Thursday, March 23, 2017

SLPS Elected Board Candidate Surveys: Susan Jones (via Susan Turk)

St. Louis Schools Watch

By Susan Turk

March 23, 2017—St. Louis--

April 2017 School Board Candidates Questionnaire

Susan Jones

Please supply a brief autobiography.

I am currently the manager of Supplier Diversity at a local pharmaceutical company. In this position I am in charge of developing nationwide relationships across the minority business spectrum as well as creating new business opportunities for the company. Outside of work I take on various roles. I’m a mother, artist, student, community activist, and president of the elected board of education. In my role as board president I take a grassroots approach to create positive results for the students and families in St. Louis Public Schools.  I work diligently and serve as a strong advocate for education and social justice in our community. I participate in community meetings, mentoring, creating clean up days for neighborhoods, getting residents registered to vote, and feeding the homeless.
While in college, I served as a student education lobbyist for the University of Missouri in 2009 at the state capitol.
Prior to my current employment, I worked as an Intervention Assistant in the Ritenour School District from Oct 2012 until June 2015. Job responsibilities included planning and implementing curriculum that meets the developmental needs of children, conducting evaluations and assessments of children, maintains up to date records of student progress , analyzing data while creating and scoping a plan for students, and providing direct and/or consultative services to children and families
I have an MBA and an MA in Non-Profit Leadership from Webster University. My daughter will enter pre-k in the SLPS this fall.

The SLPS is currently governed by an appointed board.  The elected board has limited responsibilities. While possible, it is not guaranteed the elected board will return to power during the term for which you are running.  Why, then, are you running?  If you believe the elected board will return to power, please give reasons.

The local school board is a critical public link to public schools. I believe that leadership in St. Louis Public Schools plays an intricate part in stability, crime rates, housing, jobs, future growth or lack thereof within the community. I am running for re-election on the St. Louis Board of Education because I believe the future of St. Louis rests on making sure that every child in every neighborhood obtains a high-quality public education.
Under my leadership, for the first time in almost 10 years the elected St. Louis Board of Education was invited to the table to begin the process of transition back to local governance. With the help of the community I plan to get us across that finish line smoothly so that taxpayers in St. Louis will have a say in education once again.
Over the last 4 years, I have dedicated many hours to volunteering, advocating, developing programs, and fighting for the students and families of St. Louis Public Schools. As a product of St. Louis Public Schools, former educator, parent, and now president, I strongly believe our best investment is in the education of our children. I know that as community we can get the change that we want!

What is your understanding of the role of a board member?

School board members serve their communities in several important ways .The current role of the Elected Board is to audit and report. Under the structure for a board that has full control over a district Board Members are in place to ensure that students are getting best education for the tax dollars that are spent. Elected school board members are in place to
Incorporate the views of the community.
Employ and evaluate the superintendent
Develop and adopt policies and the budget
Establishing the overall goals and direction of the school district

What do you want to accomplish as a board member?

My priorities are to insure there is good governance representative of the community while implementing sound policies that service all our students.
-Ensure that students are prepared to complete a college degree or compete in the work force after high school.
- Advocate for the return of governance back to the elected board and continue to do everything in my power to make sure it happens smoothly.
-Continue to work with the community and board to craft meaningful solutions so that we can improve St. Louis Public Schools as a whole.
- Lower dropout rates, increase graduation rates, and decrease homelessness through community involvement and partnerships.
-Make certain that students have all the resources needed to obtain the best world class education possible while ensuring that teachers receive superior training and competitive pay.
- Bring a back fulltime librarians, nurses, art, and music classes to every school.
-Generate public support and better communication with the community.
- Continue to be to audit and report about the St. Louis Public Schools budget to ensure the district is directing its resources to what matters most -- our children.
- Ensure that the St. Louis Public Schools administrative offices are effective and efficient in providing support to schools. For far too long, valuable resources have been directed away from the classroom.  I will continue to work with the Elected Board of Education, the administration, and the Superintendent to ensure resources are directed to the classroom.

Are you the parent of children who currently attend or graduated from the SLPS?  Did you attend and/or graduate from the SLPS? Have you ever worked for the SLPS or are you related to a current or former employee? Are you now or have you in the past served as a board member? If you are not an SLPS parent, graduate, former employee or relation of one, or board member, do you have any other connection with the SLPS?

I am a parent of a student that will attend an SLPS school in the fall. I graduated from Gateway Institute of Technology High School in 2004.  All six of my siblings attended SLPS with 1 currently attending. I have no relatives that work for the district. I have served as a board member since 2013. I have assumed the role of secretary and currently board president.

What are your thoughts about the SAB which governs the district?

The SAB has served its time. The time has come for taxpayers in the city of St. Louis to have a voice in education again.
What is your understanding of the effect of charter schools on the SLPS?  Should more charter schools open in the city?
Charter schools are independently run organizations that siphon education funds away from public schools and have no accountability to the tax payers that pay to run them. There should be a moratorium placed on any new charter schools opening in the city of St. Louis.

Do you have any ideas to improve public confidence in SLPS and improve enrollment?

