ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Jennifer Enoch

ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Jennifer Enoch

1. What prompted you to run for a seat on the board?

"My child started kindergarten at a school that I thought was diverse and well-integrated, based on stats I got from the family information center. It wasn't until I started volunteering at the school that I realized that starting in second grade, when the gifted program begins, that the classes become highly segregated within the school, with few black children in the gifted program and few white children in the general education classes.

"It distresses me to see the message this sends to all kids about what their school thinks about the intellectual capability of black children; I believe this is causing harm to the children every day. I think our community has values that are not being reflected strongly enough in our schools right now.

"I believe that as a community we want every child to have access to a high-quality education. Every child needs a good education in order to be able to expect a good life in adulthood: to earn a good living, to possess the tools to be an effective citizen, to fulfill their potential and realize their dreams."

2. What makes you most qualified to serve on the board?

I have served as co-chair of the BTW Parent Equity Committee, and I currently serve on the Gifted Task Force and the Education Equity Excellence Committee. For the past few years, I have been volunteering in classrooms, working with teachers and kids.

"I've seen the difference it makes when kids have more time to move around instead of just one very short recess; I've noticed that the kids toward the end of the cafeteria line may end up with 10 minutes or less to eat and feel hungry a couple of hours later. I have seen how being greeted warmly by a custodian who knows their names makes children stand up straighter, feel more confident and focus better on their learning once they get to class.

"I have seen what happens when administrators won't respond adequately to discipline issues, and how this adversely affects school climate and causes so much stress for teachers and students, including kids who were previously able to focus on their learning but start acting out themselves, creating a downward spiral of chaos. I saw how within-school segregation affects our students.

"I saw the incredible effects of good teaching on how much and how fast disadvantaged kids can learn. I think that having this experience gives me a valuable perspective on how the actions of the school board and district leadership affect our schools at the classroom level."

3. What, to you, is the school district's single-greatest strength?

"We have so many teachers and staff members who are deeply dedicated to our kids. I have noticed that children often look up to and are nurtured by many of our custodians, front desk staff, teacher's aides and other employees as well as teachers. Many of our teachers work incredibly hard, and work long hours, putting so much effort and a lot of their own money into educating our community's children.

"With such dedicated people, I am certain that we can improve educational outcomes if we make sure that every school and classroom has the tools that are needed, including effective curricula, time for teachers to collaborate and rational discipline strategies."

4. What issue would you like to see get more attention than it has from the board or district?

"Our overall educational outcomes are not nearly as good as they should be, and two-thirds of high school graduates who go to community college need remedial classes. The situation for black children is particularly dire: 92 percent of black children are below grade level in reading, and 94 percent are below grade level in math. The average black child in Unit 4 schools is 3.4 years below grade level.

"You often hear that it's unfair to expect schools to succeed with students who live in poverty or are disadvantaged by the wider society. But in fact there are many high-performing, high-poverty schools in the U.S. And although as a school system our outcomes for low-income and black students leave a lot to be desired, we have classrooms where these students are thriving.

"We have teachers right here in Champaign who routinely move the average black child in their class from below-grade level at the beginning of the year to above-grade level at the end of the year, and who do this with different classes year after year. We should give teachers more collaborative time so that the teachers who get these specific results can share their knowledge and help their colleagues to do the same.

"This kind of collaboration takes time, and teachers need the time to continue to work together, to analyze their results and troubleshoot and continue to refine their practice. Teachers have good ideas about what they need and what works, and teachers should lead the way for improvement."

5. How big a concern is the size of classrooms, particularly at the lower levels, in Unit 4?

"Class size is very important, particularly in the early grades. Research has shown that small class size for grades K-3 gives long-lasting academic benefits that can still be measured much later after the student has been in regular size classes for years.

"Small class size leads to fewer behavioral disruptions, and more time in the classroom focused on learning. All students benefit, but low-income and African-American children benefit even more than affluent and white children do."

6. How do you feel about armed, uniformed police officers in the schools?

"I think it is important that school resource officers foster positive relationships with youth, that they are not expected to enforce school rules but just to be present to increase safety, and that they never arrest students for behavior that would be appropriately handled by school staff if an SRO weren't there."

7. What are your ideas for how to keep district spending in check?

"It is important to recognize that taxpayers worked hard for the money that funds our schools, and we need to make sure it is spent wisely. Our school district is in good shape financially, with money in reserve; the Illinois State Board of Education estimates that we have 90 percent of the money we require to meet our needs, which is much better than most nearby districts.

"It is important to make sure that we carefully consider how to spend the money so that our facilities are adequate, that we are prepared for the future, and that money goes toward supporting student achievement."

8. Would the district benefit from a charter school that serves low-income students, like the one (North Champaign Academy) proposed a year ago?

"It's possible that a charter school could benefit Champaign's students. Charter schools are public schools that are operated independently of the central office that controls traditional schools in the school district; charter schools are tuition-free and open to any child in the district.

"Some charter schools, like South Bronx Classical and Uncommon Schools, do an excellent job of educating all their students, including low-income kids. I support nonprofit charter schools with transparent procedures and governance and an easy application process. I understand why many people oppose charter schools, and I think the best way to make a charter school unnecessary is to improve the quality of education we provide in our traditional public schools and to ensure that every child in Champaign has equal access to a high-quality education."

9. What would be in your plan to recruit and retain high-quality teaching staff?

"It is important to have good working conditions as well as competitive salaries and benefits. I would like to see Unit 4 participate in one of the 'grow your own' programs that give financial assistance to teacher's aides who want to complete a degree in education and become certified teachers."

10. Do you believe there is too much money being spent on administrators?

"Champaign has one administrator per 140 students, compared to one per 222 students in Mahomet and one per 181 students statewide.

"Many of our administrators have minimal student contact. I think it is important to think about how we can spend money most effectively to support student achievement, and I suspect it would be more effective to have fewer administrators and more teachers and aides."

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