Michele Tsutagawa Ward (Area 1)
Lancer Link: Do you believe it’s important for ALL students to have access to mental health resources on campus? What would you do to ensure these resources remain available to all students?
Michele Ward: Yes, I would look at finding ways to secure funding and also look at our current policies to ensure ongoing social-emotional learning to support the mental health of students. I would also want to make sure we are providing professional development for our counselors, especially around issues affecting our LGBTQIA+ students, and give schools more counseling support.
LL: A significant amount of CHS classes have over 35 students per period. Do you believe that this class size is ideal for a healthy learning environment? If not, what would you do to change it?
MW: Smaller classes would be more manageable and give teachers the ability to focus on student learning needs, but I would also want to look at what the classes are teaching and also make sure we have the available funding to support smaller class sizes on an ongoing basis.
LL: “From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles,” (PEN America). What will you do to ensure students have access to a diverse and inclusive curriculum in CUSD high schools?
MW: I fully support a diverse and inclusive curriculum for CUSD high school students. Students should have access and the opportunity to gather the knowledge necessary to make fair and just decisions so they graduate from CUSD with a worldly perspective. If I am on the CUSD school board I will work to ensure that we are moving toward providing a diverse and inclusive curriculum that supports students with a broad perspective and understanding of our past, ethnic studies courses, and books and texts that provide more in-depth knowledge of our history and our broad culture.
LL: Do you think the workload at CUSD high schools has a negative effect on teenagers? What ideas do you have to help students manage high academic expectations?
MW: I believe this issue is driven as much by the expectations placed on our students as it is by their workload. Students are navigating through a lot more and the requirements to get into college can be stressful and competitive. Students are piling on more to have impressive college applications. We should work more with students to set attainable goals, and support reaching these goals in manageable ways. Providing this support should also include giving them tools and strategies to support their mental health. Students should also be given other opportunities to become successful adults that are based around unique skills, trades, and mentorships.
LL: Half of all high school students have used marijuana products (CDC). Over 10% of California teens have reported using drugs in the past month (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics). How do you plan to address alcohol and drug use amongst CUSD high school students?
MW: As a learning institution, one of the best things we can provide our students and our families is education around these issues and how drugs and alcohol can affect our health and well-being. Information from the National Institute of Drug Abuse has shown a decline in drug and alcohol use by students in 2021. However, we are seeing more deaths and impacts from drugs because of fentanyl. We need to make sure our students are well-informed and know how to protect themselves from the dangers of drug use.
LL: What ideas do you have to ensure that all students feel safe and respected on campus?
MW: I support CUSD’s moves toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. There needs to be robust training for staff and teachers to support these moves. Stakeholder groups should also be part of this conversation and we should provide a platform for our students to be able to share and speak about the issues that they are facing on their school campuses. Site equity teams can be established and work with outside organizations to provide training and more information around different communities within our schools. I support creating a positive, safe, and inclusive learning environment for all students. No student should ever feel worried about their identity, color of their skin, ethnic background, sexual orientation, learning ability, beliefs, or anything else that makes our community diverse when coming to school to learn.