Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 YCS Board Candidate: Djeneba (D.J.) Cherif (4-Year Term)

Read more about Djeneba Cherif at

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

- Giving the Community a Voice in Our Schools: Our school system must be an integral part our community. As a community, we need to work alongside our teachers and leaders so that we can once again make our schools the schools of choice.

-Making Schools Safe for Kids and Teachers: Climate and safety are essential to improving the educational achievement of students. Our children can’t learn and teachers can’t teach when school life is disrupted. We need to work to create a school culture and climate that will help our kids be academically successful as well as--eliminating to the greatest extent possible—concerns about individual respect and personal safety.   

What ideas do you have for reducing students' out-of-school days (unexcused absences)?

- Increasing Parental Involvement: Teachers can’t teach our children without help. Students have to be IN school.  Getting parents involved with the academic success of their kids is imperative to the success of our schools. We need to work towards encouraging parent/teacher/district relationships for the benefit of every student in our school district. We must hold students and their parents accountable while fostering a collaborative/collective environment.

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?  What ideas do you have for reducing staff turnover in the coming year?

Turnover causes a shortage and affects the quality of talent. It is proven that schools that successfully retain the best and brightest talent save money and protect their intellectual capital. Turnover is formulated by dissatisfaction, lack of collaboration, poor culture and compensation.  The talent in the district has to believe and feel that their voice has validity. We have to begin to implement innovative strategies that will allow flexibility in the budget to provide attractive packages to our staff. We cannot attract students without a sustainable/powerful talent base (including support staff). As we continue to lose students, we will lose community teachers, causes parents to remove their students; a continuous cycle. Ypsilanti is unique because of the strong relationships built with families. Therefore, we must keep that base robust. I know for a fact that when teachers feel VALUED and APPRECIATED, they will work like crazy. And the sense of value and appreciation can’t just come from our students and parents; it has to be top down.

Are you satisfied with the district’s openness and transparency to parents, employees, and community members/taxpayers? If yes, why? If no, what changes would you propose?

Before moving forward in making important decisions, it is important to ensure that all of the appropriate information is collected/provided that is first reflective of the voices of the affected parties. Education in general must be collaborative and inclusive of all stakeholders in order to be effective. That is the only way to ensure that everyone is driving towards the same goals while keeping the vision of the district in mind. Then, use that input, use your principles of academic excellence, positive culture and decency to make the best decisions. Being approachable and listening has to become a non-negotiable. Ypsilanti Parent, employees, and community members/taxpayers desire that.

Hindsight is perfect, but: whether you are an incumbent, or not: Name one decision that the YCS 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.

-Area of strength: I appreciate/excited about the work of learning and one day becoming a culturally proficient district.

- Area of growth: This is not limited to the last six months. Ensuring that everyone is invested in the mission and vision created for the district (by the board) to ensure that everyone is moving forward collectively as one in the name of our children.

Former staff/former students (e.g. Sharon Irvine, DJ Cherif...): What lessons did you learn from being a staff person or student that you think you would bring to the board and be able to apply?

As a former student, I learned the value of relationships and the importance of HIGH expectations despite external factors which convicted me to act while demonstrating humility. As a first-generation college graduate, I stand on the shoulders of educators and community members who refused to lower expectations.  It was the power of the relationships I shared with my teachers that compelled my mother to bring her children to school every day (We must bring back that conviction to our district.) And to this day, those educators continue to mentor and guide me, even as a candidate. As a proud graduate of Ypsilanti Public Schools, I am no different than the students YCS serves; in fact, I am those students.  I have and will continue to partner with students, parents and teachers to ensure that the opportunities I've experienced are not only unique to me, but are available for every student in Ypsilanti. My hope is to serve not only as board member but a mentor. I want our students to unapologetically believe in the impossible.

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

There are 18 candidates total; 7 of which are candidates seeking seats for the same term as myself. The pool is comprised of urgent/dedicated community members, Ypsilanti parents, my former teacher, board members in which I served with as student representative and so many more. It would be difficult for me to select one person to serve beside.

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