Improving public confidence in SLPS and improving enrollment can be done internally and externally.  This would include determining what tools are available for communication, identifying mechanisms currently being used or that can be used to reach audiences both internally and externally along with conducting surveys to find out what systems are working internally and externally. On top of that providing consistent, transparent information about what’s happening in the district so that everyone is on one page. The district could do a better job at highlighting the achievements of students and programs within St. Louis Public Schools throughout the community on a consistent basis to improve enrollment.

The Missouri legislature is considering bills this year that would expand school choice using vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition tax credits making it possible for students to attend private schools using public money or depriving the state of general revenue so they could use their own money for private tuition without being taxed on those funds, and expanding options for students in certain situations to attend schools outside of their school district.  The Trump administration promotes school choice and may re-allocate Title I funding away from providing low income children with extra resources to master reading and math toward expanding school choice options. School board members will be faced with an uphill battle in a struggle to attract and retain students to their school district. How will you respond to these challenging developments?

Vouchers divert public dollars to unaccountable private schools. I believe that public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the people. Vouchers also have not proven academic performance. Vouchers hurt low income families by undermining the same public schools they rely on, allowing public schools to risk losing state funding and not be able to cut overall expenses for its operating costs. Private schools have the final say on if a student is admitted so that does not increase choice for families.
My focus is to improve the public education system as a whole. I plan to work with legislators to fight for more funding for public schools. I believe a moratorium should be placed on any entity/ program that takes dollars away from public schools.

What are your thoughts regarding the magnet schools?

As a past graduate of St. Louis Public Schools I think that the magnet schools program are very beneficial and have made a significant impact on my life. I attended Gateway Institute of Technology High School back in 2004 where I completed the EMT program. Many of my other classmates did the aviation program, engineering, nursing program etc. I will say that after completion of this program I was prepared to work straight out of high school in a career field that I’d been prepped for through various internships on behalf of St. Louis Public Schools. Although I chose not to pursue a career in the EMT field, the exposure I received from the program was priceless and afforded me job opportunities that I did take at hospitals which enabled me to pay my way through college. Magnet schools are a good idea and allow students to pursue career areas before college.

What are your thoughts on neighborhood schools?

Neighborhoods schools are extremely important and essential to neighborhood stability.  Sending children to a neighborhood school can have large and lasting effects on their lives. Neighborhood schools provide a greater sense of community goodwill. They open the opportunity for students to develop closer relationships with teachers and staff. Neighborhood schools also enable siblings to stay together. Furthermore neighborhood schools would contribute to reducing air pollution levels in the community as there is no need for private transportation. They also help to save the district money and while promoting a safer environment for families.

What ideas do you have to help students learn?

Every student in St. Louis Public Schools deserves a school with adequate resources, small classroom sizes, consistent leadership, and committed staff that truly care about our student’s future. It is important to me that we service our students as whole as well as ensuring that students are prepared to move to the next grade, complete college, and are able to compete in the work force after high school.
Some ideas that I have are to:
Encourage student and teacher social interactions
Re-evaluate curriculum design, instruction
Support an enhanced emphasis on the recognition of academic achievement
Increased parental involvement in programs
Encourage effective collaboration (small group discussion, peer instruction exercises)
Increase student investment, performance, and inspiration (Brainstorm learning objectives catered to each classroom as each child learns differently)

What do you think about the MAP tests and standardized tests in general?

MAP and standardized tests have many issues. The tests are based on the idea that all students learn and are taught information the same way with no feedback on how students can perform better. Map and standardized tests shift the emphasis of education from actual accomplishment to just test preparation. The tests do not evaluate creativity or diversity, and favor those with socio-economic advantages. The focus placed on these tests is a distraction from the real needs of a student. Teachers should not have to teach to a test, but teach so that our children are able to grasp the information and apply it to everyday life. The tests have proven to exist only for political, financial, and administrative purposes not educational. Our children’s time is valuable. We should use it in ways where they actually learn something new.

In the past the elected board has been criticized as dysfunctional.  If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which you disagree can you accept the outcome or would you publicly disagree with their decision?

If a majority of fellow board members make a decision with which I disagree, I can accept the outcome.  I would not publicly disagree with their decision. Professionalism and understanding the function of team work is important.

Approximately 70% of SLPS high school graduates who enroll in college must take remedial courses. What policies would you promote to lower this statistic?

It’s unfortunate that 70% of SLPS high school graduates enroll in colleges only to begin with remedial courses which do not earn college credits. We must close the gap between enrolling for college and being ready for college. Instead of “just working” to get students in colleges, the district needs to ensure that we are providing the knowledge and skills set needed to complete degrees/ certificates before leaving the district. Most students who begin in remedial courses never finish their college degrees. This huge readiness gap has become a hidden cost of college that many of our families and students have to accept the burden of.
As a board member I am interested in
Advocating for adequate funding to public schools so that schools have the tools they need
Policies that will allow the Implementation of well-designed education programs available to all students
Ensuring that students are receiving strong academic advising, using a variety of instructional techniques
Providing supplemental services and resources along with increasing parental engagement
Providing consistency and increased program accountability for all students as soon as they enter high school.

Is it important that SLPS parents be represented on the school board?

It’s important to me that the school board represent the community it serves. SLPS parents should definitely be represented on the school board as it is one of the larger roles they can play in their child’s education. This would allow parents to affect policy on a larger scale providing a platform to speak to issues from a parental standpoint. Parents that are involved are more likely to positively affect their student’s achievement and behavior.