Erin Graham was appointed to her seat on the East Lansing School Board in June, 2015. The Michigan State University history professor was tapped to finish the term of Nathaniel Lake.
As her term was finishing, she wasn’t sure if she would run for a full four year term. However, she finally came to the decision that her work on the future of East Lansing’s schools wasn’t complete.
Among the top items on her “to-do” list are expanding on work toward restorative justice within the school system by reducing the suspensions and expulsions of students. She would like to see Silent Crisis training to increase the safety of LGBTQ students. And she would like to see the District expand its relationship with MSU to allow them access to the vast resources of a major research university.
“We could do so much by growing that partnership with MSU and offering our kids amazing educational opportunities,” she said. “We need to collaborate with MSU and keep the lines of communication open.”
The District’s best asset is its teachers, Graham said, and they need to be heard, respected and adequately compensated. This spring, Graham helped create a dialog on reducing the achievement gap by calling on the expertise of her husband, teacher education professor David Stroupe, and others at Michigan State University.
“We need to keep making sure our teachers are supported,” she said. “We have to foster relationships of trust and respect throughout the District.”
To this end, she hopes the District can unify against moves from the State level to “de-professionalize” teachers, the increasing number of mandated testing of students and linking teachers’ compensation to “student growth.”
“It is critical that Board members understand how to mitigate at the local level those State policies that are harmful to teaching and learning,“ Graham wrote, remembering the days when her husband was a middle school teacher and often spent many hours outside of school to ensure his students were safe and educated.
What she hopes to bring in the Board with another term is her ability to research data, learn from the past and remain open to other thoughts and opinions. She supports efforts to make the District inclusive and increase equality for all students. She believes East Lansing’s diversity is what makes it so attractive and is a strength that the District needs to rely on.
“I believe in dialogue, particularly about complex issues,” she wrote. “Since my time on the Board, I have listened and continually engaged in dialogue with fellow Board members, District employees and community members. I believe that this approach is critical to being an effective member of the Board of Education.”
Graham moved to East Lansing in 2013 and is the mother of two East Lansing schools children.