciously over the entire four-year term on the full set of challenges and opportunities ahead of us, I hope you’ll support my campaign. Make a plan to vote in the Caucus May 17-23!