Joseph W. Shepard – Candidate for USD 259 School Board – At Large

Candidates

Biographical Information: 

  • Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life at Newman University
  • Bachelors of Science Degree, Criminal Justice, Masters of Public Administration
  • Wichita City Council District 1 Advisory Board
  • City of Wichita Grants Review Committee
  • Board of Directors for The Kansas African American Museum
  • Board of Directors for Interfaith Ministries
  • Board of Directors for Women’s Health Network
  • President-Elect of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated

Personal Information:  Single, 1 of 6 children, uncle of 5 (4 in USD 259)

Campaign website: Shepard USD for 259, Joseph Shepard for USD 259 Facebook

What specific issue facing Wichita Public Schools do you think deserves your immediate attention and how to you plan to address it?

There are many issues facing our public schools nation-wide that I believe deserves our immediate attention. Nevertheless, the issue I am concerned about the most is ensuring we are focused on the holistic development of all of our children. With 76% of our children and families coming from homes of poverty, it is imperative that we seek to not only use trauma informed approaches and restorative justice practices to address the “why” of our students behavioral problems, but begin to utilize healing centered engagement to understand “how” we help heal the whole child to help our students see what’s right with them vs. what’s wrong with them. Trauma experienced outside of the classroom impacts the social, emotional and mental behaviors of our students; as a result, our students bring that trauma into the schools and classrooms. If our children’s social, emotional and mental needs are not being met, it is difficult for them to learn and teachers to teach.

We must boldly create innovative strategies and initiatives to help serve our children socially and emotionally in order for them to be successful academically.

How do you think the district can improve teacher retention?

Recruitment and retention of our teachers is vital to the success of our students. We must be proactive in sharing the programs and resources available to help those aspiring to become teachers. School board members must work in collaboration with the Superintendent to create stronger partnerships with the surrounding universities education departments to help graduating students pipeline into the district. Furthermore, we must pay our teachers a competitive salary that acknowledges the value of their work and the time they put into our students. In addition to this, teachers should be given more professional development opportunities, mentorship from other seasoned educators within the district and mental health resource benefits. Teachers are doing daunting and difficult work. It’s important to note that they go beyond the call of duty and deserve access to resources that will allow them to present the best version of themselves everyday.

What do you think is the largest obstacle to student success/graduation and how do you plan to address it?

I believe there are two obstacles that prevent the success and graduation of students. I believe it’s engagement from families and finances. It takes a village to raise a child and while schools play a vital role, they are only 1 part of the village. We must engage families and ensure they’re committed to the academic success and holistic development of their student just as much as the schools are. However, with 76% of children and families who are economically disadvantaged, we must acknowledge the barriers that prevent families from being traditionally engaged and work diligently to address those barriers. My plan is to meet families where they are. School board members must be actively engaged in communities in order to build strong levels of demonstrated trust with families to earn and receive their buy-in. Furthermore, I plan to establish an advisory board comprised of community leaders, parents and students to help strengthen communication and buy in from families. I also will hold 2 town halls a year during convenient times for families in order to have more face to face interaction, listen to concerns, answer questions and work together to strengthen our public schools. In regards to the finances, we must work to give tax payers a return on their investment, establish strong relationships with legislators and partner with our local government to advocate for more funding for our schools.

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