Gail provided WLAIC with the following position statements:
Please provide your views on the issue of teaching gender orientation and gender identity within the framework of West Linn-Wilsonville curriculum.
Understanding, compassion and inclusion in our schools is absolutely necessary. In order to create learning communities for the greatest thinkers and most thoughtful people for the world we must have school communities that embrace all children. I attended several meetings regarding the health and wellness curriculum and like WLAIC, I too, provided public testimony at the WLWV school board meeting regarding the adoption of health and wellness curriculum. At those meetings the school district invited the public into the district office for any parent to review and learn about the curriculum. I took the district up on their invitation. I was greeted warmly by district employees and spent nearly two hours going through the textbooks and lesson plan books to try and understand where comments and concern were coming from. This is the type of board member I will be. I will spend the time and effort and approach each issue with the same care and compassion. I found the proposed (now adopted) WLWV health and wellness curriculum to not only acceptable, but commendable. I would encourage everyone who has questions about the adopted curriculum to do the same.
There is one piece I am most interested in and was referenced by board members during the adoption of the health and wellness curriculum. WLWV participates in a comprehensive statewide Oregon Student Wellness Survey and is given districtwide to 6th, 8thand 11thgraders. While I can see the state and Clackamas County results, the results for WLWV aren’t available to the public. I’m very interested in hearing what our students had to say and hope those results become accessible.
What moved me most in what I heard throughout the process was from the students. At a February school board meeting there were a group of brave students who one by one spoke publicly about very personal issues that will likely have a lasting and lifelong impact. They should be honored for sharing their pain in hopes that their story will save someone else. Each story was unique, but what I found most troubling is there was one consistent theme which can be paraphrased as, ‘WE DID NOT KNOW WHERE TO GO FOR HELP.’It benefits us as a community to assess what programs and support systems are or are not in place and go a step further and ask how we can better help kids know where to go in a time of need. All of the programs in the world won’t do kids any good if they don’t know how to access them.
Please provide a statement concerning your views on equity within our schools, and the critical barriers to equity that you would seek to eliminate as a school board member.
All children deserve and are entitled to a quality education, it is also important to recognize that same quality education doesn’t look the same for every child. We must ask how and why things are occurring for each individual situation. If we don’t ask why something is happening, we can’t begin to find a solution. I have had an outpouring of calls and conversations from parents that I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before, parents that I know casually to friends all who have entrusted me with their story of their own child. No two stories have been the same. In some cases, parents have shared that equity for their child is allowing them to be in a special needs classroom environment. In other cases, it was the desire to provide alternative accommodations within a general education classroom environment.
My own daughter has classroom accommodations. My sweet Ava has Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). She hears perfectly, but when the sound travels past her ear and on to her brain the sound gets scrambled. I often describe the scene in Friends when Phoebe sings “Hold me closer Tony Danza (instead of course of Tiny Dancer). She processes sounds slightly differently than when she first hears them. Ava wears earbuds and her teacher wears a microphone helping tune out everyday background noise that doesn’t bother others. It can be the shuffling of paper, ambient sound, water running, almost anything. My husband and I worked with the school and school district to determine what those accommodations should look like with the professional advice of audiologists and speech pathologists based on extensive testing.
I too had accommodations as a child. In 4thgrade I got to wear a head gear and tongue guard, which definitely had an impact on how clearly I could speak. It wasn’t until my mom went in for fall conferences that she realized the impact on me. My teacher Mr. Hess, who I adored, sat with my mom, told her I was lovely, sweet and a hard worker, but he was concerned because I didn’t engage or speak in class at all unless called on. My mom literally assumed he thought she was the parent of someone else. She corrected him and said, “I’m Gail’s mom.” He knew that he hadn’t made a mistake, which led them to a completely different discussion. The extremes of who I was in school and who I was at home led them to the conclusion that I was really self-conscience and uncomfortable with the new ‘bling’ I got to wear. My mom worked directly with the teacher to provide accommodations when I had to read out loud or present my book or news report. It was an easy fix but asking the why is the only reason a solution was found.
A head gear paled in comparison two years later when I was unable to participate in daily PE class (now called wellness) in 6th, 7th, 8thand 9thgrades because of a scoliosis body brace I wore from my neck to pelvis to help combat my nearly 60-degree spinal curve. I understand what it is like to feel different. No amount of trying was ever going to allow my body to do so many of the demands of PE class, and not to mention it was embarrassing to persistently try and constantly fail. It took some thinking outside the box, but my parents again worked with the school. In this
No two situations will look the same. We must provide parents the ability to work collaboratively with the school, think outside the box and try different approaches while also empowering our teachers with classroom resources and continuing education.
