Questions & Answers
What Is Your Position?
A few general words about this page...
Answering these sometimes heated issues below may be electoral suicide, but I am not looking to start a political career or be some kind of rising star in Sherwood. I have spent countless hours behind the scenes helping kids in Sherwood, never looking to be in the spotlight. Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well when you are running for an elected position. When it comes down to it though, if this really is about the kids, then I want citizens to know where I stand and be able to make an educated choice for a leadership position in our schools.
This position is supposed to be non-partisan, but let's be realistic. I am not sure there is much right now that hasn't been divided down lines of politics. I will tell it how it is. I am conservative and have no qualms about it. However, I am very level headed and try my best to do things with integrity. I take my time to think things through and don't panic in a crisis. I don't approach issues from left or right. I am not a politician and I am not looking to score a political agenda. I look at each topic, explore the various avenues, weigh the outcomes and decide what is best for those being affected, with the understanding that I come from a conservative background. The decisions we make for our kids in Sherwood should not be based on where we stand politically. They should be based on what is best for our kids.
With that said, I hope there can be respect for a variety of opinions. It should be that way, but I understand that isn't reality right now. Hold on tight, here we go!
What is your stance on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and educating about racism in our schools?
I have had to take some time to try and understand CRT and I feel that I have only scratched the surface. I was looking at a page from the PCC website that made it clear CRT is already being used for decision making in education, so it is probably just a matter of time, if it isn't already in Oregon primary and secondary schools. I cannot possibly go into depth on CRT and my thoughts, because it isn't an issue that you just address in a few paragraphs or even a few hours. If you want to look at what PCC is doing, make sure to bring a dictionary and some caffeine to get your mind running at 110%.
As far as things go within Sherwood schools, I will always be against indoctrination. It is really that simple. I honestly don't need to take a stance on CRT. If CRT is the only thing taught or the basis for decisions in schools, then I will do everything in my power to oppose it. Racism is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Period. However, our society doesn't have this figured out and clearly there are many, very different views. We are going to educate our kids about racism, so it needs to be an approach that does not take one side and I don't care which side that is. We must have critical thinking on the part of our kids. I want to bring my own coaching experience to this. I have coached and learned enough of the game that I could take a team and instruct them with every single move they must make to try and win a game. On the other hand, I can teach them the game, give them the tactics, practice a variety of fundamentals and allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. They might win or lose, but in the end they have been put into situations where they must think on their own, use their knowledge and decide what is best in that moment. When I am no longer coaching the team that I joysticked around the field, many will be lost because they just followed what they were told. The team that was taught the game and given a choice will continue to thrive going forward. It isn't that much different from teaching in the classroom. Let's give them the tools to think critically, provide them with all perspectives and push them to make decisions on their own, not tell them what to think.
I don't have all the answers and quite frankly, I spend time trying to really understand and learn all aspects of racism and get a better grasp on reality because racism doesn't happen to me personally. Given the makeup of our student population, I think above all else, we need to make sure students can actually wrap their hands around what happens outside (and sometimes inside) of Sherwood. Our community really isn't a representative population.
You said "All" students should be back in school. Do you literally mean every student must be in a classroom?
No, when I said all students, I meant that all students who want to be in the classroom in the Fall, should be in the classroom. We should be exploring "Cloud" options as well for those who have found that experience to be best. It may not be feasible when attendance and costs are factored in, but it should be investigated further for the next school year. From reading minutes and watching Board meetings, the District is looking into cloud teaching for the next school year. While I would have liked to see students back at school months ago, I realize that wasn't possible for our State. At this time, I am just grateful to see kids heading back to classrooms and believe the direction we appear to be headed in, is the correct one. I still want to see everyone back to school (who wants to) for full school days in the Fall.
What do you see as the most critical issues facing a teacher in the classroom today?
The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into the works all around. I think we need to do everything possible to make sure teachers are safe, kept healthy and feel comfortable in the classroom. I believe another issue will be how to balance the massive discrepancies in learning that occurred while students were being educated from home. Students who did well need to be challenged within their grade level, while so many who struggled are going to need additional help. I think this next year we will see a huge range of where students are at within grade level. This is going to require special attention and lots of help to make sure our kids get back to where they need to be. Along those lines, teachers will be addressing far more mental health issues with students this next year. Sherwood children have been through a lot this past year and so many are still struggling. As is always the case, teachers will be a critical part of their future success and we will need volunteer support and additional resources to make sure no kids slip through the cracks.
