Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 AAPS Board Candidate: Susan Baskett

Read more about Susan Baskett at:

Staff morale has been an issue in the school district. How do you think the board should monitor and respond to staff morale issues, if at all? Given that the majority of district staff are teachers, should teachers be treated differently (better OR worse) than other staff people in the district?

Working with the superintendent, the Board should absolutely monitor and respond to staff morale issues.  Board members should encourage engagement with staff, welcome invitations to speak with the staff when and wherever possible.  For example, I have attended the teachers’ elementary and secondary caucus meetings.  The teachers have been very frank about their feelings.  They have provided clear feedback and their desires.
All of our staff members should be treated equally.  The teachers are the best organized in terms of knowing who represents them and how to gain their feedback.  However, I have attended meetings of all of the bargaining units who have invited me.  For those bargaining units who have not invited me, I communicate to their members via informal channels.  I get to know who’s who, where.  I make it known that I am accessible and that I want to learn from those on the front lines.

What is your position on the amount of standardized testing currently conducted by AAPS (Too much, just right, too little)? What is your attitude toward parents opting out their students from standardized tests that are not state-mandated? What is your attitude toward parents opting out their students from standardized tests that are state-mandated?

Parents are their students’ first teachers.  I do not feel that parents or students should be made uncomfortable for taking or NOT taking any tests.  Parental wishes should be respected.

The superintendent’s task force on testing revealed that the administration did not do its best when it rolled out the NWEA testing.  This caused mistrust, confusion and anger.  This year, the administration will make more of an effort to communicate why tests are given and their purpose.

Aside from the budget, what are your two top priorities for the Ann Arbor schools?

1.  Student Achievement and supporting the new initiatives towards addressing this.
2.  Minimizing the district’s participation in the school to prison pipeline.

What is your opinion regarding the annexation by AAPS of the Whitmore Lake school system? If you had to vote today, how would you vote? What's good about the annexation and what challenges do you anticipate if the annexation is approved?

The proposed plan to annex the WLCS is not in the best interest of the students attending the AAPS.   I voted “no” at the Board table and I will vote “no” at the polling place.  I have actively worked to inform voters and to encourage them to vote “NO”. At this time, the proposed plan to annex the WLCS is not in the best interest of AAPS.  While the plan is proactive on WLCS’s part, it is too premature for the AAPS BoE to have endorsed it.

I have spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of this proposal.  I have printed my thoughts for distribution to the voting public.  You can read my notes here.

Hindsight is perfect, but whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you think was a very good decision; and name one decision that the school board made in the last six months that you wish had been decided differently. (Incumbents may wish to say how they voted on that issue. It's ok if you changed your mind after the fact...) [Ed. Note: Susan Baskett is an incumbent.]

Good decision:  Adopt the superintendent’s initiatives to balance and grow our district through enhancements, not cuts.  The launch of these new initiatives like:  expanding world languages, STEAM at Northside, initiating the developing the IB Programme in southeast Ann Arbor, etc., have created a new excitement among everyone inside and outside the district. 

Bad decision(s):  1) Outsourcing the custodial staff and 2) placing the annexation of WLCS on November’s ballot.

I voted against both of these decisions.  I now hear of at least three former custodians seeking legal help to prevent their families from becoming homeless.  I have only heard of one custodian receiving at least their former pay wages and that’s because she landed a key managerial position with the new company.  

Regarding the annexation question, well, it’s simply not clear how the students of AAPS will immediately benefit from this plan that is not well vetted.  For the long term benefits for to be realized for AAPS, the plan is full of hope and not much substance.

Assuming that you are elected, name one or two other board candidates that you would like to see serve beside you, and explain why.

I would be proud to serve with any of the other candidates.  They each bring talents that can quickly serve the current Board.  We have had and in some cases, still do have former teachers, lawyers, business people, consultants, etc. 
The voters of AAPS will have an opportunity to select up to 4 candidates who will serve as their team to lead the direction of the AAPS.  I am asking for a spot on the team.  I believe I have earned it.  I do my prep work.  I come prepared to advocate for the best for our students.  My experience is unmatched by any of the other candidates.
The families of AAPS are lucky to have such a diverse and impressive group of candidates to choose from.

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