6. Parkway Board of Education election brings controversy
With student participation in politics on the rise across the nation, Parkway’s own Board of Education election approaches. Community members will vote for the two open seats April 3, and the candidates are Jeanie Ames, Amy Bonnett, Kevin Seltzer, Matt Schindler and Jonathan Taylor.
“Elections for the school board usually have a low turnout, especially among younger voters and families,” Schindler said. “Since younger voters and families are the most impacted by the school district, these voters need to participate.”
At the Board Candidate Forum March 12, candidates were asked about current national issues, such as student walkouts and safety in schools. Bonnett, Schindler and Seltzer replied that they support student walkouts, while Ames did not comment and Taylor stated he does not support them.
“I think there could be a better use of the time of our students,” Taylor said. “I appreciate that the students want to get involved–it’s great to see them paying attention to current topics, but I’m not sure what a walkout accomplishes. I think 17 minutes spent speaking in class would be more useful.”
These student walkouts across the nation are in response to the outbreaks of mass shootings, especially at schools like Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In the wake of these shootings, some government officials have called for schools to arm teachers. While all candidates stressed an increase of security measures to combat gun violence, Seltzer, Taylor, Schindler and Bonnett stated that they do not want to arm teachers, while Ames did not comment.
“Something we can absolutely do [to keep schools safe] is to keep guns out of our schools. I feel very strongly that guns have no place in our schools. Our teachers are paid to teach, not to be security guards,” Seltzer said. “[As a school board], we can modify our buildings with security. We can ensure that our staff and students are prepared in the event of an incident so that people know what to do and what is expected of them. Finally, I think we can include our students. I think the lesson of Parkland is that these are the students’ schools, and they have a voice. They should be heard, and they should be involved in the effort to keep these schools safe.”
Similar to the issue of safety in schools, Taylor wants to address mental health more thoroughly in Parkway schools.
“I would like to see an increased incorporation of mental health education as part of the core curriculum for all students, including increased access to trained professionals that can help students and staff learn to identify warning signs for potential [harmful] situations,” Taylor said. “I would form an advisory group composed of experts in this area, parents and staff to research opportunities for improvement and deliver a recommended plan of action to the school board.”
Candidate Bonnett wants to specifically combat bullying by training staff, working with students and continuing discussions on cyber-bullying.
“All administrators and staff should be trained to listen to student concerns. When student concerns are consistently validated, students will be comfortable talking to administrators,” Bonnett said. “Students are perceptive. They know when administrators and students truly care about them.”
Schindler wants to focus on the financial needs of the district, as well as the opportunities and resources students and teachers need.
“I wish to ensure the Parkway district has the resources to adapt to the changing educational needs of students,” Schindler said. “I plan to have a firm grasp of the district’s finances to ensure that the financial strength of the district continues, while at the same time encouraging teachers and administrators to explore new, research-based methods to expand educational opportunities [for students].”
While Ames chose not to comment on the controversy surrounding her social media, one issue she spoke about was unequal opportunities amongst students. She believes there should be a higher emphasis on district-wide college preparation through programs like SPARK!.
“There has been a shift in priorities, from academic achievement in Parkway students to contrived and fallacious social justice programs which seek to raise achievement in only specific populations of students. Inclusion is incredibly important for all students, and programs like SPARK! encourage students to work outside their comfort zones,” Ames said.
Students who are 18 years old by April 3 can register to vote and participate in local politics.
“It is never too early to learn about how our democracy works and the issues that are important in our community. School board elections and local politics are the foundation of national government and policies,” Bonnett said. “The importance of an educated voter and active community participation through voting cannot be overstated.”