Eight Schools of Thought
for a Better ISD 728
There is a tremendous amount of social media banter and divisive commentary regarding our educational system, not just here but across the entire country. As I am running for school board, I hear about what you do and don’t want in schools. Perhaps YOU are interested in hearing what I intend to do if elected. I call it my Eight Schools of thought for a better ISD 728. Simply put, they are my roadmap to better schools for students and better communication with parents and educators alike.
1. The School of Lost Years, Found.
I believe we have thousands of students who were left behind during the pandemic and associated distance learning. Recently I have heard of a two-year program that would take our brightest students, who somehow thrived in distance learning, and give them credit for helping students who have fallen behind. The credits could manifest as extra recognition at graduation time, points toward grades, volunteer hours towards National Honor Society, or even special acknowledgment by the School Board and Superintendent. Meanwhile, the students seeking extra help would receive it from upperclassmen who are far less intimidating than extra classes or summer school.
2. The School of Human Dignity.
The right to have access to basic and private facilities is foundational. This includes, but is not limited to, bathrooms. A student should NEVER need to run from the bus to their home in hopes of making it to their own bathroom because none was available all day at school. Currently, some of our schools lock them ALL DAY. Our kids shouldn’t have to take a number to relieve themselves. It’s hard to even believe there would be a question of its availability. In recent years various facilities have been closed to our students due to constant, unchallenged vandalism or vaping. Funding needs to be reapportioned to provide a safe place to allow for the most basic human functions.
3. The School of Special Needs.
Children with special needs in our schools are underserved and therefore part of unsafe circumstances for themselves, other students, and teachers. A teacher cannot, on their own, manage their class and special needs students without help. 22% of our school's funding goes towards special needs education. We need to look more closely at where those funds are being allocated as $37,400,000 of our school's $170,000,000 budget should be enough to adequately care for 14% of our student body. Multiple times I have heard a parent express worry and concern that their child is getting lost in the system and, on occasion, literally lost from the premises. I will act to redirect funds to ensure that our teachers and special needs students are supported and safe.
4. The School of Helping Parents Help Their Kids.
Many parents feel underqualified to help their children with homework in the age of Chromebooks. I can empathize with that feeling and believe parents can better serve their kids if schools would better serve the parents. I propose to set up weekly seminars for parents ranging from Google Docs instructions to familiarizing parents with the everyday tools that teachers are showing their students. Parents can be intimidated by the latest in electronic education, and I believe our schools can better help kids learn if parents are up to speed on the latest technology.
5. The School of Better Serving the Arts.
While so many are arguing about CRT, and rightly so, I believe funding is being wasted on topics that have nothing to do with education and is being consumed by subjects better taught at the dinner table. One of the top four hot buttons I’ve heard parents share with me is the lack of funding for the arts. Whether painting, orchestra, band, or choir, many feel their children’s giftings are being overlooked or at least under-supported. Again, with a $170,000,000 budget, one wonders if funding might be directed toward encouraging artistic abilities instead of trendy philosophies. I propose to take a deeper look at budgets that previous administrations may have overlooked.
6. The School of Retaining the Best Teachers.
To my surprise, the best teachers are not protected like the most valuable players that they are. In conversations I’ve had with several, some of the best teachers are moving out of the profession altogether. The reason? Just like parents, teachers are not feeling heard. Furthermore, they do not believe the administration has their backs or that they are protected. The classroom is filled with metaphorical land mines everywhere as students need discipline with more parental input than ever before. I propose monthly teacher/school board workshops to open communication, acknowledge the problems, and work TOGETHER to find real solutions. Up to now, I have observed a one-way street where the administration makes decisions, and the teachers are forced to take it or leave it. With a teacher’s union with similar listening skill deficits, what are the good teachers to do but find work elsewhere? What does that leave us with? Teachers don’t feel heard, and I am listening.
7. The School of Basic Education.
Basics meaning classic education, instead of far LEFT or far RIGHT ideology. No parent sends their child to school to learn to hate the classmate sitting to their left or right. Nor do they send their kids to school to leave midday to support a cause they might not even agree with. I believe our students are in school to learn to be successful, not disrespectful. They are to master life skills to earn a living, not a victim mentality. We want to teach Math, Reading, History, Science, and the Arts in the hopes of successfully leading others one day instead of following the trends of the hour. I will always support academic achievement and thoughtful discussion but never indoctrination or mean-spirited shouting. If it’s unkind and doesn’t move education down the field, I will always vote against it.
8. The School of PASTA (Parents, Administrators, School Board, and Teachers Association).
We live in an age where practically no one feels heard or understood. That fact alone creates both distrust and inaction. If you believe the next department doesn’t have your best interests at heart, you are unlikely to seek them out for resolution. Therefore, I am proposing a new working group made up of Parents, Administrators, School Board, and Teachers that would gather once a month to discuss real problems, with the express purpose of finding solutions to bring to the school board for voting and implementation. This is not a PTA but an EDA (Education Development Association) whose purpose would be to connect parents, admins, school board, and teachers to solve and suggest action to the full school board.
The association could be made up of:
1 School board member
The numbers are intended to balance the number of ISD 728 professionals and parents (5:5). Each month, a series of current topics will be brainstormed to raise possible solutions to recommend to the board. There are two keys to the success of this board: Parental involvement and real action. If both occur, we will have an even more successful district.
Those are my Eight Schools of Thought. Of course, they are not all-encompassing, and ideas can be added as they occur and removed as they are resolved, but the point is to acknowledge that we have problems. We’ll need each other to solve them, and together, I believe we will.
My name is J. Brian Calva, I am running for School board in ISD728, and I do hope you’ll vote for me.