Introduction: (250 words)
Why are you a candidate for the LCSD#1 Board of Trustees and what qualifications make you the best choice for this office? You are also welcome to include contact information such as your website, Facebook page, telephone number, email, etc., if you’d like.
I am a graduate of Cheyenne schools. I got my first teaching job here. My parents spent their entire teaching careers here. My daughter attends school here. I believe in this district, in our teachers, in our staff members and administrators. I am running for the Board of Trustees now to give back to the district that has given so much to me and my family.
Education is my profession; it is also my passion. I am in my 19th year of teaching. During that time, I have taught elementary, secondary, and college. I have delivered professional development to teachers and preservice teachers. I have coached teachers. Most importantly, I have learned from amazing mentors, master teachers, brilliant administrators, and fantastic students. Additionally, I also research, publish, and present on issues in literacy education. As a potential Board member, I feel I can add my voice as an educator and an educational researcher to the discussion.
I have learned how to work with different populations of students. Working with different populations is what led me to earn a doctorate in Literacy Education. I believe in finding the strengths of every student, in empowering teachers to meet students at their needs, and in finding new ways to help them reach the standards.
I want to give back to LCSD#1, and I feel that both my experience and current role as a researcher and teacher can add a positive voice to the Board discussions.
Contact information: website: www.ReynoldsforBoard.com; Facebook: @ReynoldsforBoard; email: ReynoldsforBoard@gmail.com
Questions: (150 words each)
1. How important are new/remodeled facilities to LCSD1? How can they be built, with the decline in the state’s traditional source of construction revenue?
It is clear that we need new buildings in Cheyenne, not just because of the age of some of the buildings, but also because of the overcrowding in some schools, and growth of the town in general. The best thing I think we can do is to continue to lobby the legislature, to continue to make the case that we need these facilities. The new Carey Junior High will hopefully be approved soon. I believe that our current board has done a nice job of making the case. I would suggest that we need to examine the building plans to make sure that we open buildings that can be expanded and that don’t open exceeding capacity. But, I would continue to lobby for more buildings.
2. What is your assessment of the district’s use of the grade 5-6 configuration to address capacity issue?
While I understand the decision to go to a 5-6 configuration, I am concerned about the addition of another transition for students. A recent study (Schwartz, Stiefel & Rothbart, 2016) examined what happens when students attend schools with longer grade spans. They found that the academic performance for those at the top increased over the same age of students who made an earlier transition. For example, 6th grade students in a K-6 school performed better than 6th grade students in a 6-8 school. Additionally, they found fewer instances of bullying in schools with longer grade spans. Since we have made this decision, I believe we must ensure that teachers and administrators participate in high quality professional development aimed at those students in the first year of a transition. If we pay attention to those students, we can make the transition successful, but we must be attentive to potential difficulties.
3. How should LCSD#1 be using scores from the state-written standardized tests? Should they be used to determine teacher employment? To change curriculum?
The first thing we need to do is clearly communicate what those scores actually mean. State testing scores are one snapshot of how students are performing at a given time. Growth scores, the new measure, are only calculated for students who completed a Wyoming state test for two consecutive years, and are relative to the growth of other students that particular year. In other words, the scores only reflect a small portion of our teachers, and are relative, readjusting every year based on that year’s set of students.
To that end, state tests should only be used for their specific purpose, which is to measure student performance. We can learn from this data, and can adjust curricula and instruction to better meet our students’ needs, but we need to use classroom formative data to truly drive those decisions. Scores should not, though, be used to determine teacher employment.
4. To what extent can you commit to attend Wyoming School Boards Association, National School Boards Association and other opportunities for development and training out of town?
As a former professional developer who had to attend weekly professional development, and as a professor who attends conferences and meetings in order to improve at my profession, I strongly believe that professional development as a school board member is a vital part of the position. We need to be committed to learning, to growing within the position. As a school board member, I will commit to attending professional development as I have the opportunity, and I will commit to continuing to learn how to be a more effective board member and community representative. My current position at UW does create some limitations for my schedule, but I will work with my department chairs and my students to create scheduling opportunities that will allow me to attend the quality professional development for school board members that would be offered.
5. Is the district doing a good job of evaluating teachers and building leaders? Explain.
The current evaluation program is okay, but I would add two specific points.
First, student test scores should not be used. This model, typically called value-added model (VAM), simply is not consistent or effective enough as currently used. Organizations like the American Educational Research Association point out the lack of research and quality correlation with VAMs. Additionally, up to 60% of teachers do not even qualify for VAMs because they teach a subject or a grade that is not tested. Instead, the focus should be on the professional development of that specific teacher. Student state and district test scores do not give enough quality information to evaluate teachers, nor are they designed to do so.
Second, I want to ensure that principals are evaluated in part by the teachers and staff at that specific school. Teachers and staff should always have a voice in the evaluation of their school leader.
6. When the state cuts funding to schools, how can LCSD#1 manage the cuts? Some things are “outside the model” – meaning the state doesn’t figure them into our funding formula. They include Resource Officers and instructional facilitators. Should they be cut first?
We cannot say now that some positions should automatically be cut first. However, there are two things that we need to keep in mind as we rationally and pragmatically examine the budget. First, we need to clearly identify how each cut impacts instruction. Every position that has direct instructional contact with students is important. As we look ahead, we need to be very clear about the impact to any level of instruction that students receive.
Second, we need to remember the human component to every decision. We are not only impacting students with these decisions; we are impacting specific employees. We are never just cutting numbers; we are potentially impacting people.
That said, sometimes cuts need to be made. By examining the instructional significance of the cut, and by remembering the human cost to our decisions, we can move forward making the most humane but pragmatically responsible decisions we can.
7. What are your ideas about improving LCSD1’s graduation rate?
Addressing the graduation rate begins in elementary and middle schools. First, we need to empower the teachers to adjust the curriculum and instruction to meet the specific needs of our students. Then, we need to make sure that those students can see themselves in the curriculum. This means that we need to pull from their strengths, from their funds of knowledge, in order to help them see the connections between their lives and school. Additionally, we need to focus on active learning, which prioritizes discussion and problem solving over passive listening. When we create engaging, active lessons early, we make connections with students. When we use their funds of knowledge, we create opportunities for them to see how they could be successful. In these strategies, we prioritize and engage students, and show them how to take advantage of the amazing educational opportunities in LCSD1.
8. Are there programs of study that you think should be kept, added or dropped?
We need to keep arts education, physical education, and vocational and technical education. In fact, we should be working hard to build opportunities in each of those areas. At the high schools, I support AP and IP opportunities. We also need to continue to build high quality instructional opportunities for ESL students and for special education students. These students have different needs, and we need to make sure that the programs and instructional strategies that we have in place are actively meeting them at their needs. Finally, we need to prioritize district-wide active learning, and classrooms where students can discuss, can problem solve, can collaborate, and can actively engage in construction of knowledge.
9. What are your education priorities?
First, I want to reduce district-mandated assessments. We need to examine our district assessments to see which ones are positively correlated with the state test, and then determine whether the tests are necessary based on that correlation.
Second, I want to continue to build arts education, physical education, and vocational and technical education. These are not extracurricular subjects, nor are they in service to the core. They are part of the education of the whole child. No child should ever be taken out of one of these classes because of a test score.
Third, I want to empower teachers to differentiate the curriculum and instructional strategies to meet the specific needs of the specific students in front of them. All of our students are different, and the teachers and principals who are with them every day are the ones who best know how to guide those students toward the standards.