I am a passionate supporter of public education. My philosophy on education is that a well-functioning District and its senior leadership provide structure, goals, and support for its educators and staff, but should not micromanage them. No other profession requires more advanced education than teachers, yet receives so little respect, compensation, or latitude, in many situations. As a Trustee, I have and will continue to raise these issues and these voices to bring about change ranging from policies, procedures, culture change, and funding on a state level.

We need more funding to pay our staff better and hire more of them. How much funding the school district receives is entirely out of our hands – the governor and legislature control it. More funding has been added over the years, but we have a long way to go. As a trustee, I can (and do) advocate for more funding, though I am only one voice. I would love to tell you that it is within my control to get us the additional funding that we need, however, it is not. I will continue to advocate for it, and to work every day to show that our school district has steady leadership.

Here are my top three issues that Trustees can address:

  • School Reconstruction: I want to continue to see construction funding put towards schools in established neighborhoods to provide kids in older schools with the same modern learning environments as the ones we are building in our growth areas. This may look like rebuilding a school entirely (like O’Brien Middle School), expanding and renovating an existing school (like Swope Middle School). I’m a strong advocate for a complete rebuild of Vaughn and Pine middle schools, now that we have that design from O’Brien.
  • Continued support and expansion of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and our Signature Academies. I am incredibly excited about the new CTE high school campus that will be finished for the school year after next. I would like to see CTE expanded in an age-appropriate way into middle school.
  • Lowering Class Sizes and Case Loads: I believe we must look for every way possible to lower class sizes. I will work with our new superintendent to evaluate the balance between other specialized classroom positions and teaching positions. There are certainly valuable (and required) positions that we must have, though there must be balance, and my priority is classroom teachers.

We also need to address the overwhelming case load for our speech language pathologists, counselors, and other licensed personnel. Counselors cannot adequately help when they have too many students.

Other Issues

We need to be evaluating areas where we see students struggling and critically review what is happening. An example is  9th grade math. I was grateful when math teachers came to me and shared the situation around students struggling with 9th grade math back in early Fall of 2021. That led to conversations between the Superintendent and me which showed we needed to really dig into what was going on. Much has happened since then, and now a full audit of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math is being done, along with an audit of 9th grade math. The evaluation is on-going, and the new curriculum should roll out in the 2022-23 school year. The goal is an improved, layered approach to the concepts leading up to and including 9th grade math that begin in the 6th grade and continue through middle school.

Staff Morale
This is something that weighs on me constantly. All educators and staff have been brought to their breaking point. As a Trustee, I can help in several ways. First, and importantly, I can say thank you and recognize their work. I will never tell an educator or staff member to “try harder” or “get creative” or “just be thankful they have a job” like has been said by so many others so many times. I tell them, “I see your work and the incredible challenges you have faced. I see you dealing with unimaginable obstacles as you do your life’s work of educating kids.” I also bring attention to the successes that are happening, and many successes *are* happening. There is a vocal minority who has hijacked the narrative around our District, and I will not stand for it. I will celebrate our schools, teachers, and administrators and tell those stories of achievement, accomplishment, and excellence.

Something else I do to show my gratitude and recognition for educators and staff is deeply listen. I listen to understand their stories and uplift their successes. I listen so I can help fix things by finding opportunities and common ground. Being heard is a critical part of morale, and I believe the job of a Trustee is to listen to the truth of our educators.

Beth Smith in an office speaking in a man

American History, American Present
Increasing awareness of the lived experiences of others is a critical part of evolving our community and country. This increased awareness can be learned through Social and Emotional Learner (SEL), multicultural education, and thorough education around America’s history. There are important chapters in our history that we cannot gloss over. We also cannot ban books or censor accurate health and science curriculum to accommodate what amounts to discrimination. No child should ever feel bad or be made to feel bad for being born into a race or ethnicity, but there is a misunderstanding around the discomfort that may happen once people learn more about the lived experiences of others, past and present. This discomfort is not negative; it’s a sign of learning and the growth and change that lies on the other side of that awareness. Our children must learn, for example, about why the Civil Rights Movement was necessary, how far we have come, and the work there is still left to do to continue to make this a more perfect union.

Beth Smith on a playground speaking with a little girl and her mom

I can only be a good Trustee and champion if I know what is going on in our schools, and our community. It’s why I put my phone number on all my material, though I don’t just wait for people to contact me.

For example, when the Bell Schedule topic came up in early Fall 2021, I reached out and asked each of my District D principals to talk with me personally and confidentially about this so I could understand aspects of this decision that perhaps are lesser known. About 60% accepted that offer, and I learned very important things about this topic.

Another way I stay informed is through the teachers’ groups and parents’ groups I belong to online and in person. By watching a discussion about the Student Behavior Expectation Policy that was under review, I read a great suggestion from a teacher, Mrs. B., from McQueen High School. Her suggestion addressed the concerns many teachers were sharing around messaging within the policy and the environment that both they as teachers and other students deserve in the classroom. I reached out to her, learned more about her idea and the reason for it, and then championed her proposed revision with the Board in our next meeting. It passed unanimously.

I am keenly aware of the fact that I got involved initially with WCSD in the 2016-2017 school year because I went to my own Trustee with an issue. That Trustee worked with me, and helped find a solution that broadly improved how and where some special education programs were placed which made for a better situation for many families across multiple schools. I strive to be  that Trustee who listens to individuals’ concerns and uses them to help improve things, but I also try to go a step further and actively solicit good ideas or unearth those challenges that teachers, parents, and others might be just living with silently.

Beth Smith in the classroom