Kiyomi Kowalski On the Issues
Issue statements by candidates are quoted from public media statements either direct or edited for brevity.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to think outside of that box. As a board member, I will work with our teachers, staff and parents to ensure our students get the connection to community, academic support, and mental health support needed to flourish during these difficult times. Helping students to maintain meaningful social connections while they are away from campus. School-site online game nights and district sponsored virtual dance parties will help our students remain connected to their peers and school, and this, in turn, will make their return to campus more natural and less stressful.
LVUSD has a lot of work to do in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion. The undervaluing of segments of our population due to racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, ability, and religious practices has a direct impact on our children and how they feel about themselves. We also know that how children feel about themselves can manifest in their ability to perform in an academic setting. Our teachers, administration, and staff should receive regular training in cultural competency and other forms of systemic bias. We need to ensure our curriculum doesn’t focus only on the history/perspective of the majority, but also on the history/perspective of marginalized groups throughout the entire year. Such an inclusionary approach will produce global citizens who can empathize with, learn from, and understand people with multiple perspectives and backgrounds.
The Curriculum Council typically reviews and approves curricula the teachers have already piloted in their classrooms. While this body, composed of parents, faculty, students and staff, functions to engage the community in the education process, it does not create any new substantive curricula or actionable advice on implementation in class. This process, however, requires more than putting diverse authors on a book list. The Council members will have to address their own cultural competence deficiencies before they can tackle the deficiencies within our curriculum. Curriculum Council Members need to confront their personal biases prior to beginning the process of re-evaluating our curriculum so they can engage in the process with fresh eyes.
Seek Diverse Teaching Talent
One of the ways to ensure we are fostering an inclusive community is to hire teachers who look like our community. We must intentionally seek talented teachers outside of the typical pool of applicants so that students of color have an opportunity to be taught by people with shared perspectives and experiences on our campuses.
Anti-bias and Anti-racist Training
The school district can and must treat anti-bias and anti-racist education as an integral part of professional development programming. We can give the best teachers the best curriculum, but if a teacher has not done the internal work of breaking down their own biases, they will not be able to meaningfully engage with the subject matter. Through regular professional development we can educate teachers on implicit bias and prepare them to engage our students in substantive conversations about race and racism.
Community 360 Program
The Community 360 Program recognizes that healthy self-esteem is a critical part of child development and that feeling like a valued part of one's community is an integral part of academic success. To ensure the Community 360 Program is meeting the needs of all children in our community, we can and must adapt the programming to address the unique needs of our students from marginalized groups, including students of color and LGBTQ students. We must offer safe and open spaces for community members to express their thoughts about inclusion and how best to promote the overall health and wellness of our students, teachers, and community.
Supporting Marginalized Communities
Our efforts to support marginalized groups need to expand beyond the classroom and into our student's social environment, with a focus on ensuring that every student can find a place that gives them a solid sense of belonging. Our high schools already have a variety of clubs and organizations that provide students of many different religions, cultures, races, and sexual orientations an opportunity to engage with others like them in a social setting, and this infrastructure can be expanded upon and further supported by the district. The current club structure should be expanded to middle and elementary schools in order to provide our students, especially those growing up feeling underrepresented, the opportunity to feel both a sense of community and security in their identity at an earlier age.
From severe droughts and heat to wildfires, we have each experienced and suffered the consequences of climate change. To make positive changes for the future we must continue to educate our students on this issue, strengthening environmental studies classes and increasing enrollment in those classes at the secondary level. Addressing climate change also means tackling the systemic injustices that perpetuate climate racism. I will work with educators to implement anti-racist education as part of our science curriculum. But we can do more than simply teach our students about climate change; we can also take steps to show them how to combat it. I will partner with educators, staff, students, and members of the community to work toward more sustainable LVUSD campuses.
Whether a graduate decides to go straight to college, seeks vocational training, or takes a different path to their career, all LVUSD students deserve to be equipped with the necessary tools for a bright future. Distance learning provides a unique opportunity for us to partner with community organizations and private companies that can provide our students with virtual career training, experiential learning experiences, and mentorships. By offering a more diverse set of opportunities and learning experiences, we can ensure that all of our students—not just those immediately bound for college—are prepared to succeed after graduation.
Every student is a unique learner with distinctive educational needs. As we are forced into unconventional, remote learning environments, we must make sure those students who need extra support are not left behind. We need to enhance the lines of communication and maintain relationships with families who have IEPs or 504 plans.
Due to distance learning, we have all become accustomed to using various technologies such as videoconferencing programs. Now that we are familiar with this technology, we can and should use it to bridge the divide between working parents and school communities. Videoconferencing programs should be used to include parents who would otherwise be unable to attend Parent Faculty Club, School-site Council, and other committee meetings. Teachers can also use these tools to meet parents where they are. The shift to virtual education provides us the freedom—and responsibility—to equalize access for all.
The whole country is facing a budget crisis and our district is no different. As a result, state funds, as well as city grants and services that we receive for LVUSD students will dramatically diminish. Budget cuts are inevitable, but that does not mean we have to compromise our children’s success. By being creative and leveraging professional community partnerships, we can maintain the district’s standards for quality academic programming. I will work with my school board partners and our community to reexamine the budget in light of the current challenges we are facing to ensure we make the most of every penny.