New Board of Education Members

New members bring new ideas and plans to the board

Stella Zeng, Staff Writer

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Jennifer Chamberland

What was it like at your first board meeting?

“It was very fast paced, so in my previous board experience things were a little bit slower, so it was kind of a different change of pace. I’ll have to get used to that, but [it was] very efficient in that same sense as well.”

What is the first issue you want to focus on?

“One thing I’ve started so far to do is try to attend various district events. I don’t know necessarily what those schools are doing, so I’ve been trying to attend some of those events and get a feel about, you know, what’s important to each school because we all have those special events.”

What is the most important issue you want to address?

“I think currently, and I think the district has identified it as an area for improvement, [it] is dealing with social and emotional health, and understanding that it’s not always about academics and that those difficult social issues and things like that, and how students, whether it be their home life or their environment, are affected and that comes to school with them. A lot of times teachers and support staff have to deal with that and it makes it difficult to do your job everyday. So that’s something that the district has identified as an area and I’m fully in support of addressing that.”

How will you make sure students will see the impact of the School Board?

“Students are always welcome [at board meetings], we do have the two student advisors on the board, so that should hopefully be your representative in that respect. If there’s anything issue-wise though, that is directly impacting the students, they’re going to probably be in front of the board and would have that one-on-one discussion to get a response directly. But if it’s a matter of wanting to know [about] any big policy related [issue], that should be communicated through the building. But when it comes to, like you’re wanting to start a new group, your group wants to go compete in something, you’re welcome to sit in front of the board and request that and have a one-on-one discussion. If you or your peers have suggestions, like ‘we didn’t know about this,’ if you had a suggestion about how we could have done better for communication, that’s always feedback that I’d like to hear. Don’t be afraid of making suggestions.”

 

Alicia Clevenger

What is it like starting off as a board member?

“Well it’s all kind of new. It’s wonderful because one of the first things that the Johnston School District administration did was, they had a mini bootcamp, so to say, for new board members the week prior to our meeting. We went for three hours and learned about different aspects of the board and what’s going on in the district and learned a lot from the superintendent and the cabinet, and different board members were able to have some good discussions about what’s going on, so I think it gave us a window into really learning what’s going on and giving us a better idea. We’ve had an excellent board prior… [they] have really set the stage for us. We got started right from the get go.”

What is the first issue you want to focus on?

“I really think it’s important as we move forward that the school, the participants, and even the community just understanding different roles within our district. Just figuring out what the proper protocols are for working through issues people might have.”

What is the most important issue you want to address?

“Our district has done a lot of amazing things, but I think it’s one where there’s a lot of room for growth. I want to look back on my time at four years and know that other districts are really looking at what Johnston is doing. I want our district to be a leader. Equity has been a huge thing for me, so [I also want] to make sure all students have access to all the programs that we have in our schools.”

How will you make sure students will see the impact of the School Board?

“The board meetings, now that we’re in the new board building, are all going to be live streamed so people can watch them from their home, which is really awesome. It’s really going to allow the community to hear what’s going on and they’ll stay on there. I think that just adds a whole nother element to transparency. If people want to be involved and know what’s going on, it’s important that they are now able to watch board meetings. If anything, about any of us, we’re all very transparent and open to emails or however you want to contact us.”

Katie Fiala

What was it like at your first board meeting?

“It was kind of a transition board meeting; the old board members finished out the first half of the meeting and the new board members were brought in. It was a good one to start, there were no big issues. It went really well.”

Is there an introduction period?

“The election happens really quickly. We were elected November 5th, and then [November 18th] was our first board meeting. It’s kinda nice, there’s not a lot of waiting around. It’s just, you’re into it, you got some training, and now we’re going to go forward.”

What is the first issue you want to focus on?

“We are going to work on our strategic plan, which I think is for the next five to seven years. It’s the board laying out longer term goals for the district. The former board has set out kind of really broad goals and we’re going to continue working on that. Some of the areas are equity, employee excellence, just kind of those broad things we think are really important for the district.”

What is the most important issue you want to address?

“I think the focus of any school district is always the students, so it’s what we can do to make the student experience better, especially as being a student continues to change. I think we need to continue to be flexible and keep looking at what’s great the way it is and what we need to tweak a little bit. I think the way we provide the best opportunities for our students is our great teachers. My goal continues to be listening to anybody who wants to talk to me, listening to what teachers are seeing in the schools, and seeing how that affects students.”

How will you make sure students will see the impact of the School Board?

“Our decisions are made in public at our board meetings, which are streamed. There’s that weekly newsletter the school district sends out, and it has some highlights and things we’ve done. Beyond that, it’s been a while since I’ve been a student, so it’s something I continue to explore.”

Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher

What was it like at your first board meeting?

“I was scared! It was interesting, it was a lot to take in for the first meeting to see how things, you know, really go from sitting up in front of everybody, so it was really kind of a different perspective. They just kinda threw us in. I think I had silly questions like ‘How do we do this?’ And it’s kinda really learning where have they been and where are we going. You’re always in the middle of something.”

What is the first issue you want to focus on?

“I feel like there are several things coming up. I really want to make sure that we’re understanding the needs of our community, what kids need, and are addressing those needs. I think [they] are really important, so I want to make sure we’re addressing those and understanding those as we move forward.”

What is the most important issue you want to address?

“Probably personally for me is the teacher and student mental health; making sure that we are supporting kids in all of their needs, and not only our kids’ but also our teacher’s and staff’s mental health support. Just support probably in general, but really looking at the support that kids need. All the testing that we do, we do a lot of questioning of kids but then what’s the follow up of those? Looking at behavior issues, looking at, y’know really just talking with teachers and getting into the classrooms and understanding the behaviors that teachers are dealing with. The teachers are on-the-ground people, kids are talking to the teachers, the librarians, and the staff and understanding what they’re hearing, [we need] to be able to understand what we can do about it.”

How will you make sure students will see the impact of the School Board?

“I feel like the board is sometimes like this invisible entity that kids kind of hear about but don’t really see. So making sure that we involve, that we’re more visible, so making sure the board members are out in the schools or out at activities or getting involved in things so that kids can see, ‘Wait they do care, they’re out here,’ and understand why we make the decisions we will be making.”