Mental health support as an essential service
Now is the time to make mental health an essential service that schools provide to reengage students who are falling behind, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefit will be vast, similar to how many impoverished have seen their lives improve with essential nutrition provided in schools. I believe every school should have a full staff of counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses to serve their students. These critical functions should not be left up to PTA fundraising or federal grants, but must be thought of as core to our children’s education.
Real progress on inclusion for all
Schools are where students go to get educated, both in the skills they need for life and in their own identity. I grew up in a community where I was one of the only Asian Americans in my school, and I still bear the scars of intense bullying. Many students in our schools are suffering from explicit and implicit racism. The “School-to-Prison” pipeline is real and has tragic consequences for Black children and teens. As a PTSA president, I have been supporting staff and community programming at John Stanford International School on anti-racism, and I have seen progress. As a School Board Director, I seek to scale such programming to all buildings, to commit to recruiting and retaining teachers and staff of color, and to make targeted investments to uplift all disadvantaged communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ, special education, and other groups that need it.
Fulfilling our obligations to special education students and families
Fifty years ago, Washington state was the first to require public schools to serve students with developmental disabilities. Yet today, we rank 44th in the US for inclusion of students with disabilities in general education. My hearing impairment was first identified by a public school teacher and she got me the in-classroom support that I needed to reach my full potential. Our more than 8,000 special education students deserve the same. As director, I will work to ensure that our district is taking tangible steps on existing state policies to universally screen for dyslexia and guidelines to significantly limit use of restraint and isolation. Lack of progress disproportionately impacts our BIPOC special education students. I will also advocate for better funding to close our over $70M deficit for special education services.
Securing needed transportation and assistance for families
Our schools are a critical piece of the public infrastructure. But today, we can’t even get students to school at scale. When I was growing up in an immigrant family with parents working 4 jobs between them, there was no time for anyone to take me to and from school — I took the bus. Today, many special education students still do not have bus service and remain in remote learning, despite a constitutional obligation that they receive transportation to and from school. As a School Board Director, I will work to secure adequate funding to get all students to school.
My Commitment To You
Good governance and decision making
Seattle Public Schools is an organization with a budget of over $1 Billion dollars, and has had 6 superintendents in 10 years. I commit to recruiting, supporting, and overseeing a superintendent with a strong vision for our district’s future and to diving into the details of our capital and operating budgets to ensure academic quality and spending accountability. I will achieve this with authentic community engagement and strengthened community, city, county, and state alliances.
How I will work for you
- Relentlessly focused on who I’m working for: the students, families, and employees of Seattle Public Schools
- “Calling in, not calling out” — building bridges to different groups, never allowing myself to get caught in a faction where it’s “us vs them”
- Working as a partner with community, city, county, and state leaders as we address shared issues such as homelessness and poverty
- Doing my homework on difficult issues
Questions that Matter
The following questions have been put to me by various citizen groups and voters through my campaign. I have done my best to answer thoughtfully and thoroughly and want to share my thoughts with you so you can get to know me better.
COVID has increased existing inequities. How will you use your office to support the most vulnerable? How would you promote an equitable recovery and create opportunity for all?
Our district will be receiving $92M in federal relief dollars. These dollars should be prioritized for the already identified goals and objectives so that we not only have an equitable recovery but also make continued progress toward our strategic plan for Seattle Excellence.
I will use my private sector background in finance and operations to ensure that this additional funding does not “disappear” into the broader district budget. We must ensure that we can use this money in a way that drives directly to an equitable recovery and has real “return on investment.” We will ensure that each dollar of the $92 Million federal grant is tied to a specific project with specific goals, and most importantly, a specific leader from within the district.
Our COVID-19 recovery plan should include:
Finish our return to school plans. We still lack a well-defined, fully funded plan with accountability metrics to return to school this fall. This is the time to establish mental health support as an essential service in all buildings.
Fully support families who choose to remain remote. Many families will choose to keep their children remote, and we need to respect this. These families should be prioritized for provision of a publicly funded “hotspots”, and should receive dedicated tech support in their native language. Students who choose to be remote should be enrolled in a new “remote option school” where teachers can provide appropriate curriculum. Teachers should not be asked to teach both in person and remote classes simultaneously. Some families may choose to continue with remote instruction indefinitely, and that option should be considered if data shows it is meeting the basic educational needs of the students.
Reduce the focus on high-stakes testing. I suggest a one-year moratorium on standardized testing. When the government officials and district leadership at various points during the pandemic required standardized testing for my third grader who was still learning remotely, I felt protective of her teacher and of her. While I do believe progress monitoring is important, this was undue pressure on teachers and students, logistically challenging to test students remotely, and I question the accuracy and value of the data collected.
Invest in a Pandemic Policy that provides the structures and procedures we lacked. Never again should we have to “build the plane while we are flying it.” We should enlist the expert advice of medical and public health officials in the development of this policy.
Beyond this, we need to make a concerted effort to establish real inclusion for all, a concept which for me recognizes that schools are where students go to get educated, both in the skills they need for life and in their own identity and the diversity of identities and histories in their community.
Do you support continuing option schools?
Yes. Option schools are not inherently inequitable, only the process for assigning students is currently inequitable. I see fixes that can be made to the assignment process. Moreover, I would seek to expand innovative curriculums such as STEAM, outdoor learning, experiential learning, dual-language immersion, etc. to any neighborhood school that wants it. Leveraging innovations developed from teachers and staff from current option schools and with community input, I support neighborhood schools adopting alternative curriculums if desired. My own children attend a dual-language immersion school, where speaking a second (or third or fourth!) language is celebrated; an experience so different from my own childhood. Given the high percentage of immigrant families in our district, I would seek to open more dual language immersion schools.
For many K-8 option school families, this choice is intentional. Children’s sense of self confidence and want for school engagement is simultaneously developing while they go through major biological, psychological, and social changes. That continuity is what is needed for them to reach their full potential. And practically speaking, K-8 schools also enable more neighborhoods with less population density to have access to a middle school.