As a Board member, what would be your approach to making sure there is a focus on poverty, disability, race, gender, ESL, equity and other special needs?
This topic should be pretty straightforward, but if I am going to honest, it has me concerned. I have answered some election questions regarding this topic that I would love to take back, knowing what I have learned recently. I decided to do some digging into the "Equity Lens", but the more I researched, the more I became worried. First, let me make it very clear that every single student deserves to have the same opportunities to succeed and when students fall behind we need to find ways to lift them up and help them get back on track. We must have programs to help those with financial needs. We should be blind to applying student resources and it shouldn't matter their gender, skin color, financial resources, etc.. If they need help, we get them help. So much of that is in place, but I think we may be headed away from that and instead towards "Equity". I was struggling to find more information on this from the Sherwood District website, but it has to be there somewhere. I know "Equity" work has been done in this District and there is an "Equity Lens" in place. It all seems good, I mean who wouldn't want equity?
My mix up comes down to equity (def. the quality of being fair and impartial) and equality (def. the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities). Let me take a quote from the Beaverton SD "Equity Policy", because it highlights this pretty well. "Provide students with equitable access to a high-quality curriculum, effective teachers and principals, support, facilities, and sufficient support services by allocating resources equitably, not equally, to maximize the academic achievement of every child." So, let's take the kids who happen to be excelling. That doesn't sound equitable for them to be ahead, so are we then only going to put resources into the students who are struggling, to make sure they are on par with those doing well? Not all kids learn the same way or at the same pace. Who decides what is equitable? Are we going to compare skin color to determine what is equitable? That resembles racism. Let's try this. Here is the next line in their policy: "Recruit, hire and retain high quality personnel that reflect student demographics at all organizational levels". Wait, reflect student demographics? So, in Sherwood our teachers need to be 80% White, 10% Hispanic, etc.? Those are based on a quick Google search of stats. Being exact doesn't change my point. Sorry, but I think our teachers need to be hired based on who is best for educating our children, not by their skin color. If 60% of our teachers are African American, but were the best teachers to hire then I say, yes, awesome! I want the best for my own kids regardless of skin color. How about the retention? Are we retaining teachers based on race too? That doesn't sound like the definition of equity since it isn't fair or impartial. Some will say that Sherwood wouldn't have a personnel policy like Beaverton because of the white demographics, but that just further proves it isn't about the kids and is about an "Equity" agenda if we change wording to fit demographics. Sure, it is unfair to apply Beaverton to Sherwood and I have no doubt much of this comes from the Oregon Department of Education, so some of it may be out of our local control. Try Googling "Oregon School Equity" to see how much this has spread in our State.
I am not trying to pin this on the Sherwood District, lay blame or start some kind of mission to change things. I am trying to provide some insight on something that shocked and blindsided me and deserves some attention for respectful debate and discussion in our community. We need to be aware and engaged in our kids education. I will say that there are parts of the Beaverton policy that I think make sense and need to be reinforced: "Create and nurture an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, families, and staff". Absolutely, we need to do that in my opinion. It isn't like this is all terrible stuff that is going to lead to the destruction of our school system. I firmly believe we need programs to help those encompassing a whole variety of challenges and make decisions without bias towards race, gender, etc., but we also need to be careful on the slippery path of "equity", because I don't think we will all agree on what is "equitable". Life is full of headwinds. It isn't always fair, but there are still ways in which we can help our youth with their education struggles. Life is special because we are not all cookie cutter replicas.
When it comes down to it, some of the equity language is good and makes sense, while some really concerns me. Again, I am not going to take a topic/issue and evaluate it based on left or right politics. I want logical, common sense Board/District decisions and policies. Where are we currently headed with this? I see they have a job advertisement out for an "Equity and Inclusion Coordinator". Is that an appropriate use of resources right now? I personally don't think so. I will end by saying this is a key reason why we need a Board made up of a mix of backgrounds and experiences. There needs to be a balance of opinions on our Board to make sure everyone in Sherwood is represented and has a voice.
Do you have any specific changes you want made to curriculum or how the curriculum is evaluated?
