Those who live in the Wichita school district will select from four candidates in the race for an at-large seat in the Aug. 6 primary. Three of the candidates responded to questions posed by The Eagle. Brent T. Davis did not participate.
Occupation: ED of A Thrive Community (non profit), stay at home mom.
Education: BS Business Education/Minor in Economics
Political experience: Ran for USD 259 Dist. 2 in 2017
Community involvement: PTO (Pres, Treas, VP 4-5 yrs), Pres. And VP College Hill Neighborhood Assn. (3 yrs), Transit Advisory Board Member- Finance Sub Committee Chairperson (1 yr), VP of the DCF Community Partners (>1 year), Volunteer in Families Together parent to parent advocacy program (2 years).
Social media: Trish Hileman
Occupation: Retired, Former Educator and Current BOE Member
Education: Three Degrees from Wichita State University
•Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education
•Master of Education
•Specialist in Administration
•different endorsements on my teaching certificate
Political experience: Wichita Public School At-Large Board Member for 8 years (3 years as president and 1 year as vice president)
Community involvement: •Member Pando Initiative (formerly Communities in Schools)
•Member Trees for Life
•Volunteer often o Teach for Life Volunteer
•Assistance League (Operation School Bell) Volunteer
•Read to Succeed (starting Fall, 2019, Read to a 2nd grader weekly)
Joseph W. Shepard
Occupation: Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life
Education: Bachelors of Science, Wichita State University and Masters of Public Administration, Wichita State University
Political experience: None listed
Community involvement: City Council District 1 Advisory Board, Arts Partners of Wichita, Board of Directors for KS African American Museum, Board of Directors for Interfaith Ministries, Urban Professionals of Wichita, GLSEN Certified Facilitator and President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Eta Beta Lambda Chapter
What is the most pressing issue for the Wichita school district and what do you think the school board should do about it?
Hileman: Every student accomplishing a meaningful education. We achieve this by training and empowering our teachers/staff effectively, engaging parents in the work, and pulling Wichita non-profits and companies into the solutions. None of these ideas are new to 259, but our Board can create accountability so that all we do is done with fidelity.
Logan: The Board must monitor the 4 goals and 8 themes of the district’s new strategic plan that will raise achievement for all students. The goals are: graduation rate increases; 3rd grade reading proficiency; increase career/ tech ed. certification/ college credit; and schools are safe place. The Board must stay vigilant about making decisions filtered through the strategic plan.
Shepard: Ensuring the holistic development of our students. With 76% of students living in poverty, 43% of 3rd graders not reading at grade level and lack of full-time teachers, we must act boldly to address trauma our students experience, push for academic advancement and pay our teachers what they’re worth to create a quality education that prepares our students for the work force and life.
Why should voters consider you the most qualified candidate? What is your overall vision?
Hileman: 5 years involvement in serving out School Board and connecting it to parents/community, 3 years regularly attending meetings, 5 children attending our schools and numerous volunteer experiences- I have seen our District from every angle. That EVERY student receive an education with which they can pursue their life’s goal is my overall vision.
Logan: I have been an educator all my life. I retired from WPS. I understand how the district functions. This knowledge is extremely helpful as a board member. I believe every student deserves a strong progressive school district that can prepare them for the future. I am passionate about developing WPS into the premier district in the region that can provide excellent education for all kids.
Shepard: When talking about the needs of young people, young voices should be at the table. I’m active in our schools and communities. I’ve operated budgets as large as 9.1 million dollars. My education and work in non-profit has prepared me to govern effectively. I lead with compassion and humility. My vision is simple: strengthen our public schools and give tax payers a return on their investment.
What should the Wichita school board do to recruit and retain qualified teachers?
Hileman: Respect is a key missing component. Respect isn’t felt unless it is backed up with action. So our Board must pay wages that will attract and retain, work with teachers/staff to set calendars, structure PD so that it truly grows individual teachers in their professions and provides the professional courtesy and autonomy that good teachers will thrive in.
Logan: The teacher shortage is real. So the HR Department was directed to offer open contracts to outstanding teachers. District recruiters work to find special ed. teachers. The Grow Your Own Teacher programs are used for both special ed. and regular teachers. WSU started the para to teacher program. Currently there are only 40 positions left to fill. That is half the number from last year.
