Courtesy of Sharon McKeeman

Sharon McKeeman (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?

Sharon McKeeman: Absolutely, I have always been clear that ALL students must have access to mental health resources. During the pandemic I advocated for students to have in-person mental health support, and I raised awareness for how school closures and the pandemic were impacting students’ mental health. In order to ensure these resources remain available to all students I will make sure there is clear communication about the budget and content so that we can ensure that the resources are as effective as possible and that they support all students. While we should have resources available for students who are in online programs such as Seaside Academy, I do believe these programs are most effective and funds are best used by prioritizing in-person mental health resources. In my opinion sending out more zoom trainings is not the most effective way to support all students’ mental well-being because in-person connection is an important part of mental health.

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?

SM: As an educator I know that 35 students per period is not ideal for a healthy learning environment. 20-25 students is more conducive to making sure every student’s academic needs are met and connections are fostered between their peers and instructors. The simplest way to address this is to hire more teachers, but the challenge there is facility space. I am committed to smaller class sizes and would like to look at if we are using our campuses as effectively as possible. Are multi-use areas being utilized to their fullest? Also during the pandemic there was a lot of conversation between parents and the school board about modifying outdoor spaces in order to make them accessible to certain types of classes. Everyone needs to have a quality classroom experience, and as a school board trustee I would request that staff research how we can use our campuses more effectively in order to reduce class size.

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?

SM: As of October 19, 2022 Pen America’s website shows zero book bans in California. Students have a right to free speech on campus which I stood up for when CUSD students wanted to share their smiles during the mask mandate. However obscene language is not protected. Whether something is obscene or not is often contested. As a parent I do not want my children exposed to sexually explicit content at school. Content about violence, suicide, drug use, and eating disorders are important for communication with developing teens, but also need to be presented in a way that doesn’t trigger or cause harm to teens. As an educator I want to make sure that students have access to quality literature. Did you know that 1984 by George Orwell is the most banned book of all time and that even in 2022 To Kill a Mockingbird was still being challenged? Both of these are especially important reads for our society currently.

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?

SM: This may not be a popular response with a student publication, but I am committed to transparency and open communication… CUSD has a tradition of excellence and we need to uphold that and not water it down. CUSD students will face a very competitive college and job application process and it is our responsibility as an academic community to ensure that students have every opportunity to distinguish themselves and succeed. That being said as an educator I believe in educational philosophies that center around real-life experience, passion-led projects, and interactive, creative, hands-on learning. I am opposed to “busy work” that only teaches to a test or keeps students busy filling out endless worksheets or memorizing rote facts without encouraging a connection to the subject area. When we implement curriculum and teaching styles that help students engage with and get excited about what they are learning then schoolwork becomes a joy instead of a burden.

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?

SM: California students are in a tough position because they live in a state where marijuana is legal for adults and extremely easy to access. However, marijuana and other drugs have a drastic impact on teenagers’ still developing brains and neurosystems. We need to do a better job making sure drugs and alcohol are not on campus or at school events. However, we also need to do a better job when a student is caught with or impacted by these substances – finding out why they are using and support their mental health in a way that will make it far less likely that they will want to explore or abuse substances. Our academic communities also need to work with city services to make sure that students’ commutes to and from campus and the public areas, parks, beaches they frequent after school are not filled with questionable individuals who bring drugs into our community.

LL: What ideas do you have to ensure that all students feel safe and respected on campus?

SM: If we follow the golden rule and do unto others as we would want done unto ourselves we will alleviate most discrimination and suffering. Every student is a precious life that deserves love, safety, respect, and an excellent education. As a trustee it will be my responsibility to have thorough knowledge of our curriculum and programming so that we can provide funding and content that supports all students. Part of that commitment is ensuring that schools remain open and students’ smiles remain free. Every student has a right to be on campus where we can offer an even playing field. Every student also has the right to respectful free speech and choices. I advocated for two years during the pandemic for safety and respect for students and I will continue to do so for all students. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will end hatred and arguments. I appreciate this publication’s involvement with the democratic process. For more info or questions >

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