Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the endorsement caucus on May 15 and 17.
Here is the unedited response from Barbara Kanninen:
I am Barbara Kanninen, and I am running for Arlington County School Board because I believe that together we can make Arlington Public Schools the best that they can be.
We’re facing complicated issues that span many dimensions–from budgeting and meeting capacity needs to optimizing classroom instruction–and I bring an equally expansive set of experiences to the table. I have volunteered in schools and worked with children in Arlington and DC for over 20 years.
I have served on School Board and County Board advisory committees, and I’m a professional economist, children’s book author, and long-time Democratic activist. These experiences have given me a deep familiarity with data analysis, hundreds of hours with kids and teachers in classrooms, and a history of working at the community level on grassroots organizing and engagement.
Here are my priorities for our schools:
- Promote critical thinking over standardized testing. I believe our kids spend too much time in class prepping for and taking tests, and teachers have told me they feel this way too. We need to take a hard look at the testing schedule and process to see which tests are essential to classroom learning.
- Tackle overcrowding with strong leadership and constructive community engagement. As we work to catch up with the growth in our school population, we need to create a long-term plan that considers instructional needs and programs first. We need to work closely with citizens and the County Board to bring a whole-community mindset to the issue, and we must maintain flexibility so that we can adapt, over time, to our changing population and needs.
- Give teachers the support they deserve. To create an environment in which every child can excel, teachers need support and resources. They also need the flexibility to adjust their teaching approach and pacing to their students’ needs as well as avenues for providing feedback to school principals and county administrators.
- Support children with mentors. An adult mentor is a developmental asset that contributes to kids’ problem solving, self-esteem, and achievement. I’d like every student in Arlington to know that there is at least one adult in school who knows them, whom they can go to with problems, and who believes in them, exactly as they are.
- Continue investing in the arts and strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. We should strengthen STEM skills through, for example, more hands-on science programs in all elementary schools and more accessible STEM programs across all schools, including the Arlington Career Center. At the same time, students need opportunities to express themselves creatively, so we need to give students at all levels access to a variety of art forms.
- Be budget-minded by prioritizing funding for teachers and classroom learning. In this time of tight budgets, we need to be both disciplined and principled about spending decisions. My number-one principle is the need to focus on the day-to-day classroom experience and teacher-student relationships, so my budget priorities will be teachers and the resources they need.
Our schools are important to all of us, whether we are parents, teachers, homeowners, or citizens who want to live in a community that values education. Collectively, we have the energy, the brains, and the will to do great things for our kids and our community. I’m excited about the possibilities, and I would be honored to have your vote.
You can vote on either Thursday, May 15th from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street South) or Saturday, May 17th from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 North Stafford Street).