While serving on the Edy Ridge Site Council, I had some interesting insight into curriculum changes as the principal at the time, Amanda Hollenberg, was very involved in a new reading curriculum at the elementary level. Not only did she spend a ton of time exploring curriculum options, but she implemented at Edy Ridge the "testing" (my word) phase where some teachers incorporated different curriculum, experienced the trials and tribulations, provided their feedback and I am guessing probably got some thoughts from students as well. Eventually, in the end it is presented to the Board after what I am sure is many hours of deliberation at the District level. This really is how it should be and why I won't try to convince people that I somehow know what the best curriculum is out there. I don't think we need to have Board members dictating curriculum or delving into areas where they may not have expertise. Teachers and administrators know best and need to take the lead when it comes to curriculum. Should Board members provide some guidance and be able to give their opinion or share their concerns? Yes, absolutely! Should parents be able to express their support or concerns? Yes, absolutely! In order to put the best curriculum in front of our kids everyone should have a voice and be part of the process.
What are two actions you take when you have a strong opinion on something, but know that there are two sides to the story? How do you set your bias aside and listen to the other person's point of view?
I listen and act. I am not one to sit on the sidelines. I was asked to run the bond campaign because of my passion to see something get done for the kids that was critical, experience with District projects and because of my leadership skills. We expected the end vote would be close, so we knew there were many people against spending their tax dollars for a new High School, curriculum, security, technology and building maintenance. I sat and listened to voters concerns and attempted to address them the best I could. I didn't ignore them, argue against them or anything else to enflame things. Even though I felt strongly about the need for a bond, I also gained a lot of knowledge about concerns around the bond. I asked to be part of the Bond Oversight Committee to make sure funds were spent appropriately and things stayed on schedule to assure the people who had those concerns and were against the bond still had a voice over their tax dollars being spent wisely even though the vote went against them.
I set my bias aside because I love knowledge. I enjoy hearing many different sides, because you learn from others by having an open mind. I enjoy being able to find out how other people think and where they are coming from. It doesn't mean if I hold a very strong opinion that it will change, but I can have an intellectual conversation and learn from someone else. We aren't all going to agree, so we have to be better listeners if we are going to work together for our kids.
Given the limitations in funding, what recommendations would you make regarding priorities for fund allocation in Sherwood?
Even though there is probably never enough money to accomplish all of the goals within any district, we are in a really good position right now. The bond has allowed us to get building infrastructure back where it should be. Security has been strengthened. Curriculum has been updated and will have funding for several more years. Technology has been accounted for and covered and quite frankly couldn't have come at a better time. At this point, I believe we need to prioritize students. To be more specific, this next year will be especially challenging and we are going to need lots of support for teachers, which in effect helps our students. This would include support staff and counselors. Levels of depression and suicide are really high right now. I also want to see more programs for high school students whose track may not be higher education after graduating (I believe this is in the works). We need a continued emphasis on ESL programs and supporting students who have challenges outside of the classroom. We can’t let our buildings go without maintenance, but I think right now, given the difficulties presented with the pandemic, funding really needs to be directed towards the students and teachers.
How would you respond to a parent who wants the District to limit access to or remove books or instructional materials from the library or classroom?
I have never agreed with limiting access or removing books or instructional materials intentionally. I firmly believe that a good teacher can use these tools as a reference point if the material they contain doesn’t conform to modern day societal norms. I am very scared when we talk about changing or cancelling history. Winston Churchill said it best “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. In regards to how I would respond to a parent, first I would make sure to understand where they are coming from and why they feel that a book or instructional material needs to be removed. Then I would review the book or material in question, taking into account the parent view, but also what could be the view of others. I am sure there would be District and Board discussions and potentially public input, but in the end, it will be important to help the parent understand what went into the decision process and why the outcome is what it is.
Should students be required to wear masks in school?
This really comes down to the Governor and Oregon Health Authority (OHA). So far they have set the mandates. My only concern is when we refer to "the science" but then see science used to fit a certain narrative. In the end, it is about the safety of everyone working or learning in our schools. As a Board member, I would simply not be in a position to have all of the data and background to make a decision for what is best, so I leave it to those who we expect to know and have the knowledge to decide whether masks are needed or not. After having spent hours and hours out coaching and sometimes running around on a soccer field masked up with masked up kids, I can't wait to be rid of the mask. Not sure I will be able to recognize half the kids I have coached since all I see are eyeballs!
Should we have Student Resource Officers (SRO) in our High School?
