Do you support School Resource Officers (SRO) and Constables in schools? Please explain your position.
Lets first identify the role of a SRO (School Resource Officer). Per the Milford School District website, an SRO is assigned to the District as a whole and acts as a peer to students and an advisor on crime and criminal matters to the staff and administration of the school district.
The officer is responsible for investigating all crimes that occur within the schools. In addition the SRO serves as an informal counselor and a teacher / guest speaker in classrooms. When a SRO or School Resource Officer does what he/she is supposed to do you find less correlation with the school to prison pipeline. When I was in school I loved our SRO, Officer Melvin. To this day we still have candid conversations. From personal experience, he was a mentor and really looked to uplift and encourage us as students. He created that trust and support where it didn’t feel like he was a “cop” in the school but rather a friend in uniform. As far as policy, I would recommend clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of School Resource officers and emphasizing that they are RESOURCE officers. SROs should be directly involved on a NEED-BASIS with crime and criminal matters ONLY. Across the board SRO`s need to practice more of their support service role through mentorship, informal counseling as needed and engaging more with the students to build that trust. I think clarifying the role of SROs will be pivotal going forward. Having them present as mentors and resource providers could actually be the start of building trust within the community and our youth.
Delaware Department of Education data shows that Black, Brown and Special Education students in Red Clay School District are disproportionately represented in discipline referrals, suspensions and arrest. What other steps, beyond existing policies, should the school district take to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all students?
I believe education, self awareness and self reflection is crucial. A lot of the disproportions in disciplinary actions have to do with the stereotypes, profiling and individual/societal biases on black and brown students. Self-checking our own biases both conscious and unconscious will help to encourage decision-making based on facts and following the disciplinary process in a consistent and uniformed way for every student. Mandated professional development, both internally and externally, specific to diversity, equity and inclusion would help keep ourselves accountable in ensuring we are providing fair and equitable treatment across the board.
What does equity mean to you?
Equity is not only equal treatment and opportunity but also access to equal treatment and opportunities. Understanding that just because you give me and my peer a slice of bread does not mean we both have the other necessary items at home to make a sandwich. That one sandwich may be a snack to one but lunch and dinner to another. We have to make sure equity is enforced because equality is just not enough.
How would you work to improve equity in funding and resources allocations in the District?
I would work hard with my peers and the department of education to prioritize where our funding and resources are allocated depending on the needs of our respective district. Where there is additional support needed I would look into building partnerships with community organizations and looking out for grant opportunities to make certain the needs within our district are met equitably and holistically.
Do you believe implicit bias impacts students and staff? If so, how will you work to lessen the negative effects of implicit bias within the school district? How will you work to address implicit bias within yourself?
I believe implicit bias is everywhere. I hope to partner with organizations who specialize in DEI training to make sure as a district we are holding ourselves accountable to ensure all of our students and staff not only are treated fairly, have equal access to opportunity but provide equitable learning environments as well. I too plan to continue professional development training to keep myself accountable and well trained to make informed decisions based on facts not biases.
Describe how you would ensure quality education for a diverse student population: i.e. the gifted and talented, the “average” student, students with special educational needs, students with different abilities, English Language learners, low-income students and those with cultural differences.
The first thing I would like to do is encourage the community to change how we view or categorize “gifted and talented” students. To me it is inferring that if you are not a high achiever on paper then you are not gifted or talented and that is not the case. We must look at all of our students as gifted and talented in their own respective way. We must work to provide the additional resources to our students who aren’t performing as well in the classroom and figure out why and what supports they need to increase their efficiency in the learning space. We must not hold a student hostage to their circumstances but ensure all students are given the opportunities, support and resources to reach their best selves. In order to do that one thing I would like to do is provide tutoring or mentoring services to students with an identified need through peer to peer support from our identified high achievers and/or teachers willing to take the extra time to work with students. This is not taking away from our high achievers but more so ensuring we create an atmosphere where everyone has the opportunity to reach their best self. We aren’t trying to create a Darwinistic environment, survival of the fittest, but we want to build a community where everyone gets a helping hand when needed and the resources to become better people in our society.
Are there any other equity, racial justice, or funding goals not talked about above that you hope to accomplish in your term in office?
I really hope to develop more partnerships with the Department of Education and community organizations. Our students face so many challenges from academic to mental health and wellness. I want to make sure we are not only supporting our students as it relates to our STEM subjects but our students are offered support for college/career readiness and developing our students socio-emotionally as well. We should be preparing students for life. It will take a village.