We asked ELi readers to submit questions for the seven candidates for the East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Education. We selected five (some questions were duplicated) and will run candidate responses to those questions this week. The answers have not been edited.
Question 3: Name two things you think the Superintendent is handling well and two things you believe she could be doing better.
Erin Graham: When the superintendent assumed her role, the community that was still reeling from a school closure and reconfiguration, and it was also embroiled in contentious teacher contract negotiations. These are not easy circumstances under which to start as a superintendent, and our superintendent has sought to learn about the community in order to better address some of the fallout from these issues. For example, she hosted a Listen and Learn tour in which she elicited community members' thoughts about the future of the District. She has also supported partnerships with MSU, which have led to better educational opportunities for our students. The superintendent is now working on improving communication within the District and with the community. She is also working on building better relationships throughout the District.
Mike Conlin: As a non-incumbent candidate, I don’t have enough information to access the superintendent’s performance.
Hillary Henderson: I am running for re-election because it is time for the East Lansing Board of Education to return its focus to the intended role of policy makers for the District to support our highly qualified, trained and capable staff.
Dr. Thompson is a student advocate, which you can tell the minute you speak with her. She continues to bring new programming to our schools in a variety of ways including AVID, Title I, Project Lead the Way and several others.
As a District, one focus should be on communication with the community and staff.
Kath Edsall: Shortly after being hired, Dr. Thompson hired a new principal for Donley elementary. Dr. Thompson made an excellent choice in Tracy Barton who has worked very hard to implement culturally competent positive behavioral supports, school wide Title 1 and has stabilized the teaching staff. This is one of several excellent hires by the superintendent.
Dr. Thompson also handled the MSU cyclotron field trip situation very well. She called out the bias in the policy that forbid participation by students form select Islamic and Socialist countries and her actions forced a change in this policy.
Dr. Thompson is a first time superintendent and new to the East Lansing community. She is still learning to work with all the stakeholders in this community including teachers, parents and community members. She has been building relationships and needs to continue to do so.
Related to this is a need for continued communication. [Editor’s note: this response was truncated because it exceeded the specified word limit.]
Robert Clark: After coming into a tumultuous school environment here at East Lansing, Dr. Thompson has taken strong efforts to address LGBTQ issues at the High School and is looking to expand them into Macdonald as well. She has made a point to focus on inclusion in our schools. She has also made strong efforts to build connections to the community, and effort that I applaud. I feel though she could be a stronger and more visible leader, however I cannot fault her for her consensus building approach.
Nichole Martin: Dr. Thompson does an amazing job building relationships with students. It is through those relationships that Dr. Thompson has been able to empower creativity, independent thinking and helped to generate a collective community of engaged and informed students. Dr. Thompson is one of the most engaged and visible administrators in our school district, which has helped to form relationships with students, teachers and parents.
Dr. Thompson has the foresight to assist our district in moving up the academic ladder. Though not from a lack of trying, she has struggled to build positive relationships with the BoE as a whole. If she could overcome the embedded strife present among current Board members, I believe she would have more time to focus student success rates and take a more prominent stance on the support of minority students.
Kyle Guerrant: Dr. Thompson has made progress in numerous areas during her two year tenure as superintendent. Starting with her listening tour when she was first hired, Dr. Thompson has continued to authentically engaged parents, community members, and especially students to foster a shared vision of education in the District. Dr. Thompson has also worked hard to expand district educational programs like the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program and improving the District's Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). While I have noticed improvement since Dr. Thompson became superintendent, ongoing communication with parents could improve. The Superintendents administrative team is small, so I know capacity is an issue, but think more proactive communication should be a focus.
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