Over the past 25 years, Oregon schools have gone from being one of the best funded and best performing school systems in the country, to one of the worst funded school systems; we now have the 3rd-largest average class size and the 3rd-lowest high school graduation rates. This isn’t the fault of the 4J district: Corporate tax loopholes and reforms, along with a state legislature that has failed to pick up the slack, have decimated school funding. Wealthy corporations must be required to pay their fair share of state income taxes and the legislature needs to make school funding a top priority. As a School Board member, I will be a fierce advocate for restoring our ability to provide an excellent education to every child in the District.
Equity and Inclusion
4J schools must be places where all students – including LGBTQ, students of color, English language learners, students of diverse abilities, class background and immigration status – are welcomed, honored and respected. In practice, this means setting clear standards and protocols for how teachers respond to hate speech and behavior, mandating high-quality training on implicit bias for teachers and other school staff, and not only building robust programs for Black History Month and other one-time teaching opportunities, but also fully implementing new state laws mandating the teaching of Ethnic Studies and Native American history, and using an equity lens as part of the broader process of curriculum development and program planning.
Preparing students to confront and contribute to a rapidly changing world beyond their K-12 schooling means allowing students the space to discover their interests and providing them with the opportunity to gain experience in real world careers. I want to help 4J become the first district in Oregon to provide pre-apprenticeship training for students interested in going into the building trades. 4J could offer students career and technical education (CTE) through a Community Benefits Agreement with building trades unions, that provide students and industry-recognized credential and preferential entry into high-paid apprenticeship programs. The district just passed a much-needed bond measure that will provide up to $330 million for improvement to school buildings. Let’s take this opportunity to provide experience and skills for our students.
Attracting and Keeping Great Teachers
Oregon’s graduation rate is 78 percent – the second-worst in the nation. Outside of a child’s family, a teacher has the biggest impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed. Good teachers increase children’s academic achievement an enriching, engaging, and positive environment for students to learn. Eugene 4J school district employs excellent teachers who are committed to seeing our students prosper and succeed in life. Let’s show our teachers the respect they deserve by ensuring the best pay and benefits possible, by providing experienced mentors for new teachers and by providing new teachers the support they need, and by listening to the voices of those who are in the classrooms every day.
Mental Health Counseling and School Counselors
Despite the widespread need for mental health services and the link between mental health and student achievement, far too many children do not have access to this support. We need to make sure our kids’ needs are being met. Among other duties, school counselors act as academic counselors, make sure students are headed for graduation, and provide college counseling. Many students need help planning for and navigating the college application process. Every student who needs it should have access to this type of adviser and advocate who can help guide his or her college and career choices.
4J should be doing everything it can to reduce class size, especially in Kindergarten through 3rd grades. Class-size reductions have significant long-term effects on student achievement and social and personal development. In one study, students in smaller math classes achieved 9% higher math scores, and students in smaller reading classes scored nearly 8% higher than students in larger classes. The effects are even stronger for minority and less affluent students. Let’s look at class sizes and do everything we can to make reductions possible.
Growing class sizes are making teaching more difficult and learning more stressful. As more kids are put in classes, there are more behavioral issues. We need additional Educational Assistants in the classrooms. We also need increased counseling staff and mental health services to provide children with the support they need to be successful. Every school in 4J should have the personnel necessary to implement schoolwide behavioral support. L
Licensed librarians play a critical role in helping students find books they like — to kindle their enjoyment of reading — and i helping them learn how to tell reputable from bogus websites and how to do effective, critical research online. Librarians are also vital resources for teachers in every subject area, helping them develop tailor-made websites for whatever subject students may be engaged in. A single certified librarian can increase the enjoyment of reading, the creativity of teaching and the effectiveness of research across a whole school. We need to do everything we can to restore librarians to our schools.