Jennifer Partridge

Provo City School Board

District

4

What kind of support could your campaign use most?

Endorsements from Member Organizations

UAC 2022 School Board Candidate Survey Responses

I married the love of my life (a native of West Jordan!) in a hot air balloon on 7.14.21. Yes, the math teacher in me picked a date that had a fun numerical pattern! We are enjoying setting up house and creating a home in Kearns. Cameron and I love DIY home improvement projects (although Cameron may not use the word “love”), drinking milk shakes and binge watching tv shows.

Biography

Tell us about yourself: this could include biographical details, a list of hobbies, professional accomplishments, or anything you’d like to highlight.

I married the love of my life (a native of West Jordan!) in a hot air balloon on 7.14.21. Yes, the math teacher in me picked a date that had a fun numerical pattern! We are enjoying setting up house and creating a home in Kearns. Cameron and I love DIY home improvement projects (although Cameron may not use the word “love”), drinking milk shakes and binge watching tv shows.

Campaign Strategy

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?

My strategy is to focus on what is important to me: Supporting students, teachers, and family & community. I am sharing what I have done as a current board member (and previous PTA experience) in those areas, and what I'd like to continue to work on. I feel that most voters will agree with my ideas, and that overall I have good support in my area.

Why Run?

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?

I love education and children, and I love being involved. I had spent many years helping our schools through the PTA at many levels, and I saw that I could lend my voice and make a difference on the school board. I am guided by the desire to provide the best possible education to every single student, and to give our teachers the support they need to be able to do so.

Experience

What professional or volunteer experience do you have in the Utah education system?

As mentioned above, I got my degree in Elementary Education and taught 4th grade for a year before starting my family. I got involved with the PTA a few years later when my oldest was just starting elementary school. I was blessed to serve as the Provost Elementary PTA president when I had a 3rd grader, first grader, preschooler, and toddler. Several years later I served as the district-level PTA president, where I enjoyed getting to know more about education at the district level. I was also a member of the Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC), and was asked to lead that group as we studied reports of PCSD's old buildings and made a recommendation to the school board to rebuild them. That process led to the 2014 bond election where over 70% of the voters approved a bond to rebuild Provo High and 4 elementary schools.

I continued to stay involved with the district PTA, and in 2018 I was elected to my first term on the Provo School Board. As a board member, I actively serve on several committees in our district. This past year I have also served on the Utah School Boards Association's Board of Directors.

Community

What community groups, nonprofit organizations, or professional organizations do you belong to or align with?

Provo Kindness, USBA

Endorsements

What local community members, professional associates, or elected officials have encouraged you to run for office or endorsed your campaign?

I have had numerous community members express their gratitude that I am running for re-election, including PTA leaders in my area and in areas not in my voting district but within our school district. I received an endorsement from Utah Parents for Teachers.

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?

One large example of how I have positively influenced our school district is through founding Provo Kindness. In 2014, as the incoming district-level PTA president, I approached the district about doing more than just anti-bullying in our schools. Let’s focus on what we WANT. We want students to be kind, to reach out to one another, to look for someone who is lonely and be their friend.

That year, Provo Kindness began, and now all 18 of our schools have student-led kindness clubs. Students create a culture of kindness and compassion, and they involve the entire student body in doing so. I continue to serve on the district Kindness Committee. We host an annual Kindness Retreat, where student kindness leaders from every school come together to get ideas to take back to their schools.

I continue to strive for these principles in all aspects of our district. I have spoken with district leadership about updating our anti-bullying policies to reflect more of our culture of kindness, inclusion, and appreciating diversity, and focusing on what we WANT rather than just the punishments for the students who continue to bully. I was an active voice in creating and approving our board's recent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement.

Supporting Administrators

What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support administrators?

Administrators play a vital role, as they set the tone and direction for their district (superintendent & assistants) and for their schools (principals). School boards should work WITH the district administration. The board should value the insights and knowledge of the district administration and counsel with them in determining the direction of the district. Boards don't work directly with school administrators, but it is still important to build the relationship with principals and to show our support. We should provide clear direction, but a steady course. If we change our direction or major focus every year, it will be hard for principals to really work to create good progress at their schools. We should have a consistent focus with a positive tone.

Supporting Teachers

What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support teachers?

My philosophy is that we should give teachers the training and support they need to be effective in the classroom, then step back and let them do so. It takes a lot of skill to manage a classroom and to meet the needs of a wide variety of students. Both the district and community members should respect teachers for the professionals that they are.

Additionally, we need to compensate our teachers better. Our teachers pour their hearts and souls into serving our children. We need to provide more money for classroom supplies so that they are not spending their own money. And we need to pay them better. This needs to happen on both the local and state levels.

