2022 School Board Candidate Q&A: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Lowell’s First Look met individually with all 8 candidates running for a position on the School Board for Lowell Area Schools, and who will appear on the ballot on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  There are three seats up for election by voters. In addition to our interview, we sent each candidate the same set of questions. In the weeks leading up to the election, we will bring you responses to the questions we asked in addition to a candidate profile. Answers are published verbatim and have not been edited. We asked candidates to keep their responses to around 200 words.

How do you think the district should approach the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Jared Blough
The topics could be incorporated into different class curriculums on a neutral bases. It does not need to be a larger focus.

Jessica Curtis
While there may not be a clear path to properly addressing issues related to DEI, the district is committed to the continued exploration of increasing knowledge with the goal of benefitting all students. The district needs to continue to discuss as administers, teachers, staff, and parent to define a clear understanding of what we are working towards.  

Jennifer Dougherty
I believe that it is important to try to understand other’s perspectives and for people to realize that not everyone has the same background and life experiences. It is easy to think that if we feel safe, secure and in control of a situation, everyone else will feel that way too. When we learn about life experiences that are different from ours, we are better able to identify situations that might make others feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. When given the opportunity to see different perspectives, teachers will better be able to understand their students and students will be better able to understand their classmates and future coworkers.

Chris German
I think that if I sat down with anyone in our district we would be in agreement that diversity,  equity and inclusion (DEI) are all great things that we want within our schools.  I think where the split becomes is how much it is “pushed” on our kids.  I don’t feel that any child should feel out of place at school or not feel welcome.  Recently I think that some teachers,  with the best of intentions,  have overcorrected past indiscretions that some students have felt which has swung the pendulum to the other side thus making other students feel unwelcome or unwanted.  Each and every classroom should be a welcoming place for all students Specifically calling out specific groups as being welcome unfortunately has potential for adverse affects on others.   

Kyle Hoff
I believe that recognizing diversity and helping students feel included in Lowell Public Schools is a good thing in general. We can all learn from each other’s differences and create an environment of mutual respect where everyone feels part of our school community. However, when this becomes the primary focus of education, I believe it can take away from overall achievement. When it comes to equity, it’s important to distinguish between Equality (equal opportunity) and Equity (equal outcome). I support equality in our schools as we want all students to have the same opportunities for success and to provide the resources needed for them to do their best. Setting a required outcome (equity) for all students, however, limits students from achieving and reaching their full potential and is not the policy that will help make Lowell Schools academically exceptional. 

Parker Liu
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is already part of the LAS district and Board of Education priorities. Although it received special emphasis in recent years with the formation of the DEI committee, LAS has long been committed to ensuring that its classrooms are welcoming and validate the value that each person (student or otherwise ) brings to the learning experience. I believe that LAS should keep DEI as one of its priorities. As a society, we are becoming a more interconnected and diverse community. I believe it is important that the students of LAS understand this diversity and celebrate how these differences make us better as a whole. By extension, I believe it is the district’s responsibility to ensure all students are included no matter their background or upbringing; we cannot achieve our goal of a complete education if we cannot create a safe environment to learn. Finally, I would challenge the LAS district staff to look at ways we can ensure that each student has an equitable experience by providing support to individual students when needed; whether through established processes such as Individual Education Plan or IEP or through creative teaching methods, all students should have a chance to learn in the way that is best for them.

Pat Nugent
In some ways, Lowell could be defined as not very diverse, but in other ways there is great diversity in our population. We need to really focus on each person as an individual. Each child in our schools is specially created as a unique individual. If you focus on the individual and his or her academic success, then strategies for equity and inclusion will naturally be part of the curriculum. Each special education student, for example, has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) which spells out the specific supports that student needs to have an equitable chance at academic success and inclusion in the school program. This philosophy works for the entire student population. We need to be aware of who our students are and what their needs are, and then provide teachers and students with the tools, knowledge, and skills needed to create an environment where everyone can be successful. DEI is not about race; it is about making it possible for every student to have a successful school experience.

Calvin Vander Boon (Note: Calvin Vander Boon’s name will appear on the November ballot, but he has notified us that he is withdrawing his candidacy for the LAS school board.)
Since every student that lives in the district is eligible to attend LAS, I would expect the student population to be representative of the population demographics of the community. I am in full support of diversity, equity and inclusion but I am not at all in support of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). DEI is a highly political set of ideologies and curriculum that is used to disparage people based on their race and to alienate those who refuse to support certain worldviews and behaviors. It is my expectation that all LAS board members, staff and students respect everyone and provide equal opportunities and access to resources. That being said, I also expect that there will be differences in opinions and beliefs due to the diversity of people that are part of LAS.

1 Comment

  1. These are great to read. I loved Calvin’s response. Parkers response had “loaded language”. I remember when a safe environment meant generally a PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY safe environment. Lowell isn’t a large city school the diversity of it is growing because city schools that have integrated all these measures and lowered standards ARE failing and people are moving away to successful schools. We aren’t a global school. It is very easy to respect individuals who are different that doesn’t mean we all need to take a walk in their shoes so that we ourselves feel a certain alway about our own lives or feel “sorry” for them, that isnt compassionate. Jennifer’s response is too based in emotion. I am not saying don’t have emotions only that school decisions in education should not be ruled by emotion. DEI does NOT improve outcomes of academic standards for the group at large. No child left behind has lowered standards to near failing (I’m seeing 5th and 6th graders who can barely read and follow basic instructions on assignments without being told point by point what to do as well as BARELY write). IEPs exist for the students who need additional help and some kids NEED THEIR PARENTS TO TUNE IN and help with their homework, they dont all need IEPs or govt funds. Teachers can’t spend all day wrangling students who don’t want to learn and aren’t able to participate (yes those kids need attention and educationbut not at expense of everyone)…as far as equity goes in those classes the disruptions are catered to at the detriment of the rest of students in class. Everyone is held back. No teacher should infer their room is a “safe space” that is a politically loaded statement. I expect if my student is in class it is generally safe for them AND anyone else. I expect the school isn’t giving access to the internet at large where they can find things they shouldn’t (despite some kids of course having access to smart phones and unrestricted access). Students aren’t there to validate teachers and teachers are not there to undermine my parental rights (I do believe only a handful of teachers/ staff might do this). If my student wants to go by a name other than their given name it is not up to the teacher to infer if it is “unsafe” for me to know, noy child may not deteine they are the opposite gender at school. Rapid onset dysphoria does not need to be incentivized or affirmed via school deciders. If teacher DID think it unsafe for me to know anything about my child it is their duty to report to authorities. Teachers don’t need more social tools and SEL. They need yo go back to having rules, expecting them to be followed and removing students who disrupt the learning process daily (maybe we need more special ed teachers but no one wants to sign up to be hit or screamed at even by elementary students with no recourse). Hoff, German seemed pretty neutral. Curtis has been on the board so I’m interested to know some solutions to they have already discussed on these issues. Elementary students need recess and middle school and high school need outlets like drama, forensics, music, band, art and other creative classes.

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