SHEBOYGAN — Thursday night, the six candidates running for three seats on the Sheboygan Area School District Board of Education discussed some of the district's hottest topics.
From diversity and inclusion to how the district is going to address gaps in education and opportunity, each candidate was given the opportunity to share their plan forward.
Below are three of the seven questions answered with responses from each of the six candidates.
Describe your views on the district's approaches to discipline in the school.
Katie L. Checolinski: We need to make sure we gather all the information regarding that specific instance and evaluate based on the different sources of that information, that way it's never one-sided. It's never an easy decision to make, but it's a decision that needs to be made, and I would support current practices in place by the district right now.
Christopher Domagalski: The district has to have a string discipline policy across the board so it can be consistent, that way those administering it can all be on the same page ... It has to be individualized at the same time. When we make a decision about what discipline is taken, individual circumstances are very important and underlying issues are important.
Marcos Guevara: We have to honor the agency of all people involved ... We have to take into account where the aggressor and the aggrieved are in that moment and center the outcomes on restoring the dignity of the affected. We have to include specific ways of re-integrating the aggressor into our community and strive to bring people back into our community and aim to build a beloved community.
Santino Laster: We have to have restorative practices, but with that we have to have equity and inclusion ... We need to know the students. Don't just discipline the student, you need to understand what they're going through and what they've been through because they bring all of those things to the classroom. We need to learn how to address those and separate those issues and address them.
Rebecca M. Versey: Starting younger and moving up, we need to have this policies in place so kids understand what they are to follow and have that foundation to carry them all the way through high school. There needs to be consistency and there needs to be accountability so that once they get into high school, these children understand the consequences ... You also have to look at the individual child and what they're going through and have that safe space to discuss what's going on, but having those policies consistent.
Ryan F. Burg: I do think this is one thing the district does pretty well with when it comes to trying to be as equitable as possible and establishing from a very early stage that equity in our district ... One concern that I do have is that when you look at the numbers, there are a higher number of students of color per capita on a regular basis that have more disciplinary action. I don't have an answer, we need to do more studies and research, but we do need to take a look at that going forward.
How will you work to increase parental engagement and involvement in the school district?
Marcos Guevara: There's encouragement of the moment we find ourselves in now as people are engaged now in a way they haven't been, and it's a moment to catch everybody before they recede back into their homes ... We've had this opportunity to take what has worked well in our outreach to families and other stakeholders and incorporate that into our return to a new normal that is not just going back to how it was, but better and more accessible.
Santino Laster: With demographics and job shifts making attending events difficult, we need to meet parents where they're at. We can explore virtual ways for parents to be involved and to celebrate their children. There are variants dealing with family backgrounds that stop them from coming into the schools, and we need to break those barriers and reach them where they're at versus trying to get them to come into the building.
Rebecca M. Versey: At Lake Country Academy, there are volunteer hours each family has to put in per school year ... It did get you involved and made you want to participate in more things than you probably would have. There are places you can squeeze in and get involve din the schools, and it's about finding those avenues of getting ahold of families.
Ryan F. Burg: We have to start it early, ask the question to every parent, what do you need in order for you to be able to help because every parent, every family, has a unique situation. One of the things that I would really like to discuss when we go through our equity discussion is really focus on the idea of a community school where it's a site-based team ... where parents are all on that site-based team, every parent is.
Katie L. Checolinski: This really ties into why I'm running, to really improve the communication internally and externally in the community ... Some of the ideas I would have are monthly or year-round town halls to involve different local community groups to have that outreach on what each of the individual schools are doing ... I really enjoy that Lake Country Academy sets that expectation that parents need to volunteer two days out of the year because not only will it improve parent engagement, but build that relationship with the teacher so the child's educational experience is a more wholistic approach.
Christopher Domagalski: One of the things I really support is creating resources in the school to do that outreach to identify what kind of events would bring people together so they can be more involved in the school and with the teachers. Using Zoom might really help in those situations where if childcare is an issue or bringing that childcare option to the school for these events so parents can show up.
How do you plan to work to address the opportunity and achievement gaps in SASD?
Santino Laster: We need to set some benchmarks, and we need to get back to the basics, starting with seeing where our children are ... We have to give them some rigor, some hard coursework and push them because if we just give them something, they didn't earn it. We have to trust and believe they're going to give it heir all and our education system will work if we provide it to them.
Rebecca M. Versey: We need to look at children as individuals. Everybody learns at different paces and speeds ... Each child is different, so closing those gaps, we need to be talking to the teachers. They're in the classroom every day listening to them. They might have a good plan. It's about listening to everybody and making a good plan.
Ryan F. Burg: I think we can look at this idea of having more co-teaching in classrooms. We have a number of students who are special needs, for example, and something I've found in doing research and talking to teachers is that it can be successful, the idea of having two teachers in a classroom teaching together. One is able to focus on the special needs and one can work with the more traditional students. The idea of them being able to collaborate also reduces the pupil to teacher ratio.
Katie L. Checolinski: It goes back to really identifying what resources are needed for those individual students and making sure that we are giving them what they need in order to be successful adults so they have that education, the confidence and the empowerment when they enter the workforce ... First and foremost, we've got to get the kids back in school and then we can start talking about those achievement gaps and address them through summer school programs and extra school during the regular school year because this isn't going to be a one-summer deal, this is going to take years to make up.
Christopher Domagalski: The best info does come from the teachers that are fighting through this every day. We need to remember that these are individuals and they're all different and have different learning styles, and we have to play to those things ... From a teacher's standpoint, we could support that whether it's through a co-teacher or providing more resources to provide individual attention so somebody can get caught up or to the level they need to be at that point.
Marcos Guevara: I think a lot of our way forward can be found in the proven principles of universal design and learning. We need to make sure that school is accessible and to have a system that's flexible to make education engaging to all the students and their families. Second, I think, as a community, we need to have an honest conversation about opportunity gaps ... Those differences in opportunity show up in graduation rates, so more broadly speaking, as a community we need to know this isn't just something for the school district to address.
To view the full forum, visit WSCS's Facebook page here.
The three school board seats will be voted upon in the April 6 general election.