Mary Yeboah: Candidate profile
Name: Mary Yeboah
Office sought: CUSD 200 School Board Member
Family: Married with four children
Education: Ph.D. Educational Leadership from the University of Minnesota, Masters in Business Administration from Northern Illinois University, BA in K-12 Art Education from Judson University, Postgraduate certificate in International Baccalaureate Teaching and Learning
Civic involvement: Founder of EDEN Community Library in Accra, Ghana; Volunteer at By the Hand after school program; Member of the Citizens Advisory Committee (resume attached)
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? NA.
* What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you intend to address them?
Some of the most important issues facing our district include rapid changes in technology and social media usage that have created complex challenges to healthy human connection in schools and societies. These shifts also create unprecedented opportunities to educate thoughtful citizens who are more globally aware and motivated to ask important questions and ground their education in meaningful civic engagement. I intend to address these issues by helping to imagine what type of education our 2032 graduates will need to be productive thought leaders and global change agents of the future, by increasing the cultural responsiveness of our students and teachers for engaging in an increasingly fast-paced, interconnected world, and by reconsidering rigid structures of formal education that may not meet the needs of 21st century learners. For example, the district could increase flexible program offerings that accommodate home school, online learning, and increased options for practical based learning in and out of school, both locally and abroad, invest in capital improvements that reflect our 21st century vision for learning, and support the social-emotional learning framework that promotes civic dialogue, human connection, caring relationships, and a sense of belonging in our schools.
* How satisfied are you that your school district is adequately preparing students for the next stage in their lives, whether it be from elementary into high school or high school into college or full-time employment? What changes, if any, do you think need to be made?
While many indicators of student preparation including Standardized Assessments, 9th Grade on Track, Graduation Rates, Post-Secondary Enrollment, and others exceed state marks, there is always room to improve. One area for concern is persistent achievement gaps between white students and students of color. The district has taken great strides in this area, however more work needs to be done. This work involves ongoing analyses of school and districtwide data to identify systemic challenges and missed opportunities for growth within underperforming student subgroups. Further, the district should hire more teachers of color, conduct equity audits and curriculum reviews, listen closely to diverse families, and increase cooperation with community organizations. Promoting opportunities for summer internships and work experiences will help expose high school students to real world challenges and encourage applied learning and education for social justice. Ideally, we will send our students off to college or full-time employment with a sense of purpose because they have seen the world through their caring relationships and relevant learning in school. Further, developing a CUSD 200 learner profile that includes character traits such as global awareness, critical thinking, curiosity, problem solving, and resilience may help assess student preparedness from one stage to the next.
* What budgetary issues will your district have to confront during the next four years and what measures do you support to address them? If you believe cuts are necessary, be specific about programs and expenses that should be considered for reduction or elimination. On the income side, do you support any tax increases? Be specific.
The district continues to recover from the aftermath of some difficult financial situations in recent decades. However, plans are in place to address the deficit through the thoughtful use of the fund balance for capital improvements. I do not have enough information at this time to determine which programs and expenses should be considered for reduction or elimination. However, the need for cuts is also an opportunity to think more creatively about what kinds of district spending is most aligned with district goals and priorities and empower departments in data-informed decision making that is effective in the short-term and sustainable in the long-term. I support an approach to cutting that includes asking all departments to implement their own lean processes and suggest their own expenses to be cut. Further, community forums and other venues should solicit the perspectives of residents. Also, transparent and honest communication of budgetary issues may build trust among voters and prepare the way for future referendums that a large portion of the community would support. Tax increases should be considered with caution in the first few years given the opportunity that the Jefferson Early Learning Center referendum has to demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness in its implementation.
* Are you currently employed by or retired from a school district, if so, which one? Is any member of your direct family -- spouse, child or child-in-law -- employed by the school district where you are seeking a school board seat?
* As contract talks come up with various school employee groups -- teachers, support staff, etc. -- what posture should the school board take? Do you believe the district should ask for concessions from its employees, expect employee costs to stay about the same as they are now or provide increases in pay or benefits?
I believe that effective teachers are the most significant contributor to creating positive learning experiences for students. I believe the school board should support all of its employee groups to every extent possible for recruiting and retaining diverse and highly qualified teachers. Generally speaking, I believe the board should provide increases in pay or benefits within the limits of the budget that reflect current trends in other comparable districts. Additionally, recruiting and retaining such teachers involves more than increases in pay or benefits. Feeling valued at work within a healthy school culture and equipped with the resources necessary to teach effectively also improve teacher workplace satisfaction and retention. As such, the posture of the board should be to support teachers, yet the specifics of each decision cannot be reduced to general categories of concessions or pay increases in advance of diligent investigation within the specific context of this district in this moment in time. Such highly complex and contested topics should be made through listening respectively to divergent opinions, valuing diverse voices, drawing from significant wealth of school funding research, and demonstrating integrity that upholds teachers, students, tax payers, and the financial sustainability of the district.
* If your district had a superintendent or other administrator nearing retirement, would you support a substantial increase in his or her pay to help boost pension benefits? Why or why not?
I currently do not have enough information to answer this question specifically as there are significant and complex factors that mediate recruiting top level leadership. However, all decisions regarding financial compensation must be carefully considered and informed by available resources, funding priorities, and the return on investment tied directly to student learning. Decisions to substantially increase the pay of an individual administrator must be considered in relation to the district's philosophy of leadership, such that spending is consistent with the district's broader vision of valuing all teacher leaders. For example, increases in administrative compensation should be equitable to increases in teacher compensation to avoid unnecessary gaps in compensation that reflect market-driven rather than people-driven school systems. Every decision regarding compensation, especially those that involve questions of pension benefits, should be made with integrity to ensure that the board functions as an accountability mechanism to avoid poor spending priorities that may create unnecessary tax burdens and hinder the district mission to inspire, educate, challenge, and support all students to reach their highest level of learning and personal development. Approaching the question this way may help clarify which funding priorities prove most effective overall toward accomplishing this student-centered mission.