Responses below are from the candidates and have not been edited. All candidates for a race who chose to respond were asked the same questions.
I’m the mom of a current USD 259 student, the wife of nearly 20 years to Benjamin Terrill and our family has lived in district 6 for over 20 years. I attended USD 259 schools for some of my K-12 education and attended Wichita State University for my college education. I oversee the contact center and interactive services teams at Meritrust Credit Union as the Director of Member Support Services. I have nearly 20 years of financial services experience and was recently recognized as one of the Wichita Business Journal’s 2021 Women In Business honorees. I am a writer for International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), an international online contact center resource. I’m a contributing member of the following organizations: Equality Kansas, League of Women Voters, Sedgwick County Democratic Women, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Human Rights Campaign (HRC). You can learn more about me at www.KansansForHolly.org.
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What specific Wichita Public Schools issues deserve your immediate attention and how do you plan to address them?
I am a proponent for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives that support individuals with disabilities, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. This drive to stand up for people whose voices and needs are often ignored is what led me to run for office. I would like to focus on providing resources and education to teachers, paras, and administrators to ensure they understand the different needs of students to create a welcoming, affirming, and equitable approach to education. In addition, I’d like to provide educational and mental wellness resources to students to ensure they know that they have value. Sometimes the most important thing an adult can do is to affirm that a child is exactly where they need to be regardless of where we believe they should be.
What are your thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic has changed schooling? Include your thoughts on masks, social distancing, remote learning, and anything you would have done differently.
I understand that education today is more complex than ever before and past approaches may not meet today’s challenges. It was evident from this past year that students benefit from in-person learning but there should be an option to utilize remote learning in situations such as quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or when schools have to close unexpectedly, like they did recently when the city water main ruptured. Remote learning isn’t ideal, but to remove the option for learning when students are unable to be in class sets students up to fall further behind. I also believe it’s important to trust the science surrounding the COVID-19 virus. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends universal indoor masking for all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. According to the CDC, vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing regular testing and access to vaccinations can help schools continue to maintain in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
What is your stance on critical race theory, knowing that USD 259 does not currently teach it?
Critical race theory is a university level theoretical curriculum and therefore it will not be taught in K-12 schools. Fear of CRT being possibly taught in K-12 schools has led some legislatures to enact laws that criminalize the teaching of CRT. I discourage Kansas legislature from imposing legislation that may cause educators to be fearful to teach in inclusive ways that are affirming and anti-racist, helping to eliminate barriers to education for students no matter what financial situation they are in, the color of their skin, what part of the city they live in, their gender identity, their religion, or lack thereof. I believe it’s important to teach history and to remember where we came from so we can do better now that we know better.
Would you change how much the school district spends on its different departments (teachers, safety, special education, etc.)? If so, how?
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend changing the percentage allocated to each department within the school district. I would like to carefully consider where any increases to the budget will be spent. In 2019 the Kansas Legislature approved a law that would increase Kansas’s spending on schools by approximately 90 million dollars per year through the 2022-2023 school year. I would like to see additional increased funding spent on mental health resources for educators, administrators and students along with additional equity in education training to help educators enhance the experience for students with unique educational needs.