Shepard: Promote programs such as Grown Your Own Teacher, Educators Rising and Parents as Teachers to help expose more people to the profession. Personally recruit teachers to USD 259. In addition, advocate to provide teachers with benefits necessary to show up every day as the best version of themselves i.e. access to mental health care, professional development, mentorship, competitive salaries etc.
In recent years, Wichita teachers union officials and others have raised concerns about unruly and sometimes violent behavior at some schools. Is the district doing enough to keep schools safe? If not, what more should be done?
Hileman: Our schools are safe, but there is more that can be done to ensure the unruly, disrespectful behavior is corrected so all can learn effectively. There is knowledge in our communities and to a lesser extent already in our schools, about how to manage behaviors. School (psychs, behaviorists, counselors) have to help students and families find solutions to problem behaviors to ensure all learn well.
Shepard: Steps are being taken to address unruly and violent behavior. Schools are now using trauma informed and restorative justice practices to help students understand the severity of their actions. As it pertains to safety, we can never stop questioning if we’ve done enough. We must hold students accountable for their actions and safety and security must remain a #1 priority.
Logan: Students can’t learn unless their behavior is in control. The district put several programs in place to help students with behavioral problems. Restorative justice is at all levels. Bryant Academy was opened. The teachers have had major training on classroom management. Safe places were established where students could regain control or speak to an adult. The board will monitor the success.
Are Wichita schools adequately preparing students for college or careers? What more could the district do?
Hileman: Our graduation rates are up, our test scores at level 3/4 (Career Ready) show poor results (10th 13% vs. 38% English and 7% v 25% Math poverty vs. non) We have to begin from a young age working with families, identifying and helping students, and ensuring the intervention we provide is effective or we must change course. Our Board’s job is to ask the tough questions about student achievement.
Logan: A strategic goal is to prepare students to enter the workforce with certifications or attend college after graduation. There are 26 career and tech ed. programs in our high schools to train students to move to the work force. The college academy starts this fall. Students will graduate with 54 college hours. IB is at East. This spring our seniors received over $42 million in scholarships.
Shepard: While there are areas we fall short in, the district is working diligently to ensure students are future ready. We must continue collaboration with the Education and Business Alliance, form stronger partnerships that grant our students the chance to gain critical thinking and soft skills, as well work alongside our KS BOE to ensure curriculum is relevant and preparing our students for college.
Recently some have urged the district to expand its anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and to offer professional development training for employees on how to handle LGBTQ issues in schools. Do you favor such changes? Why or why not?
Hileman: I think this has been practice for a long time and moving it into policy doesn’t feel like a problem. Helping our staff to know how to support all students in their education is also a way to ensure all students feel valued and encouraged at school.
Logan: I believe every child should feel safe and protected at school. The board is looking at the LGBTQ concerns about policy. In June, the board asked the superintendent to bring information about guidelines, staff training and policy modifications would be needed to make our schools safe for ALL. I have always believed that you listen, seek information, study all sides and then make a decision.
Shepard: Yes. I support. As a school board member my job wouldn’t be to change beliefs, but it would be my job to change policies and practices that hinder our students from being their best academically, socially and mentally. The world walks our hallways in USD 259. It is vital that our policies reflect the evolving population we serve as well the staff and teachers serving the population.
How would you ensure transparency in school board and school district actions?
Hileman: It will take Board members being brave to speak out when things are not being done correctly or with full disclosure at the Board table. Our Board must remember whom we serve first- our Community not our District. This becomes difficult when we must work together to get the best outcomes- but ensuring that our District knows that we will push for efficacy and honesty in all things will be key.
Logan: Better decisions can be made when an elected official listens to the public and affected stakeholders. Because of this, I am always conscious of being open both personally and with the Board. My contact information is listed and I respond to emails and phone calls. The board and district administration are committed to being transparent. I am careful to follow the open meetings requirements.
Shepard: I plan to ask the difficult questions at public board meetings and work to reduce executive sessions. I’ll continue use of social media to communicate happenings in the district, upload a monthly newsletter highlighting school board decisions, and hold town halls 2 times a year to answer questions, be accessible and inform the public where to locate budget and policy documents.