Issues 3 & 4:
What specific policy changes or additions would you pursue as a school board member to provide clarity to our students on the issue of addressing incidents of bigotry and hate within our schools?
What else can the School Board and District administrators do to address the social problem of racism and bigotry, and build individual character evidenced in how students treat one another?
Knowledge is power and when we educate kids that no two people are alike magic happens. Celebrating our differences and learning from each other is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings. My own daughter was on the receiving end of anti-Semitic rhetoric. As a parent of course I was upset, but I also had to place faith in the fact that this was a mistake. Asking for forgiveness and forgiving is a tenant of my Jewish faith. Ultimately, it provided my daughter with an opportunity to have a conversation about why we celebrate Chanukah or teach kids about other holidays that we as a family celebrate. Mistakes are blessings in disguise because this is how we learn.
My public policy advocacy work gave me the honor of representing and advocating Native American students and students living in subsidized housing on Capitol Hill for nearly 20 years. The gift I was given was inviting me to their school districts and into their schools where I was given the opportunity to tour buildings, sit in on classes and work side by side school administrators and school board members to listen and learn about what programs and resources they needed to address issues that kids of different backgrounds were experiencing.
It is important to remember that bigotry and racism comes in all forms, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical features and the list goes on. Opportunities for learning are endless and all around us that need to be cherished and embraced. Assemblies, field studies and existing curriculum units all provide opportunities to learn about everyone in our community.
A tenant of my candidacy is to establish a student board member to the WLWV Board of Education. What an amazing gift it would be to the community to be able to bring a student board member to our board. At its core, a school board is there to do best by the children it serves, and I don’t know a better way than to learn directly from our students.
Holocaust and genocide legislation are being discussed at the state legislature right now. We are in our final years of being able to hear first-hand from Holocaust survivors that live close by. Let our kids learn from them, let our kids absorb what they have to say. I have been given the blessing of never not knowing a survivor or the story and it has most definitely shaped the person I am.
As a board we must use our most valuable resource, our community. I hold experiences from my education near and dear to my heart to this very day. One such experience was on October 3, 1995. I was a senior at Indiana University. Most of the world was tuned into whatever station was on, awaiting the jury verdict in the OJ trial. I found myself sitting in my class on the History of the Russian Revolution. Of course, we knew to expect the verdict while class was in session, but my professor pleaded with us not to miss class. He was fortunate enough to be friends with the only known Jew living in the US who had survived the Russian Revolution and he lived in Indianapolis. He was speaking to our class that day. Listening to him was one of the greatest honors and privileges I’ve ever had. As a board we must work to provide those kinds of experiences for our students. I know from my own experience our students will carry the gifts we give them today for a lifetime.
Would you support a more visible and inclusive recognition of Black History Month district-wide? Please explain your answer with specific reasons.
As a parent and community member, I’m embarrassed that Black History Month is not officially observed in our district. As a kid who went to public schools of great diversity, it gave me the opportunity to learn about traditions and customs of all different backgrounds. Black History Month is a time dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and contributions that African Americans have made to America and the world. It is also a time when everyone should take pause and recognize that this is our history as Americans. As painful as it is, it is more important than ever that we learn from that pain.
Our children are growing up in a time that is more polarized and violent that I have experienced in my lifetime. People of Jewish faith often say “Never Forget” when speaking about the Holocaust. The same applies to Black History Month. We must never forget. We still have time left to learn from civil rights activists who were on the front lines of some of our darkest moments as a country. We must give our children the chance to learn from the very people who can share their stories first hand. I had the wonderful serendipitous opportunity to meet a man who was the first African American public school student in the Albany, Oregon. These moments that we get to experience are true gifts that we must pay forward to our children.
WLWV has a vision theme, “Learning is what we’re all about. We pose a question to ourselves that helps us think about our mission and our goals: How do we create learning communities for the greatest thinkers and most thoughtful people… for the world?” How can we possibly expect our kids to become the greatest thinkers and most thoughtful people if we aren’t willing to recognize and pay homage to such a central, fundamental and important piece of our history?