"We Can Do It! Pursuing a great education for all Wichita's children."
I don't pretend to be an expert on all the below issues and understand that if elected, I may get "schooled" on some of these positions and change my mind. That is part of the process, and one I will take on with integrity and compassion. I also want people to know what I am thinking now (transparent)- engage me in conversation is you disagree, I welcome that. I want to represent our community's values and vision.
LIST OF ISSUES
Issues Included: Educator Morale, Transparency, Connecting with Wichita, State Testing, Student Behavior, LGBT Issues, Pro Life, Equity/ Title 1 funding
USD 259 has hard working, effective, highly trained educators in it's buildings (I purposely say Educator, because our school's Paras, Psychologists, Counselors, LREs, Social Workers and Administration are all crucial to learning in our buildings). We are blessed to be surrounded with professionals who are so committed to the learning and futures of our City's students. We need to do a better job as a School Board and a District in communicating this respect, admiration and gratitude to our teachers and staff.
The best way to do that (the way you and I would most want to be recognized) is with money, but tight budgets and consistent shortfalls from the State have made pay increases too few and far between (no one locally's fault). Are we doing all we can to show our educators other forms of respect? from evaluating work load, allowing teachers to self manage in-service training or providing curriculum that allows professionals to use their judgement in delivering content- there are many ways we can work as a District to increase Educator morale. I want to hear from our staff and ask them how they will best feel encouraged, because an Educator who is supported and feels respected is going to function better through a year.
State Testing has changed a lot in the last couple years. The tests have moved to a computer platform, the Common Core Standards have moved the bar higher for our State Tests and we as a District have decreased the amount of information we are sharing with our Parents and to some degree even our staff.
I would like to see more information shared with parents about their children's test performance and I would like to work to get more timely data out of our State so that schools can make any needed changes in "real time" not a year later. We have improvements to make? Yes, let us meet those head on, accept the challenge and show this state and the nation what our kids can do. We have the best teachers in the state (my personal experience) and some wonderful kids, what do they need to be successful? I want to listen and help our schools do their best by encouraging open, honest dialogue and supporting them in any way they need.
This has been a "hot" issue in Wichita schools and is a difficult subject in many school Districts.
As a parent, the only solution I can see is working more/better with families. Children learn respect and appropriate behavior in large part from their families- if children are not able to behave in a respectful way at school we have to have active discussions with that child's support team- at home, in the neighborhood and in the school. There have been programs studied where mediators get a child's family (aunts, uncles, siblings, pastors, neighbors) together and all agree to a course of action with consequences spelled out for everyone if the child's behavior doesn't come into line (in this study they were looking at attendance). We are failing that child and the community that child comes from if we don't hold behavior standards high. Unruly, belligerent children, if not corrected, will not grow up to get high paying jobs- employers are not going to put up with those "attitudes". Schools/teachers should also not have to "put up" with attitude issues that are teachable.
Sometimes this conversation gets confused/muddled with concerns/issues regarding children with special needs- but we do need to handle those situations a bit differently. The family and community still need to be involved, but there is also a longer learning process for many of our kids who struggle with appropriate behavior due to cognitive issues. Our Special Needs classrooms need to be supported to help children develop those appropriate and employable behaviors as well as be staffed so that all people are safe.
I look forward to seeing input into this issue from my communities and hearing other solutions.
Equity/Title 1 Funding
Each School District has it's own challenges and assets to use in helping their children succeed. USD 259 is the largest and most Urban school District in Kansas and that brings with it many challenges that face our families, students and teachers. One of the tools each District in the state has to help students overcome these challenges is a federal funding stream called Title 1.
Currently Wichita concentrates it's Title 1 funds to a limited number of schools with the highest percentages of children with free and reduced cost lunches. There are good reasons for this, and I admit I don't know all of them, but I do think that we need to look at this policy and consider distributing these funds with a greater focus on tying funds to students with needs. This means that instead of the top 10 out of 100 schools getting all the funding, most schools would receive some funding and allow schools to augment opportunities for kids with need. This has it's limits too- there is a balance that needs to be struck when a school would receive so little funds as to not be impactful. But currently too few students are benefiting from this equity creating tool.
Our laws are set up so that public officials have to meet in public to make decisions that affect the public. The media and citizens get to come; questions, ideas and thought processes are explored out in the open. I would like to see this kind of open, transparent discourse increase in our School Board. We should be asking more questions, disagreeing with one another (kindly), and seeking input from the experts of our District in public. This process allows all parties to see and hear just how a decision came to be at the School Board level, this is the intent of the open meetings law. I am not afraid of respectful discussion with someone I don't agree with, I believe different opinions, thoughts and values are important as they are all represented in our District's students.
I do think we should limit consent to the items that are truly rote in nature. Items such as easements and policy changes should be discussed, even if briefly.
Connecting/Communicating with Wichita
A School Board Member is a part of a team, we have 7 Board Members who work as a group to guide policy, hire the "doer" the Superintendent and advocate for our schools to the Community.
As the At Large School Board Member, I will continue to reach out to our community by establishing input sessions for each District in our City. Under Joy Eakins and Julie Hedrick (Dist. 2 Board Members) I have organized and hosted these feedback sessions. They have been a very valuable tool for our Board Members and our District. Every District in Wichita should be heard.
Since I last ran, I have not sat idle. I currently serve on the Wichita Transit Advisory Board, am still active in City District 1 as President of College Hill Neighborhood Association and will use those relationships and knowledge of our City to leverage opportunities for Wichita's students.
Going to the buildings and meeting staff, students and seeing the work being done on the ground is a vital part of leadership in our schools. I want to hear firsthand what issues are pressing for my District's buildings and bring that perspective to the School Board table.
I also want to meet with business leaders in our City. The future employers of Wichita and Kansas have a big stake in the outcomes our District produces. Will they have the staff to hire in 3-4 years to keep them productive and successful as a company? What skills do they see needing in 10 years? where are the gaps, or strengths they see in our graduates today? We need to stay connected with all areas of our community and I've shown a track record in seeking out those connections and building those relationships for good outcomes.
Equity Kansas survey (LGBTQ issues)
As I've said, I want to be transparent. I want to serve as a "normal" Kansas voter, mom and mother of different kinds of kids. So I'm posting the answers I made to a survey I received from Equality Kansas. Some may agree with me, some may not- that is going to happen. But I am not afraid of the discussion, I welcome it- when we get together and speak with one another listening more than we speak we will unite for our common goal, which is excellent education for all Wichita children. Please go to Trish Hileman facebook page to see the image of the survey.
Because I believe that children are children long before birth, I am Pro Life. I absolutely think that women should have control over their own bodies, until another person becomes involved, then both these persons needs must be considered. I am not however, just Pro Birth- I also believe that our government should not condemn people to death in prisons (there are too many opportunities for error), I believe that we should strive to ensure that people threatened by wars are given safe refuge. I am a Christian and as such, I believe God is at work in people's lives, only He should determine the end of their life on Earth. If we disagree, I still respect you for your beliefs, I welcome the conversation.