Sara Barron for School Board

Equity, excellence, community, and vision

Press-Citizen Q & A

The recently adopted master facilities plan calls for a new high school, three new elementary schools, additions and upgrades across the district, and eventually closing Hoover Elementary. Do you support that plan, and what are your thoughts on how it can best be implemented?

The master facilities plan is a great step forward for our district–both the investment in the facilities that it represents and the fact that we HAVE a plan. I support the work done by the committee, the board, and the community to get us to this point.

If elected to the board, I would like to have a more in-depth conversation about the capacity numbers for each building. I do not think they are reasonable, given the money that we have available for teachers. If each building was fully utilized, and did not go over the BLDD capacity numbers, we’d have class sizes of 20 or so students. As great as this ideal is, it’s not feasible. The last thing we need to do is close a school or overbuild based on unrealistic and unrealizable expectations.

I want to see the implementation happen in a balanced way so that people throughout the district can benefit from the work being done together.

In coming years, the district’s diversity policy will require the percentages of students who receive free and reduced-price lunch prices at each school to be less disparate. What strategies for achieving those goals do you support?

In areas where no new construction is needed, we can begin redistricting now to achieve better socioeconomic balance. In areas where new schools are being built, I’m in favor of redrawing boundaries in tandem with the new school opening. There should be no need to move a child more than once.

Magnet schools may provide some opportunity to achieve the goals of the diversity policy and represent one piece of an larger plan to use creative solutions to address our needs.

I’d also like to work with the cities to push for inclusionary housing policies, so that new growth contains a mix of affordable housing. We don’t want to have this same issue of disproportionality every 20 years. The school district, as a public service, has the obligation to use its power and resources to invest in smart community development.

Which areas of the district’s curriculum or educational programming could be improved?

My main concern with our current curriculum and educational programming is with our racial and economic achievement gaps, which show a systemic failure to provide the same educational outcomes to all students. These gaps are not inevitable. We need to put our energy, attention, and resources into eliminating these gaps, so that we can truly say we offer a great opportunity and education to every student.

As we look ahead toward providing a “future-focused” education, we will have to continue to discuss our curriculum. My role as a board member will be to support the administration and teachers so that they can make advancements in our programs as needed.

Which areas of the district’s operations could be improved?

We have made great strides with our operations over the last couple of years. Long-term planning, careful management of our resources, and better care of our facilities and technology are all receiving more attention. We are going to be spending a lot of money over the next 10 years, and we need to make sure that conversations about major projects don’t start when it’s time for the board to approve an expenditure.

Minority students are disproportionately identified for special education and disproportionately subjects of suspensions and police referrals in ICCSD schools. What measures to improve the disparity would you support?

1)    Evaluate discipline protocols and outcomes for racial bias.

2)   Establish standardized screening tools and/or less discretionary discipline options for individuals or buildings if a racial bias exists.

3)   Provide support for staff who need to build their skills and understanding of racial bias and how it impacts discipline.

4)    Work with families of different races and ethnic origins to determine other measures that could be needed. Ask families for feedback and ideas, and then act in good faith on this feedback.

5)    See to it that students who are working below grade level receive strong intervention during their K-3 years.

6)   Before placing students in a behavior-focused classroom, use care to make sure all other interventions and supports have been tried.

7)   Other measures that may be suggested by teachers, parents, or administrators.

The School Board sets legislative priorities each year and encourages lawmakers to take action. What is your top legislative priority?

Sustained increases in allowable growth, now referred to as Supplemental State Aid, are critical to the continued health of our district. In addition to advocating for increases in allowable growth, we need to require that our lawmakers commit to this funding early enough to allow for sufficient planning on the part of local school systems.

How would you rate the district’s and board’s current level of transparency and is there anything you would improve?

We can do several things to improve transparency. The most important change that we can make to our transparency is to discuss issues before it’s time to spend money on them. I’d guess that 85% of our current discussion don’t take place until the item in in the consent agenda and ready to launch. The recent safety and security plans and the ensuing public concern over fencing were a clear illustration of the trouble that can be caused by our current practices.

How would you rate the district’s and board’s current level of community outreach and is there anything you would improve?

We can always do more to increase our community outreach. The biggest improvement I’d like to make is to increase our communication with people we aren’t currently reaching with our efforts. The goal isn’t to talk to the same people, more often. The goal is to talk to more people.

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