How do you feel about trying to remove books from libraries?
Tomika Vukovic - I don’t support banning any books.
Jordan M. Wanner - I don’t believe the school board should determine what books are or are not included in the school library.
Carla Pennington-Cross – I will not vote to ban books, but I do want developmentally age-appropriate books for kids in schools. I expect administrators and school staff to make sensible, curriculum-based decisions about what books are appropriate.
Some books will inevitably cause controversy with different people. I think having conversations and debate around that sort of controversy is better than trying to disappear books. If a caregiver doesn't want their child to read a particular book, a school district can accommodate that wish without removing the book from everyone else's experience.
Under what conditions do you think you would recommend, if ever, a return to virtual schooling or mask mandates?
Tomika Vukovic - If the CDC and/or the North Shore Health Department makes the recommendation, I will follow their guidance. These organizations are health experts and I will following their guidelines.
Jordan M. Wanner - To recommend a return to virtual schooling would need to be under extraordinary, unforeseen circumstances. Students do best with in-person instruction.
Our district currently has a mandatory mask policy in place. As CDC guidelines evolve, district policy should evolve as well. We should move to a mask-optional position as most of our neighboring districts are implementing. In the event that community spread increases, policy could be revised to return to a temporary masking requirement, if/ when needed.
Carla Pennington-Cross – I'm no expert, so ultimately I would follow the science and CDC guidance. If COVID numbers go up and in-person schooling is putting lives at risk, I would want to comply with CDC recommendations regarding mask mandates and virtual schooling. The evidence is pretty clear that many kids really struggled academically and emotionally, in virtual school models. So I view going back to virtual schooling as a last-resort option. On the other hand, I worry about the incredible stress and anxiety teachers endure when they walk into schools and face a daily risk of infection. If there's a resurgence of COVID infections and schools stay open, I would want to ensure that teachers are offered significant support to help prevent burnout and enable self-care and renewal.
What in your background or experience makes you a good choice for the school board?
Tomika Vukovic - I have been on the Glendale River Hills school board for almost 6 years. I bring diversity and a different perspective to the board. I have experience in making the hard choice for the Glendale River Hills district over the last six years and this district needs that more than ever now. I have tried to make decision that will help the district as a whole.
Jordan M. Wanner - I am a parent of 3 children who all attend Glen Hills Middle School. I am also a small business owner, for over 20 years. In addition to running a business, I am also a part-time substitute teacher exclusively for our school district for the past 3 years, both as a teacher and paraprofessional. I was a member of the community selection committee when we hired our current superintendent, and volunteered for many PTO and school events over the past 9 years.
Carla Pennington-Cross – I have two kids who attend our public schools. I've had boots on the ground as a volunteer at Parkway and Glen Hills for a decade. I have served as the treasurer of the PTO and I'm now the president of our fundraising foundation. I have led significant efforts in our district and at the state level to improve school-based mental health supports for kids, grow opportunities for families to engage more effectively with schools, and build stronger community. I serve on DPI's parent advisory council, through which I've been able to engage with parents from all over Wisconsin about challenges public schools are facing. I'm a graduate of the "Partners in Policymaking" disability advocacy training program, run by the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. Prior to having children, I was an attorney for 12 years, with a significant practice in employment law, including EEO and labor matters. I believe I know our community pretty well as a result of my volunteerism and leadership roles. I believe I have foundational knowledge and skills from my years as a lawyer to effectively deal with the nuts and bolts work that a school board oversees.
The lens through which I look at our schools is educational equity: are we doing everything we can to remove barriers to success for every child, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, abilities, and other differences? If I'm on the school board, I will continue advocating for more work in this area, as well as pushing for more resources to be committed to developing stronger engagement with families and stronger mental health supports for students and teachers -- fundamental tools in overcoming barriers to academic success and achievement gaps.
Are there curriculum-related or diversity-related issues that you think the current board members are not addressing? If so, what would you do differently?
Tomika Vukovic - As the only incumbent in this race, I am addressing curriculum/diversity related issue now. I have spread headed the creation of the diversity committee for the district. We, as a board, have commissioned the study of our special education department. I am currently, doing the work.
Jordan M. Wanner - I actually feel our district is managing curriculum and diversity related issues very well and the school board takes these issues seriously.
Carla Pennington-Cross – See my answer to question 3, regarding educational equity, family engagement, and mental health supports. Our district is very diverse -- more than half our students are people of color; more than 40% of our families are economically disadvantaged; 15% of our students have special education supports. We need to work hard to differentiate teaching and interventions in a way that respects heterogeneous experiences and needs. It's daunting, but diversity is also what makes our district community amazing.
I believe our board is thinking about these issues, but I think we need to do some basic things to help face the challenge. One, we need to develop a culture in which caregivers are respected and valued as experts about their children. We need to enable collaboration, not make it hard for families to be heard. I'd like to see board members conduct regular town halls to hear from community members, and I certainly will offer town halls if I'm elected. I'd like our schools to include community members as stakeholders early on when big decisions are being made about things like scheduling and curriculum. Two, we need to invest more resources in social/emotional learning and mental health supports for students and teachers, to build individual resilience and stronger social connections. Three, we need to do a better job of recruiting and retaining a more diverse pool of teachers. I'd like our district to provide significant, ongoing training to district leadership (including the school board) and staff about equity, implicit bias and stigma relating to race, disability, mental health, and other differences. This will help create a more welcoming environment for teachers who are diverse.