UAC 2022 School Board Candidate Survey Responses
Tell us about yourself: this could include biographical details, a list of hobbies, professional accomplishments, or anything you’d like to highlight.
My pathway to public education was non-traditional. As an artist, I presented choreography in Philadelphia, New York and throughout Virginia prior to moving back to Salt Lake City to found and direct a community dance non-profit. One way I funded my artistic work was teaching in public schools, specifically for disabled students. When my own children started school, I grew this part of my artistic practice and become more involved in public education advocacy at the school, district, state, and federal levels through groups such as Action Utah and service on committees with the USBE.
Outside of policy advocacy, I'm still a working arts educator with the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program at the University of Utah and as faculty in the College of Fine Arts working with pre-service educators. I also enjoy creating school gardens, running science fairs & debate tournaments, and watching my kids dance and play baseball!
Describe your strategy for victory in your campaign; i.e., what is your messaging? How will it appeal to a majority of voters in your district? Are you working closely with any other campaigns?
I believe that pragmatic decisions and a focus on schools and classrooms is a shared value of Precinct3 3 residents across the political spectrum. While I share the progressive ideals of most Precinct 3 voters, I also have nonpartisan policy ideas to diffuse the political pressure our district experiences — employing an ombudsman to neutrally evaluate parent and caregiver complaints is one example noted on my website.
Additionally I feel I can persuade the electorate because of my experience in schools. As I've called voters, even those without school children can respect my work as an arts educator and perspective on how the district is working for families and how the benefits of an effective public school system serve all taxpayers.
A decision to run for office can often be a difficult one: why did you decide to run for school board, i.e. what are your guiding principles?
Since my kids entered school, I have noticed the inequities across the precinct where fundraising from families is required for a school to maintain high quality enrichment programming. Because most of us can remember being in a school concert, making a science fair project, or going on a field trip, I believe these opportunities must be amplified across the precinct for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
My advocacy experience and knowledge of both policy and the dynamics of current classrooms make me an ideal problem solver to move the district board forward as I look toward growing enrichment programming alongside other objectives outlined throughout the survey.
What professional or volunteer experience do you have in the Utah education system?
I have been an arts educator for more than a decade, which includes freelance work as well as employment with Tanner Dance, BTS Arts, and as an Artist in the Classroom for the Salt Lake City Arts Council. In these roles I collaborate not only with students and teachers, but the administrative assistants who manage the schedule, PE teachers who share their gymnasium space, librarians who facilitate collaborative projects, and custodians and child nutrition staff who I cross paths with to make multipurpose rooms work, This work gives me insight into all the players in a school dynamic and has earned me the endorsement of the Utah School Employees Association Political Action Committee.
Since my kids have been in school I have always served on School Community Councils and PTA/PTOs in leadership roles. My volunteer service also includes service on the Assessment & Accountability Policy Advisory Committee, the Utah Society for Environmental Education, and the Utah Dance Education Organization, among others.
What community groups, nonprofit organizations, or professional organizations do you belong to or align with?
In addition to education experience above, I'm a board member at Avenues Baseball and prior board member of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Council.
What local community members, professional associates, or elected officials have encouraged you to run for office or endorsed your campaign?
USEA PAC, Jen Dailey Provost, House District 22; Victoria Petro-Eschler, City Council, Women's Democratic Club of Utah (and more on my website!)
Force for Good
Based on your educational philosophy/core values, what is at least one way that you can positively influence your school district as a school board member?
Because the board's primary role is to hire and evaluate the superintendent and business administrator, the best thing I could do is ensure that the reports coming from this level of administration align with the experiences within our district schools — it's imperative that board members use our role to ensure the priorities of the board are being implemented as reported.
Using my experience as an educator described above, I can identify this alignment, however it's also important for board members to attend school meetings and events to continue to engage with new perspectives. In my campaign I have attended all the School Community Council meetings of Ensign, Washington, and Wasatch to learn more and have earned the endorsements of some of their council chairs.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support administrators?
Our local board can support administrators by having a longterm strategic plan for sustainable school staffing. Under past leadership, some of the decisions made for administrators (FTE adjustments, allocation of Assistant Principals, job transfers) were made without transparency. I believe the board must call for transparent planning regarding the staffing of our schools as the number of student in the city boundaries declines.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support teachers?
Our local board can support teachers by being active participants in contract negotiations and honoring the important requests for paid parental leave, sufficient planning time, increased wages, and solutions for the sub shortage. A significant amount of work in our district is provided by low-wage paraeducators; and while wages increased in the last five years, there is a long way to go to retaining those employees tasked with a significant amount of educational services and who, in many cases, serve our most vulnerable students.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support students?
Ensuring sustainably staffed schools, as referenced above, is one of the best ways to support students. Research shows that positive relationships with educators is one of the greatest predictors of student success; if we do not support educators and effective school governance, the board would not be amplifying what we know improves outcomes for kids.
