DeKalb School District 428 School Board candidate Twangie Smith submitted this questionnaire, answering the Daily Chronicle's questions in the 2017 DeKalb District 428 School Board race.
Name: Twangie Smith
Office sought: District 428 School Board Member
1) Why are you running for school board?
I am running for school board member because community volunteerism is who I am and how I live. I been actively volunteering in whatever community I’ve lived for the past twenty years. I’ve been volunteering with children specifically for at least ten years. And, I intend on being a proactive member for the betterment of this community, especially for our children. Being a member of the school board gives me one of the greatest opportunities to help make a positive impact in the lives of our children in an effort to give them the greatest chances of being highly productive citizens in our community as well as the world.
2) Were you satisfied with how the school board handled the controversy that led to the removal of its superintendent earlier this school year?
I understand that when unlawful and/or unethical allegations against an employee, which includes someone from an administrative staff, are made, there must be some immediate action taken, especially when there seems to be an immediate danger present toward another involved. I also understand “due process.” So the initial response of the board seems satisfactory. But as for the terms of the separation agreement, I was not there when decisions were made, and am not privy to all of the details that were exposed that lead as to why those terms were agreed upon. So I am not able to say whether that agreement is satisfactory or not at this time.
3) What qualities would you look for in a new superintendent?
I would like for the new superintendent candidate to be a school principal/assistant principal, or someone with a great amount of experience in governing a vast body of minor-aged students, who has a good leadership track record as well as a thorough knowledge of a school budget. A principal who is known for leading an academically productive student body: effectively leading the teachers who teach that productive student body – as well as having a good working relationship with his/her school staff; and, effectively communicating and having a trusting relationship with the parents/caregivers of that student body is who I’d look for.
I would also like a candidate who wants to make cultural diversity and equal opportunity education for all students a top priority in his or her district.
4) What, if anything, can the school board do to reduce the tax burden on homeowners?
A possible but effective answer to this question is to try to stimulate the growth of the DeKalb community by making the city more desirable in public education. It is, or course, not an overnight fix. And it probably will take a little time. But, with plans that focus on higher graduation rates and increased academic performance starting in the elementary grades, it might give students the encouragement needed to not only do “good” in school, but to stay in school. Thus, it would increase the drop-out rate, as well make the city of DeKalb more appealing to potential homeowners looking for a good school district.
5) Does the district do enough to respect and celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity of its students?
From what I’ve seen, at this time, I’m going to say no. Instead of eliminating traditional American holidays, we should be adding celebrations and acknowledgements of the different cultures of the diverse student population that we have in District 428. That way, we get to know more about our neighbors and friends within our community here in the DeKalb school district.
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 don’t agree. One reason being that I don’t think the reasoning totally matches the actions. To my knowledge, holiday celebrations at the elementary school level were eliminated because they were non-academic events. If this is the case, why then were they not eliminated across all levels including middle school and high school?
Also, we want to ensure our children have some of the same great experiences we had growing up. We, in turn, as part of our culture, tell our children stories of what a fun and exciting place school was for us. And, who says that celebrating our children with traditionally fun activities is not a learning process? I believe holidays as such teach our children about traditional cultures that many choose to participate in every year. It also teaches certain social etiquette, sharing and even caring about others.
7) As a school board member, how will you approach teacher contract negotiations?
One of the top priorities of the board concerning the budget is to help ensure that funds are properly allocate to their perspective places; teachers contracts included. And in doing so, I will help to ensure our board listens and makes fair and sound decisions concerning the negotiation process with teacher contracts. Understanding, and respectful communication and response from all sides is needed.
8) Does the school district do a good enough job promoting the positive things that its students achieve?
Having served as a substitute teacher in several of the elementary buildings at various times, I believe at the individual school level of the elementary schools at least, our district does try to showcase student achievement as much as possible. I have heard school principals over the PA systems giving much praise for accomplishments achieved by individual students, whole classrooms and their school as a whole. I have also read about such recognition within school news letters.