[Zebra Publisher’s Note: The Zebra Press does not endorse any candidates in any elections. We have published this piece, which originally appeared in Theogony, because it asks the same questions of each Alexandria School Board candidate and is a most informed and balanced presentation of the two candidates. We appreciate the work of James Libresco, Theogeny Editor, on this special addition to our regular content.]
Question 2: What ACPS issues are especially important to you?
Baum: A return to achievement is most important to me. Teacher vacancies are up, and overcrowded classrooms are taking away from our teachers’ ability to teach and our students’ ability to learn. These issues naturally result in a decrease in achievement, evidenced by ACPS’s standardized scores, which have decreased regularly and, at times, significantly since Covid forced us to close our schools. We must ensure our students have the resources to reach their highest potential.
- Students’ mental health
- Academic achievement
- Supporting teachers
- Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining for employees
- Bus driver shortage
- Building bridges with the Latino Community (Students, Parents, Organizations)
Question 3: What qualities will you bring to the School Board?
Baum: Anyone who knows me would characterize me as a doer. I want to improve School Board meetings to be certain that the public feels included and that student and parent issues are fully discussed and resolved instead of putting them on hold for a later discussion.
Beaty: For the past two years since retiring, I have been working as a substitute teacher in Alexandria and tutoring at an afterschool program in Arlandria. I bring a love and admiration for the students, teachers and support staff I have met. I will bring direct knowledge of the challenges that our schools and students face, as well as insight on what’s working well. I also have professional experience with collective bargaining, which I know the school division is undertaking at this time. I believe my knowledge of collective bargaining will be an asset on the School Board. I also speak Spanish and have spent extensive time in Mexico, Central America and South America, which will be useful since 37% of ACPS students are Latino. My degree is in economics; I understand budgets and know the challenges of working in large institutions.
Question 4: How do you plan to address the mental health and substance abuse crisis in ACPS?
Baum: School is the central location of any community and is thus the best place to give students access to resources they otherwise would not have. We as a community and a school system need to address all mental health issues at school so that our students can receive the help and support they need in a loving, known, and trusted environment. Whether general talk therapy or more specific treatments, we must offer these services on school grounds. My ultimate goal is to provide mental health support where students could meet with one of a group of therapists on staff who are available throughout the day.
Beaty: ACPS has been holding workshops on substance abuse for families, and there are two substance abuse counselors at the high school. These efforts are important and if more counselors are needed, I would support that investment. I also think more opportunities for students to socialize with their friends and participate in extracurricular activities could improve students’ overall well-being.
Question 5: Another important issue for students is school safety. How do you plan to keep all ACPS students safe?
Baum: Each school and grade level is different in terms of safety. For younger students we need to create nurturing environments where our youngest students feel safe learning and growing. In middle school, there is a need for a great effort to recognize that we are all individuals with varying opinions and thoughts. Acknowledging and appreciating differences in views—and there are programs for this critical work—will help make all feel more connected to the school community and thus create a safer place to learn. In the upper grades, we have an excellent opportunity to learn about the many cultures our students belong to. I’d like to see activities that would allow students to learn more about each other’s cultures and have greater understanding of each other’s unique circumstances.
Beaty: A positive school environment will improve students’ learning and mental well-being. I would like to hear directly from students about their biggest safety concerns and what ideas they have to improve the school climate. It’s important to hear from students on this issue.
Question 6: What is your opinion on the presence of Student Resource Officers (SROs) and weapons detectors throughout ACPS?
Baum: I am an admitted flip-flopper on this issue and readily acknowledge that I have vacillated concerning my thoughts and opinions on this matter. Initially, I was anti-SRO and anti-weapons detection. Unfortunately, with the return to school from COVID-19 and a lack of gradual reintegration of students back to school, I flopped again; due to the lack of support students were provided as they returned to school, it became imperative to take drastic measures. If you asked parents of young students, they’d have told you the children needed to re-learn how to behave appropriately in the classroom and hilariously in the lunchroom. However, it was short-sighted on the administration’s part when one considers older students in higher grades and how we, as a community, expected them to return to school in complete harmony after they’d been out of school for so long. The upper grades needed a thoughtful, more deliberate reintegration process. Instead, we returned 4,000 students to ACHS without any curricular or social-emotional plan to help them integrate back into school successfully.
Beaty: It’s my understanding that there’s a joint subcommittee of the School Board and City Council meeting to discuss SRO best practices. I look forward to hearing what new ideas come from this effort. Likewise, the weapons detectors are a pilot program and I’m waiting to hear if staff recommend continuing with this approach. I’d like to hear what students think too.
Question 7: Why specifically should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballots for you?
Baum: I am humbled by the support students have already demonstrated for my campaign, and I am grateful for the support of the remainder of our city’s high school students. I want to improve the learning environment in schools and have some personal knowledge from students’ perspectives. I also welcome their thoughts; my door is always open, and students would be ensured anonymity. I will always have the time to listen to students’ concerns.
Beaty: I’ve spent my entire adult life, at work and in the community, working for social justice. I believe that a quality public school system is a vital part of building strong democracy and social justice. That includes years supporting worker rights in the US and in Latin America. I hope high school students want these kinds of values on our school board.
More information about the candidates can be found on their websites.