ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Michael Foellmer

ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign school board: Michael Foellmer

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

"A primary reason for my running is the relationship that has been established between the board, the administration and the teachers. When the teachers were struggling to find areas where the board was willing to negotiate in the latest contract, I was concerned by the lack of support for our teachers by the board. In addition, there have been a number of unfair labor practices filed, which should never happen in a district of this caliber. It is critical to maintain working relationships and open communications between the governing body of the schools and the members within the schools. The other top reason for my running is the disparate treatment of our students of color. Our schools of choice model is creating a further stratified system in which all students do not receive equitable education. It is crucial to study other similar models and understand how we can better serve EVERY student in our district."

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

"I care deeply about our teachers, our support staff, our students, parents, community and administrators. Our schools are unique and incredible places to provide opportunities for every member of our community to have a better future and I recognize the value of building relationships in these spaces. I am deeply committed to listening to parents regarding their concerns about the needs of their children as well as understanding the support necessary to build a warm, welcoming environment, from the classrooms to the faculty lounges. I know the importance of listening and making people feel heard while providing solutions in the most challenging situations. I am confident that with the help of community leaders, teachers, parents, students, district staff, and administrators, we can make Unit 4 a great place for every child to learn and grow."

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

"I think our district's greatest strength lies within our teachers. We have incredibly dedicated, thoughtful, innovative, and brilliant minds working in our classrooms and transforming our students. We should take great pride in these assets and do a better job at communicating these successes within our community."

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

"I think we need to study our schools of choice model and determine where it is helping us and where it is creating barriers. I believe there is a great opportunity to work with the community to better understand how it might work better and to learn from peer institutions that have more successfully integrated a school choice model. It would be beneficial to parents if the system were more 'user-friendly' and easy to understand."

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

"Class size capacities are critical to both student and teacher success. I believe in maintaining smaller classes, particularly in the K-3 levels as recommended by the seminal research report by STAR in the '80s. This report concludes that students in smaller classes experience greater success than those in larger classes. This is particularly important to address the racial achievement gap where marginalized student groups experience the largest increase in success rates."

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

"I do not believe that having armed officers in schools will provide the kind of protection sought by the public. The addition of firearms in schools has not proven to add any level of safety nor have they been successfully used to prevent mass shooting tragedies. I think that more program integration with community groups such as the CU Trauma and Resiliency Initiative provide far greater resources for our students and their families as well as help to transform the dialogue in our community."

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

"I think we need to have a more transparent and easy-to-understand outlet for community members to hold our district accountable for expenditures. I propose this in the form of an online dashboard that would allow anyone to view what the district has spent money on and how it has budgeted for future expenses. Justification for expenses will be readily available for the public to access at any time. In addition, as a board member, I will ensure our bills are reviewed and closely monitored and evaluated for accuracy."

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

"While I very much understand and respect the efforts of the group organizing the North Champaign Academy, I do not support charter schools because I feel they divert critical resources from public schools. They also create systems that oppress students from lower socio-economic statuses and where families in the top income levels are able to afford more expensive schools that offer more resources to support education. If we focus our attention and resources on improving access to quality education for EVERY student, we will ensure future success of our current public schools."

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

"My priority to recruit and retain quality educators is to ensure that we cultivate and maintain positive environments in which teachers can work and develop. Ensuring open lines of communication between faculty and administration/board members will be critical to understand the needs and support required for a successful classroom atmosphere. I will advocate for professional development opportunities specifically requested by teaching staff, and regularly meet with union leadership to ensure these opportunities line up with the needs of their members. I recognize that collaboration is a critical aspect of development; I will work to ensure teachers have the opportunity to learn from one another and find innovative ways to approach lesson planning to inspire students to learn."

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

"I believe our district can better evaluate the money we spend on our administrators to ensure each job of an administrator directly impacts and improves the success of our students. Students are the reason for our schools and every expenditure should be justified with a positive correlation to student success. Funding teachers and supplies to our students should be the primary objective of each new expense. I would need to know more about the specific jobs that are being done by each administrator; if they are removing some of the administrative tasks from teachers and thus providing more time for curriculum work, lesson planning, collaboration, etc., then the money may be well spent."

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