Joseph Shepard – Candidate for USD 259 Board – At Large


Biographical Information:

  • Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life, Newman University
  • Wichita City Council District 1 Advisory Board
  • City of Wichita Grants Review Committee
  • Board of Directors for the Kansas African American Museum and Humankind Ministries

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

Campaign website/Facebook: Shepard USD 259

What specific USD 259 issue deserves your immediate attention and how do you plan to address it?

With 76% of our children coming from homes of poverty according to federal guidelines, it is imperative that we would expand the district restorative justice and trauma-informed practices to address the root of the trauma our students may be experiencing as a result of their social economic status. We know that students are unable to perform at an academic proficient rate when their mental health is not where it should be.

I plan to address this by working with the district and other school board members to implement healing-centered engagement which helps us move from “why” a student may have behavioral problems to “how” do we help address the root of the behavioral problem in order to decrease recidivism rates of repeat offenders.

Secondly, I believe it is imperative to continue to increase engagement from families, community members and leaders. It takes a village to raise a child and in order to keep our schools strong as well our educators and support staff feeling respected, we must engage various factions.

Teachers have expressed concern about low morale. What are the problems? How would you address them?

While I have seen an increase in teacher morale since the appointment of Dr. Alicia Thompson, we know that increasing teacher morale is an adaptive challenge that will take more than Dr. Thompson and her team to address it.

As a BOE member, it is my goal to ensure leaders within our city and state respect and value the work of our educators. I plan to build bridges with various community leaders in hopes of getting them more engaged in our schools so they can see first-hand the life changing work our educators are doing for our students.

Furthermore, it is imperative to intentionally give our teachers a voice in the decision making process and encourage them to empower their voice on all things USD 259. I plan to host town hall meetings 2 times a year to give community members, educators and support staff the opportunity to engage with me as a BOE member, if elected.

Share your thoughts on the new grading system: Standards Referenced Grading.

I believe Standards Referenced Grading is a step in the right direction as it ensures that our students are proficient in their core knowledge skills before moving on to the next subject or even grade level. It is crucial that we prepare our students to be workforce ready; therefore, we must diligently implement a grading system that holds us as a district accountable.

With every new system we pilot there will be kinks we will need to work out. I do believe we should look into how this new grading system will impact our special education students and educators as well as consider what we will do to challenge students who are performing beyond the proficiency level for someone of their age/grade.

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

It takes building authentic relationships and connections with students in order to effectively address their needs. More importantly, we need leaders at the table who can identify with the struggles of today’s generation. We must proactively work to create programs and initiatives that intentionally carve out spaces to meet the needs of our students similar to Northwest High School “For the Culture” program which focuses on increasing the graduation rate of African American males through leadership, professional development and exposing participants to successful leaders in our community who look like them. Lastly, we need to increase family engagement. I plan to do this by being a boots on the ground board member who will meet families where they are by knocking doors in communities throughout the year and being visible at community events.

How do you think USD 259 should respond to calls for more inclusion for LGBT students?

The world walks our hallways in USD 259. We must implement policies and protocol that ensure the safety and security of the world reflective in our schools. As a BOE member, my responsibility is not to challenge or change the beliefs of our students, parents or community members. However, it is my job to challenge and change practices that hinder our students, educators and support staff from feeling safe. I believe we should implement a non-discriminatory policy and look to our neighboring districts, community organizations and leaders for guidance.

What is your vision for USD 259?

My vision for USD 259 is to be the best district in not only the state, but the country. I want to ensure each child who walks through our doors receives a quality education that will prepare them for the future endeavor of their desire. I want our school district to be seen as a contributor to our local economy because we produce leaders who excel in all that they do. Furthermore, I aspire to create a district that drives people to Wichita. I want to help re-write the narrative of our public schools by creating an inclusive district with record breaking graduation rates, increased reading proficiency rates and engaged families who are committed to helping every child dream, believe and achieve.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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