In my various roles as mother, healthcare provider, and budget committee member, I have been engaged in discussions over controversial issues facing our schools. This is where I stand.
School Start Times – There is overwhelming evidence that adolescent children are happier, healthier, and perform better academically when their school day begins after 8:30am. Last year, I joined more than 30 of my colleagues – including the heads of sleep medicine, trauma surgery, and the pediatric hospitalist program – urging Bend-La Pine Schools to delay start times for secondary students, and I continue to support Superintendent Shay Mikalson’s decision to do so.
Mental Health – Too many children in our district are struggling with behavioral and mental health challenges that interfere with learning, their own as well as that of their peers. This is burning out our teachers and it’s creating anguish for families at home. We cannot keep waiting for the problem to get fixed somewhere else. We must instead bring more behavioral and mental health support where the kids are: In our schools.
Safe Schools – As a parent, I trust the schools to keep my children safe from the moment they step on the bus. Unfortunately, we have discovered too many school safety lapses on the Bulletin’s front page, from a collapsed roof to serious fire code violations, long after they should have been addressed by the district. This has to change. As your school board member, I will welcome the safety concerns of any employee, volunteer, or parent, and I will hold district leadership accountable if they fail to address them.
Gun Safety – I routinely ask patients and families whether they have firearms in their home. If so, I follow the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics to counsel them to do what we do in our own home: Keep the guns securely locked in a safe, separate from the ammunition. I believe Bend-La Pine Schools should partner with local law enforcement agencies to promote safe storage of guns.
PERS Reform – While I share the anger many people feel toward the rising costs of pensions and the burden they place on schools, we have a legal obligation to retirees and a moral obligation to current employees. I am willing to give serious consideration to any solution put forward in good faith, but I will never support a pay cut for our teachers.
Standardized Tests – Standardized tests like Oregon’s Smarter Balanced exam are meant to measure our progress toward achieving outcomes, but increasingly they feel like a burden upon teachers and students that detract from actual education. I believe we can find ways to measure success without pressuring our educators to teach to a test.
Oregon’s Student Success Act – To address the persistent gaps in outcomes among our most vulnerable students and to prevent losing some of recent gains, our state legislature must fully fund our education system. Although I would have preferred a different mechanism for generating revenue, I believe the positive aspects of the Student Success Act outweigh its drawbacks, and I look forward to seeing Governor Brown sign it into law.