Supporting Students

What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support students?

We need to provide students with the tools to be successful, recognizing that it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. The board should analyze the academic data and work with administration and teachers to identify areas of improvement and then give them the resources they need to do better.

We need to look at the skills that students will need for their future careers and life in general, and include these in the way we teach. It is not enough to lecture. We should be innovating our teaching so that students can learn to collaborate, think critically, test ideas, etc.

Students need support for their emotional and mental health. One thing I'd like to focus on with my school district is looking at how we can better teach our students how to live and work with computers and other technology. Many students do not balance their time in front of a screen with time in front of real people, and this causes mental health issues as well as a lack of time management. We need to teach them.

Supporting Parents

What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support parents?

Parents and teachers are partners in the education of their students. We want parents and families to come into our schools: to volunteer in the classrooms, to attend various activities both during and after school hours, and to resolve concerns. It is important to include parents in our decision-making. We can also communicate with parents, as I do through regular newsletters and as our district does through emails and social media. It's important for parents to know what we're doing as a district and how they can support their students in their education. I think it's also good to have some community nights to connect with parents and answer their questions.

Appreciation

What is something the school board you are running for has done right?

Over the last 8 years, the board has focused on rebuilding our aging schools, many of which were over 60 years old and seismically unsafe. They've also created a good relationship with the teachers' union and have worked to increase teacher salaries in a significant way.

Achievable Goals

As a school board member, what specific, achievable goals do you have?

I'd like to continue our efforts to increase salaries and staff pay. We've made progress but still have room for improvement.

I'd like to revisit our Board Goals and see if we need to modify them. Whether or not we modify, we need to make them more concise and easy to read/understand.

I want to work with the community to determine the best use for our Dixon property once the school moves to a new site in 2 years.

Censorship

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?

I think it's important to have a process if parents are concerned about books on our shelves. We recently had a parent bring some books to our attention, and we realized we had a couple of books that should not have made it to our shelves to begin with. (Now the process for adding books to our libraries is more thorough than when those books were added many years ago.)

But we also need to balance this. There is a gray area where some parents are going to find some content inappropriate that others think is just fine. (Such as many years ago when some parents thought that Harry Potter was inappropriate.) We can't and shouldn't censor everything. (Don't misunderstand -- we definitely shouldn't have anything pornographic.) I think our current policies are sufficient, and encourage anyone who is concerned about content to bring it to our attention!

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?

First, I talk to the individual to get their definition of CRT. I've learned the term means different things to different people. I reassure them that our teachers and administrators are local community members, and therefore generally they reflect the same values as the community. CRT is not in our official curriculum. If they are concerned about something their student has been taught, please share with us so we can see if the teacher is focused on the appropriate teaching materials.

Inclusion

What role do school boards have in establishing policies that promote inclusion and diversity?

Inclusion and appreciating and supporting diversity is so important! I definitely support policies about DEI, and am glad that our board just put out a DEI statement in April. We all benefit from including everyone and giving each student the support they need, no matter if they are below grade-level or above.

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?

We teach the whole child. We cannot help them reach their academic potential if they are struggling with mental health or emotional safety. Our schools have to address social/emotional/mental health needs. We need the funding to do so. I'm grateful that even before I was on the board, our district prioritized social workers. We now have at least one social worker per school, which is well above the state averages. They are able to help our students AND our teachers. We also need to provide classroom tools with the support they need to teach all students some mental health skills. Last year our district added a social emotional learning toolkit that teachers can utilize as they want.

Vouchers

Do you support governmental appropriation of taxpayer funds to provide support to parents who wish to have their children attend private schools?

I have mixed feelings about this. I see how it is good to give parents the options to choose where to educate their children. However, I don't see how a voucher will help our most vulnerable students who cannot afford the rest of the tuition for a private school. So the voucher only helps those who have some resources, which then would leave our public schools with an even higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students. These students generally come with more needs both academically and mentally, and we would have less funding to be able to meet these needs. Studies show that learning outcomes are best when a classroom has a variety of academic levels within it. I see vouchers leading towards less diversity and inclusion, as some families will leave the public school just because of their perceptions of the "other" students.

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?

I'm grateful that local school board elections are non-partisan and hope they stay that way. I wish the state school board would go back to being non-partisan. Education does not fit within party platforms. We should all unite on principles of education, rather than divide along party lines.

I will add that the partisan rhetoric regarding schools and some of the issues that have come up in the last year have hurt education. With the CRT and SEL issues specifically, many people have aligned with partisan national talking points. It is contributing to teacher burnout, as it leaves many of them feeling unappreciated and untrusted.

Wild Card

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.

Thank you for taking the time to read this candidate's responses to the UAC 2022 Utah School Board Candidate Survey