Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why I support Joanne Johansen for Red Clay School Board . . .

I could write about all the ridiculous claims about this school board race made by people with plenty of their own political agendas. I could write about all the nutty people out there who think trying anything in public education beyond what we've already tried (and failed at) is somehow inherently racist. But what I'd rather write about is the best candidate this year for Red Clay School Board, and that's Joanne Johansen:
Why Joanne Johansen? First, it would be damn near impossible to find an individual or a family more committed to Red Clay.
Joanne attended Forest Oak and Stanton before graduating from John Dickinson High School in 1981. Her children (Abby and Will) both attended Brandywine Springs School K-8, and are now at Charter School of Wilmington. One of her neices is an AI High School graduate, and the other one is a special needs student at Dickinson. Okay, granted, her husband Bill is from New Jersey (nobody's perfect).
Second, it would be difficult to find somebody more committed to doing her part as an involved parent.
For 8 of the 11 years she was associated with the famous Brandywine Springs "Paw Pack" fund-raised (often imitated, never equaled), Joanne was either chair or co-chair of the committee that organized the event. Along the way she served at Director of Fundraising, 2nd VP, and 1st VP of the Brandywine Springs PTO. She's currently a VP for the CSW Parent Association.
But the Johansen family believes that leadership and service is not just for public education.
Joanne served for 12 years as an officer in the Quail Ridge Civic Association. Her family actively supports Special Olympics and fundraising to cure MS. (OK, technically, it's Bill who actually Bikes to the Bay and dives in the frigid water for the Polar Bear Plunge, but it's Joanne who is cheering and raking in the checks for the family's charities.) Recently, Christiana Care selected Joanne to sit on the steering committee for the Christiana Care Great Place to Work celebration.
Joanne's professional career is an ongoing demonstration of a personal commitment to excellence.
Joanne has worked for 26 years in medical imaging at Christiana Care. X-ray, CT scans, IR imaging, and (for the past 13 years) MRIs are Joanne's responsibility. "You learn a lot about quality in medical imaging," Joanne says. "The physicians need high-quality images in order to diagnose and treat their patients, and it doesn't matter whether the patient is cooperative or not. You've got to get the image, and get it right. I think that's a lot like our expectation of the teachers and administrators in our schools."
What makes Joanne the best choice for Red Clay School Board? Aside from a background that combines proven leadership and long-term experience, it's the vision she will bring to the Board. Let her tell you about it:
Red Clay has a tradition of providing quality education to its students in the largest and most diverse district in Delaware. How do we continue that legacy? I believe we have to emphasize three major themes.

The first is parental involvement. Academic studies have shown what common sense already understood: where parental involvement is high, schools and students prosper. Where it isn’t, they don’t. In many of our schools high levels of parental involvement are evident on a daily basis. You see parents as volunteers in the classroom, on PTA boards, in fundraisers, and always at teacher conferences.

But in some of our schools, especially the city schools or schools that serve a high percentage of low-income families, we have challenges to overcome. Parents working minimum wage jobs to support a family may not have the time or transportation to become actively involved. Instead of waiting for them, we have to reach out to them. Whether they need transportation to get to a parent-teacher conference, or the teacher needs to come to them, we need to do whatever is necessary to help those parents become active partners in their children’s education. That’s why the two new family centers at Warner and Shortlidge are so important: they point the way toward a new model of supporting our low-income students and their families.

The second theme is school choice. Parents know more about what school is the best fit for their child than anyone else. Does that student have musical talent, an interest in higher math, or the skill to play competitive soccer? Parents know, and Red Clay has traditionally provided the choices that make it possible for the largest possible number of our kids to have the opportunity to reach their highest potential. Yes, the School Board needs to manage choice carefully, and the foremost question is always, “What’s best for our kids?” They are the interest group we are sworn to serve, and while all the other stakeholders are important, nobody should ever push the needs of our children off center stage.

School choice means very little, however, without educational innovation. The great strength of Red Clay schools is that they don’t all look the same. We have the good fortune to live in a district that has sponsored the most successful charter schools in the State, created magnet schools Cab Calloway for the arts and Conrad for the sciences, and yet maintained a strong traditional high-school experience at AI, Dickinson, and McKean for those who desire it. Whether it is the strong Band program at AI, the highly regarded Culinary Arts program at McKean, or the exciting new International Baccalaureate program at Dickinson, Red Clay has consistently been in the forefront of Delaware public education.

As a school board member I will be a strong advocate of educational innovation under local control, so that every family in the district with young children will be assured of the same rich menu of choices and innovations as the families that came before them.

What will my role be as a school board member? School Boards don’t administer the district; they set policies and objectives, hold our professional administrators accountable, and insure that the community’s voice and vision is what drives the district forward. In that context I will be a strong advocate of bringing everyone to the table when decisions are being made, of transparency in district operations, of careful financial management, and of giving our building principals and teachers the support necessary to do their jobs day in and day out. I believe in compromise and consensus, but I’m not afraid to be the lone wolf when necessary.

I will be the voice that parents and children need.
If you want a true parent advocate on the Red Clay School Board, and a believer in school choice and educational innovation, vote for Joanne Johansen Below: The Johansen family: Bill, Will, Joanne, Abby, and friends.


Coolspringer said...

This is interesting & thing I'd like to hear dealt with more specifically is this, on choice:

"Yes, the School Board needs to manage choice carefully," - I'd like to know what the candidate thinks needs to be managed more carefully, if there is some specific deficit in the current process, and how she might improve the process.


Steven H. Newton said...


I can't answer that for her, but I will see if I can get her to answer it for you; it may take a couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Johansen recently visited my child's school and spoke to parents and she seems like a nice person. It is apparent she has done much over the years for her community and for schools. However I must share that I found her information that evening to be vague at best. She gave mostly general answers to questions and clearly was not prepared to address any issues specific to our school. Further, she did not seem moved or motivated to do so.