Morgan Steele

Morgan Steele is a candidate for the School Board in ISD 197.  She has provided the following answers to our standard 10 questions for candidates.

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1. What should be the overall goal of a public school education? Knowing that children have different gifts and needs, how should student achievement be evaluated?

The overall goal for public education is to prepare students for success in whichever path they choose beyond high school. Included in preparing for that success includes helping develop resiliency, social skills, academic content and learning to collaborate. Student achievement should be based on individual growth and focus on strengths and areas of growth.

2. How should teacher performance be evaluated? What can be done to improve underachieving teachers ’performance or encourage teachers to continue their own education?

Teachers are evaluated in a number of categories; knowledge of content, lesson planning, communication, knowledge of students and their needs, professionalism and student achievement are just some of the areas that come to mind. Teachers are life-long learners and should always be working to improve in something in their practice. For teachers who aren't seeing results that demonstrate student proficiency or achievement, professional development, coaching and extra support from building or district admin should be provided/required. Allowing time for professional development (with release days or district-led programming) is also something that can/should be done.

3. Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system? How?

I would consider myself as both- as an educator, I feel like I have a really strong understanding of standards, student needs and teacher needs. As a parent and community member, I have a responsibility to ensure that my kids and other kids are getting the same opportunities and that there is alignment between teachers at different buildings or even in different classes.

4. What would your priorities be for your first year as a board member? Why and how did you choose these issues?

I believe it is extremely important that we make pre-k more affordable and attainable for all of our families by looking at transportation, childcare and other aspects. I also believe it is our responsibility to our students to break from what has always been done and ensure that we are truly valuing the individual by guaranteeing that assessments are objective, policies and practices are equitable for every student in 197. We know that Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the US and I truly believe that ensuring that opportunities in early childhood education are equitable is one of the best things we can do to ensure that all students are ready for their next steps when they graduate high school.

5. What do you think is the greatest challenge in District 197? What are your ideas for addressing this challenge?

Currently, our biggest challenges are inequities that have been made clear throughout the pandemic. Access to technology (both in WiFi and devices), food and teachers during or after contract hours throughout the last two years has shown us that we aren't meeting the needs of every learner. With funding that is available through ESSER, we have opportunities to expand our mobile hotspot availability, create more programming for tutoring and expand our nutrition services.

6. What motivates you to want to become a school board member for district 197?

I believe in the power of public education; my entire career has been in public schools (including two years in an incredible charter school) and I want to help strengthen ISD 197's outcomes for all students.

7. What do you think about vouchers? Tuition tax credits? Charter schools? School choice?

Charter schools offer great options for students who are struggling in their current settings or for kiddos who want to specialize in something. I think each family needs to make the choice that best fits their individual student/family but I also think that moving money around for choices only increases the inequities in our school funding that has been created by our current property-tax system. The best option, in my opinion, would be to fully fund all public schools equally.

8. What is your opinion of District 197’s policies toward students with behavior problems and school discipline in general?

I don't have enough data to talk about specific problems that the district is having. I do know that relationships and teaching Social Emotional skills is very important in reducing behaviors and that there are a lot of programs, such as conscious discipline, that can help us keep kids in class so they can learn.

9. What is your understanding of Critical Race Theory and how does it fit within District 197’s current teacher development program?

Full disclosure on this one; I spent a lot of time in conversation with other educator friends trying to figure out if I missed a day in my undergrad (or even graduate) courses around CRT and was relieved to learn that CRT is a theory taught in law school to be applied to laws and policies (and not that I, as an educator, was missing something that I was supposed to understand). While CRT is something that I wasn't familiar with until I started hearing it on news channels or seeing people posting about it on various social media platforms, equity practices and ensuring that all students and families feel seen, heard and validated in their identities is not and should not ever be a trend or up for debate. I think the real question that needs to be re-centered in these conversations is how we teach racism and critically look at practices/policies that have perpetuated racism and inequality in our society. Part of our responsibility as educators (and, hopefully, as school board members) is to acknowledge the white-washed versions of history and ensure that our curricula are accurate so we can focus on doing better for ALL of our students.

10. In what areas are District 197 residents getting value for their money? Are there any in which they are not? What would be an idea for saving the district money?

Our recent infrastructure upgrades are beautiful and make spaces safer and more accessible for students. I am not certain about areas where money could be better spent and look forward to learning more about this.

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