My Application Letter for the School Board Vacancy -- 2009
December 14, 2009
OASD Board of Education
215 S. Eagle Street
Oshkosh, WI 54901
To the Members of the OASD Board of Education:
I would like to apply for the seat on the Board of Education recently vacated by Michelle Monte. I plan on standing in the April election for the Board and would like to gain experience before that date.
I think that I am a strong candidate for this position for several reasons:
1: I have a great stake in the district as a parent of two children who currently attend Washington Elementary. I have been an active participant at the school for five years. I have served continuously on the school's site council. Through this experience, I learned much about how the school worked and met staff and administrators from all the elementary schools that feed into Webster-Stanley Middle School.
I also volunteer at Washington on a regular basis. In 2008, I met extensively with administrators, both at the school and in the central office, to solve some serious issues in my son's kindergarten class. We arrived at a good solution and made sure that the students in that class received the help that they needed. These discussions helped me understand how the district functions and inspired my desire to become more involved.
In addition, I have met the students and families of my neighborhood as a coach for Oshkosh Youth Soccer. I find that I really enjoy working with these kids and I want them all to succeed. One of the striking things about these elementary school kids is their incredible eagerness to learn. I want to make sure our schools continue to foster that enthusiasm through middle school and into adulthood.
2: I am involved in educational issues at UW Oshkosh, as well. I supervise the Cooperative Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) for the History Department, which allows high school teachers to offer college credits to their students in their own classroom. While OASD does not offer any history courses at the moment, my experience with high school teachers in the area has given me insight into creative instructional practices. On campus, I am actively involved in the questions of higher education. As a member of the Liberal Education Reform Team, I am part of an attempt to rethink the nature of college education on campus, with an emphasis on the general skills that all students need to become good citizens and life-long learners. This reform obviously has implications for K-12 education, as we discuss what sort of preparation is appropriate for our entering students. This gives me a broader educational perspective to bring to the board.
3: A driving factor in my interest in serving on the Board of Education comes from serious concerns about the direction in which the district is heading. In particular, I want to protect small class sizes in Oshkosh. As we study the budget turmoil that the district faces, I think that this may be the crucial issue. Spending time in the classrooms of my children makes it clear to me that students simply get lost in classes filled with too many students. We need to make sure we hold on to our SAGE program and watch numbers even in non-SAGE areas. As a history professor, I am in the classroom constantly. I know that teaching smaller numbers of students in higher grades leads to better outcomes. In small classes, I can give my students personal attention and make sure that both strengths and shortcomings can be addressed. If the district let class sizes rise, our students lose that contact and will not be able to flourish as they might.
I also think we need to protect the character of Oshkosh schools. We need to be fiscally responsible in these difficult times, but if we want Oshkosh to remain a vibrant, prosperous town we need to invest in our children's education. We need to keep families involved to strengthen the learning atmosphere. One of the best ways to do this is to preserve our neighborhood schools so that kids remain as close to their schools as possible. Many families in Oshkosh don't have the time and resources to travel long distances to be part of their children's education. We need to make sure we do what we can to make that easy and rewarding.
Finally, I think we need to change our focus. We need to make sure that we are paying attention to the long-term needs of the district. It is necessary to deal with our current financial crisis, but it must be balanced with a view to the future. Let us make time to think about innovation and improvements to our schools. For example, I would be interested in investigating the placement of math specialists in elementary schools. I have many other ideas, but would like to see the Board spend more time on educational issues.
For all of these reasons, I would make an excellent new member for the OASD Board of Education. The board makes important policy decisions for the schools and I am well-positioned to understand their practical impact. As a parent, volunteer, coach, and professor, I will be deeply invested in making the best decisions for our students and our community.
I will be able to attend the special meeting on December 23 if you would like to discuss this with me then. In addition, please contact me at any time if there is additional information that you need to help with your decision.
This is a crucial time for our school district and our city. Please take the time to find the best candidate who can carefully assess the questions that will come before the Board. I hope that you will find me to be a worthwhile addition over the next few months.