DeKalb School District 428 School Board candidate Shatoya Black submitted this questionnaire, answering the Daily Chronicle's questions in the 2017 DeKalb District 428 School Board race.
Name: Shatoya Black
Office Sought: District 428 School Board
1) Why are you running for school board?
While being involved in the community, I realized that students where facing barriers that served as a hindrance to their ability to excel. There was the concern of self-harming, bullying, and suicide often unspoken. Many students lack the ability to reason, problem solve, and/or advocate regarding their needs and feelings. They lack the sense of belonging because of having to repeatedly defend their differences or because of other personal things they might be encountering. When I realized that it was not an isolated concern I began thinking about ways that I could offer my assistance to help in identifying proactive actions that can be taken to assist. Being a strategic planner, proactive thinker, visionary and servant leader as well as having the personal experience and grit would serve as an asset to a great team willing to work in unity.
2) Were you satisfied with how the school board handled the controversy that led to the removal of its superintendent earlier this school year?
Yes I am satisfied, there were a lot of legalities to consider when making a final decision of how the district as a whole would proceed forward in the process surrounding the controversy. In the meantime we needed to move forward with daily operations as a district, which led to the need of an interim superintendent and decision cannot be made without one in place.
For me, the concern is addressing and dealing with the past. Moving forward in understanding the importance of identifying the approach we will take holistically to make sure that this controversy is not a repeated cycle. This is of priority for our district in the process of building trust through consistent communication, accountability, and transparency that keeps us aligned with policies, while empowering unity in movement. We need to collectively establish an understanding of what our boundaries will be as we work towards being unified in our actions as a district and community.
3) What qualities would you look for in a new superintendent?
The new superintendent should be a visionary leader with the ability to strategically map out a plan for the future and work collaboratively to implement it. He or she should have the ability to work effectively with a team on addressing the needs of the district through organizational leadership. They should display personal characteristics such as integrity, relationship building, and transparency. The new superintendent should have the ability to clearly communicate as well as be a good listener.
4) What, if anything, can the school board do to reduce the tax burden on homeowners?
I do not have all the answers to a long-lasting concern. As a board member you have to be willing to learn. I understand that there is a process and protocol followed to provide recommendations on how the district should proceed forward financially. In my opinion the district can work on being more proactive in there planning approach rather than reactive. I am willing to collectively discuss and strategically plan what this can look like.
5) Does the district do enough to respect and celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity of its students?
There is consistent dialogue about diversity in the community, which is needed. We can be diverse by definition, but not diversified through understanding of cultures and barriers that affect individuals from excelling. I believe we need to allow open dialogue and address the truths. One of things mentioned to me is that as minorities, they are feeling singled out as the people who cause the community and district to decline. There is also the statements made that minorities need to do more or be more involved since they are always complaining. The minute minorities attempt to get involved there become repeated barriers to making sure they do not.
I know that there is a lot occurring nationwide, but let’s address what is happening in our sphere of influence. People express being afraid. Yes, I understand this does not reflect the view of all people on either side, but it is still something that needs to be addressed in my opinion. Every stakeholder voice in this district should be heard regardless of their financial status.
6) Class parties for holidays such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day were eliminated at district elementary schools this year. Do you agree with this policy? Why or why not?
I understand that students are being left out due to parents making the choice for their child not to be involved in the holiday parties, which is their right as parents to do so. I understand the concept behind the decision made by the district.
I do not agree with no parties being a policy. As a parent who did not participate in certain things, due to beliefs, I believe that a balance between the two can be created. An example of this is creating a group game or dance event for the students that are not allowed to participate in the celebration of the holiday. We have to incorporate the parents in an effort to create boundaries between what is the responsibility of the district versus the parents.
7) As a school board member, how will you approach teacher contract negotiations?
Teachers have so much to offer the students that they instruct and know the dynamics of their classroom. There is a \lack of consistency in the district regarding the repeated change in programming, instructional implementation, requirements for testing, and what is expected for teachers on a daily basis. Some communicated feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated, and unsupported. Expectations should be discussed and clearly outlined before there can be negotiations.
8) Does the school district do a good enough job promoting the positive things that its students achieve?
No, the negative has seemed to over shadow the many great things that are occurring in the district. Lately, I do commend the district and community in their efforts to highlight more of the positivity that happens in the district. I hope that this behavior continues consistently moving forward.