I absolutely, 100%, believe we should have an SRO in our High School and I see no reason why an SRO can't be involved in educational topics related to safety and crime prevention in our Middle School and Elementary Schools. An SRO can be a role model for our children and a resource for our teens when they face difficult situations or challenges. They also serve to help protect our students in times of crisis and can work with schools to create safety plans. It is my understanding that the SRO position still exists, but it has been unoccupied while students are out of school. Hopefully that position is filled quickly.
Where do you stand on teachers and students using pronouns?
I am all for personal choice. If a teacher wants to address pronouns with their name, then I believe they should be able to do so, but I don't think it should be a requirement. I feel the same for students, but I think parents need to step up and get involved. Have the discussion with your kids to express your thoughts and find out how they feel about this change in addressing people. I will say that I am shocked with young teen Instagram pages with sexual orientation. Again, I support personal decisions, but parents really do need to get involved. I honestly wish kids could just be kids and not worry about so many of these topics until later on. There just seems to be so much pressure on children now to address issues that I never would have even remotely considered in my youth.
In the education of students, what do you see are parents' responsibilities? What are the school's responsibilities?
In my opinion, I think the parent(s) responsibilities are significant, but are generally lacking due to a variety of reasons. Parents are incredibly busy with many households having both parents at work. There are financial issues, social issues, mental health issues, etc. that so many families face. In a perfect world, a parent would be engaged with teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page, involved in homework or at least monitoring it (really age dependent), teaching personal responsibility and things like respect, conflict resolution, honesty, etc. However, I think these educating principals that are outside of book education, have to happen in classrooms now. I believe our teachers are placed in a really difficult position of having to role model and teach so much to our kids, while also really having their hands tied in what they can say and do. I face some of this in coaching soccer. I have to bring extra soccer balls, bottles of water and shin guards because parents either aren't able to get their kids prepared or have so much to handle that things are missed. Is it my responsibility? No, but like a teacher, I am looking out for the kids and trying to do what I can to make it the best experience possible.
Should School Board meetings continue to be broadcast if the Governor removes that requirement after the Pandemic?
If there is public interest to have meetings recorded then so be it. I believe we need to have transparency in our public schools. I don't think it is a large expense or huge time commitment to record them, so as long as there is some interest, they should continue to be broadcast.
What are your feelings about the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the Sherwood School District and the City of Sherwood for the use of fields?
I have a lot of history regarding this subject, but it is all water under the bridge at this point. There is no point in throwing anyone under the bus or re-hashing out the past. I think the schools should be in charge of school fields and manage the revenue from them. This issue was addressed and explained in the 4/14/21 Board meeting and I wholeheartedly agree we need a system that is transparent, prioritizes school events first, then local sports and then outside interests. There was Board discussion about working with those who use the fields (and eventually indoor facilities) to make sure we are addressing costs and a fairness between programs. This is very important. Above all else, kids need to stay active and engaged and be able to do so under reasonable financial expense to families. Time will tell, but right now I think the district is headed in the right direction.
Some have commented about a high level of turnover with our school administrators. Why do you think that is the case?
Honestly, I have no clue! As a Board member, I would be able to address this question or have access to speak with school administrators or be involved with exit interviews, but I am simply not in that position. My impression is that there has been a fair amount of swapping around of administrators over the years, but not necessarily administrators leaving the district. I simply don't have the time to track and monitor District personnel. Perhaps this is a good question going forward, but right now, I think our focus must be on kids.
How can elected officials make sure the interests of most people are best served when some people are very vocal and often claim to speak for the majority?
I believe this really comes down to listening. I feel it is important to listen to all perspectives and glean insight from all stakeholders before making decisions. There will always be those who are vocal and make different claims, but if you stop and reach out to a variety of people and hear their opinions as well, it goes a long way towards putting good and positive solutions and outcomes in place.
Now the biggest question of the day. How do you feel about political signs in Sherwood?
I am so glad to live out in the country! Sherwood just looks ridiculous over weekends and I am every bit as much of the problem as anyone else. You have to get into the heads of people driving around, but there comes a time when it is just total overload. Plus at the end of this they just get thrown away. Seems like a total waste. Then there are all the rules and regulations, arguments over who is in violation and the people who pull signs and trash them. It would almost be better to say everyone is allowed 15 signs to stake in the city (and neighborhoods) or country that don't have to be removed each weekend and boom, done! Wishful thinking...