Candidate Questionnaire: Lea Steed

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RISE Colorado did not edit or alter candidate’s responses in any way.

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1. Aurora is a unique and ever-changing community. Based on your research and understanding of key issues in Aurora Public Schools, what are the top priorities or concerns you have that you’d want to address and what do you see as the strongest assets of this school community?

There are over 15,534 children in North Aurora, we were having difficulty identifying and selecting African American and Latino boys as scholarship recipients for the Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund Scholarship to Colorado State University. Using state-level data from the Colorado Department of Education and national data from the United States Department of Education,  reading and math test scores for various ethnic and racial populations as well as for students from low-income families in Aurora revealed 80% of the students qualified for free and reduced lunch and less than 42% of tenth grade high school students were proficient in reading (CDPHE, 2010). Overall, there is an achievement gap not only in CSAP scores, but also in college entrance exams ,discipline,  advanced placement courses, and graduation rates.

2. As you know, in the 2016-2017 school year there were 19 schools on the accountability clock. What will you do to improve the lowest performing schools and keep them from closing? What strategies do you have to increase academic achievement in Aurora?
3. A strong connection between high-level decisions made on the school board and the day to day realities of teachers, students, and families is essential. How are you connecting to teachers, students, and families at the school level? How will you remain connected while on the board?

I currently work as a parent organizer for Great Ed and Community Organizations aligning together, as well as a parent for two teenage daughters in public schools all of these roles afford me the privilege and obligation to be connected to teachers, parents, students and school leaders. I currently attend several parent and educator led forums to improve performance of students with special needs, behavior problems and underperforming in math and reading.  As a school board member I will be able to heighten my voice and representation of parents,  children and families in Aurora bringing together school leaders, administrators, school board members and parents to rebuild our schools and ensure all children thrive in and outside of the classroom to achieve their highest potential.

4. In recent years, we have seen improvements to academic achievement in Aurora Public Schools. However, transformative change and widespread improvements remain to be seen. Why are so many Aurora Public Schools in the situation we currently see with low performance? What is the Board of Education’s role in serving those students of those schools and what were the root causes that brought us to this point?

Gentrification has had a significant impact on Aurora Public School, city and county services,  all of which weren’t prepared for the influx of minority, immigrant, refugee and low income children and families.  Bias, discrimination and nationalism prevented school leaders from having a global, realistic and innovative approach to academic performance. Aurora Public school leaders and board must create and employ equitable and innovative strategies to combat academic performance by funding tutoring services, school readiness,  reading coachings, lower student teacher ratios,  community resources and  moore to meet the needs of all students.

5. Considering the diversity in Aurora and the fact that new students and families arrive to the public education system daily from other countries, how do you intend to support new students and families with integrating into Aurora Public Schools successfully?

I believe there should be better coordination and referral of services with the US office of Resettlement local churches, schools and community agencies providing services for immigrants and refugees.  An interagency resettlement, education and adaptation process will help to ensure new families and students have a basic knowledge and understanding of the integration process including but not limited to food access, health care, education and schooling,  criminal justice, and basic needs.

6. Many families express the desire for additional extracurricular activities for their children. Tutoring, clubs, enrichments activities, and sports all contribute to a holistic education experience for students. How would you support additional extracurricular activities for students from Preschool-12th grade?

I think it’s important to collaborate with community organizations providing out of school and after school programing to provide after school activities.  These community private public partnerships can expands kids access to programming in the sciences, performing and digital arts,  technology and more.  This can also improve parental engagement as parents can decide what type of programing to provide and expand.

7. Students continually express concerns around bullying and racism in Aurora Public Schools. If you become an APS School Board Member, how will you ensure the safety of all students in APS and help to build an anti-racist and anti-bullying community among students, families, and teachers from different cultures?

As women of color and long time resident of Aurora I too have been discriminated against.  School board members and leaders must celebrate diversity, inclusivity and the human potential of all children. As a school board member I would look have have greater partnerships with Kaiser Family Foundation and Safe to Tells, the NAACP and Welcome centers, Aurora Human rights  anti bullying program race and equity forum to assist in evaluating APS current HR, discipline and academic policy for institutional bias or discrimination.  Further I would support each local school leader to implement monthly programing to celebrate the diversity of our families and students.

8. Based on the diversity in Aurora, how would you leverage the assets of the community to provide support to schools such as interpretation, jobs as Paraprofessionals, and mentoring opportunities for students from community members who speak their same language and reflect the student population?

I would look for potential ways to expand the community in schools partnership. Through conversations with school leadership and review of school improvement plans, the community in schools affiliate, site coordinator, businesses,  and community partners should  collaborate to recruit volunteers for tutoring programs, food and clothing banks, assist with translation and provide employment opportunities.  I believe when we bring the right people to the table, we are able to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Please respond Yes or No to the following questions and provide an explanation.
9. Families and students often struggle to receive the interpretation and translation services they need to interact with teachers and engage about academic achievement. Would you support an increased budget for interpretation and translation services to support ELL students and families across the district? Yes or No? Please explain your answer.

Yes, the population of English language learners (ELLs) has grown dramatically throughout the United States.  ELLs are a diverse group whose needs vary significantly.  ELLs’ needs, strengths, and challenges can vary dramatically, even within the same classroom or among students from the same school district.  ELLs’  students have strong literacy skills in their native language and high levels of personal responsibility, resilience, resourcefulness, and commitment to success. However, having an effective way to evaluate and educate students is directly related to funding.

10. The community-led resolution to support students regardless of immigration status passed on May 16, 2017. Here is a link to the resolution: APS Resolution. Would you have voted in support of this resolution? Yes or No? Please explain your answer and provide your thoughts about the resolution.

Yes, The resolution directs the school district to ensure officials are not collecting information about the legal status of students or their families, that they keep schools safe for students and families.

The resolution also calls for district officials to write a plan for how to react if an immigration enforcement action prevents a parent from picking up a student from school.  Children spend 80% percent of their waking hours in school,  in order  for children to learn they must feel and know they are safe and out of harm’s way.  The resolution presented by APS sent a loud message to families and immigration enforcement that classrooms, schools and places of living are sacred and celebrated for their diversity and inclusivity.

11. Do you plan to engage the community’s voice, ideas, and opinions in decisions made by the Board of Education? Yes or No? Please explain why and how.

Yes, as Aurora Public Schools continues to grow and improve, it is important to consistently strive to exceed and meet great expectations. However this cannot be achieved without taking our families and our community into consideration. As a school board member I plan to hold community voice sessions, for parents and community members to give input on different areas that relate to how well their students are doing, and what the district can be doing better to improve achievement. District officials will be in attendance at each session to engage in conversations about focus areas related to student achievement, performance. I foresee hosting 12 monthly community voice sessions to discuss english language learners, advanced academics,  social and emotional needs of children, behavior and discipline,  special education, nutrition services and food access, literacy,  math,  preschool, k-12 education, career and college readiness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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