Foundation system

Opinion: Public education is the foundation of our democracy | Columnists


Why am I a candidate for the school board? Public education is the foundation of our democracy. It enables our children to succeed as citizens and provides them with the knowledge and skills to realize their potential. I grew up in Austin, Texas, the second of seven children. We all enjoyed 12 years of public education. We were expected to do well, complete our homework (all working together at the kitchen table) and fully participate in sports, music or the arts. We had chores after school and on the weekends, including, for us older children, babysitting at home. I was the only one of my siblings to finish college right after high school. I paid for my own expenses, working as a secretary in a department at the University of Texas and eventually getting scholarships to cover the expenses. I continued my graduate studies at Cornell University where I obtained a doctorate in developmental psychology. I then served as a professor at Rutgers University for two decades, teaching large developmental psychology classes and conducting research on infant and child learning. In 2003, my husband Dave and I moved to Missoula where I accepted an associate provost position at UM. In this role, I oversaw a number of programs, including the Center for Writing and Public Speaking, Office of Student Success, Internship Services, TRIO, and Upward Bound. My education background spans many levels, as a K-12 student, undergraduate student, graduate student, page at the college library, department secretary, faculty member, and administrator. Each experience cemented my belief that education for all is crucial and that knowledge-enhanced critical thinking is needed in our society to maintain democracy and achieve individual goals.

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I am now a member of the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees, representing Target Range and Bonner (High School District B). The board interviewed candidates and I was selected to fill a vacancy in September 2021; I am running to complete the remaining two years of the term. I have been on a K-8 school board before. When our two daughters were in school, first me and then my husband served on the board for two terms each. Serving on the MCPS Board of Directors is a similar experience. School boards primarily oversee the superintendent, approve budgets, approve staff appointments and terminations, and write policies in accordance with state requirements. None of this is glamorous but it is important for the proper functioning of schools. I bring no programs to work beyond helping schools help students succeed.

In 2022, the MCPS Board faces many challenges. Among the most important are assessing and addressing the effects of the pandemic on student learning, hiring a new superintendent, and adjusting to national teacher and staff shortages. Because I am familiar with child assessment and development and have served on many search committees to select UM administrators and faculty, I will bring the appropriate skills to address these issues and others. If you have any questions about the board and my candidacy, please contact me at [email protected] and check out my FaceBook page.

Please show that you too believe in public education by voting. Mail-in ballots must be returned to the Elections Office by May 3 to ensure that we maintain a healthy and vibrant education system for Missoula’s children and youth.

Arlene Walker-Andrews is a candidate for the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees.

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