Our district board can focus on multiple indicators for student success rather than a singular emphasis on standardized assessments when evaluating the progress of students, classrooms, and schools. While typical assessments provide a wide snapshot of a school, grade level, or other grouping, the time that additional assessments takes can restrict student participation in activities like the arts, debate, and field trips, among others. Students with more resources (who are already more likely to succeed) thus receive larger access to enrichment programming that we know improves student experiences and learning, which is inequitable.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support parents?
Parents have a role in our district as members of committees which approve our adopted curriculum, advise on policies and programs (such as a health or ELP committee). What our local board can do to support parents is ensure these advisory roles are inclusive of the many diverse families in our district so they represent the best ways to serve families, including parents and caregivers. Our CLCs and campus health clinics are another way to serve full families within the scope of the district.
What is something the school board you are running for has done right?
When pressed about issues such as pride flags and literature, our district has supported the civil rights of all students and the role of the certified teacher librarians in serving our schools. Our frankness about the legal obligations of districts, the necessity of school serving all students, and the roles of staff have been reasonable and productive.
As a school board member, what specific, achievable goals do you have?
As described above, supporting an ombudsman to alleviate additional political pressure is a policy priority. Another goal is to engage in strategic staffing planning — the benefits of having a small district with high rates of property tax is being able to fully fund personnel at each school including school nurses, arts educators, counseling staffs, and more. This would include budget negotiations such as considering how and whether the city should fully fund the School Resource Officers they administrate, to allow the district to fund (more) beneficial personnel.
There is a well-established and transparent process for book challenges and removals; recently, a minority of parents and parent-groups have advocated for testing the limits of established practice by using social media to spread disinformation about books and librarians. How do you feel about the existing policy and efforts to circumvent it?
Our school district employs certified teacher librarians who I trust to make decisions for district libraries within the current review process. Their expertise in the field is an excellent guidepost for this issue as it is navigated by districts across the state and country.
Teaching American History
Another ongoing debate is focused on the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Utah’s K-12 schools. If you are asked: “Are you promoting Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools?" How would you respond?
As a complex legal theory, CRT has not been adopted nor is being instructed in Utah schools. It is the mandate of all schools in the K-12 public system to serve all students inclusive of race and to teach state social studies standards which include topics such as racism. I believe those frustrated by the idea of CRT may be conflating the acronym with culturally relevant teaching, which, as described above is beneficial in engaging all students.
What role do school boards have in establishing policies that promote inclusion and diversity?
With limited guidance from the state, the mandate for all districts ultimately comes from the federal mandate that no student is discriminated against based on race, national origin, sex, gender identity, disability, or age.
While all schools are required to be inclusive within this mandate, it is important that districts supporting ongoing professional learning on instruction that is inclusive for all students. For instance, some faculty are very comfortable using multicultural literature, but may have limited experience including LGBTQ+ literature in the curriculum. The more professional learning which can be supported by the district and the more planning time afforded in the calendar, the higher the expectations for inclusivity in the classroom can be.
My policy priority of an ombudsman would also support this objective by ensuring there is a more neutral and transparent process when students, families, or employees experience discrimination.
Mental Health in Schools
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are prevalent among Utah’s youth. Do you believe Utah’s educational system has a role to play in supporting the social and emotional wellness of its students? How can school boards support the needs of Utah students?
Because the state has discontinued the SHARPS survey for mental health risks, it's important for local boards to be involved in assuring student mental health assessments to make decisions to support students. Local boards can do this by ensuring schools are welcoming and affirming to all students and families, optimally fund counseling services, maintain and fund partnerships to provide additional services as needed, and ensure the sustainability of family clinics linked to schools. As mentioned elsewhere in this survey, we must also increase our funding for school nurses which is an evidence based way to improve mental health outcomes at school.
Do you support governmental appropriation of taxpayer funds to provide support to parents who wish to have their children attend private schools?
Public funds should support public schools. State statute guarantees school choice in all districts, but voucher programs nationwide have not demonstrated increased academic achievement nor can they serve all students. Because public schools are obligated to serve all students and many private options exclude students with disabilities, it is imperative the public schools retain public funding to provide adequate resources. There are already state exceptions for scholarships for private options for improved access to special education services and federal law which guarantees protections for that type of public funding in the private sector.
Politicization of Education
How has the politicization of education changed the campaigning process—and the nature of school boards, themselves? Is this change beneficial to Utah's public school system?
Our district board election is non-partisan, but the effects of state board elections and other more polarized races is pervasive — it drives the dialogue away from students and classrooms and toward overarching fears that may not even be present in our district.
Is there an unasked question you would love to answer? Please tell us about the issue you are passionate about that we have not touched upon.