Name: Lillian G. Lingenfelter
Why are you running for the Emporia Public Schools Board of Education?
I have chosen to dedicate my life to the service of public education and serving students and their families. I believe that every child deserves the best education and want to do what I can to give back to our community and support educators and their students. As a member of the Emporia community for many years, I am committed to improving education in our community and am motivated to give back to our local students. I believe it is imperative for educators to have a seat at the table and be involved in the decision making processes needed to create and sustain an effective school system that prepares students for success.
What are the most important issues facing the Emporia district?
Currently, there are many issues facing students, families and our school district. I believe that the most pressing issues for our district are to improve graduation rates, increase resources for student success, and recruiting and retaining high quality teachers. Consistent, highly trained educators are the bedrock of our school system. It is crucial that we continue to maintain a qualified set of teachers that are committed to serving our community for the long run. Maintaining a balanced budget that meets the needs of our staff is a key piece of retaining highly qualified teachers. Our excellent teacher force will work together with stakeholders and administration to address the other issues within our district including helping students overcome any potential learning loss from the past year.
What would your top three priorities be if you were elected to the school board?
1. Supporting efforts to improve graduation rates
2. Recruiting and retaining high quality teachers
3. Meeting the needs of all students to guide them to success in the classroom and prepare them for success after graduation
What are your budget priorities for the district?
My main budget priority is to work towards a balanced budget that serves all students and teachers. I would support a budget that includes: resources to help meet the superintendent’s 100% graduation rate goal, resources to help at-risk students and students in poverty, sustains the capital outlay work that has been done, relevant, meaningful professional development for staff, and funding efforts to recruit and retain high quality teachers. There’s no better investment than that which prioritizes a child’s education and continues the great work the school district has been doing.
What skills or experiences do you bring to the table that will benefit your time on the board should you be elected?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Emporia State University, and a master’s degree in Education Policy and Leadership from The American University. I have been working with students of all ages since 2015, and teaching middle and high school students for the past four years. I was also a 2019 Horizon Award winner, which is a recognition from the Kansas Department of Education for exemplary new teachers. I’ve served on multiple school leadership committees, including serving as a school redesign team pilot in another district. I’m also a member of the Rural School Leadership Academy program through Teach for America. I am dedicated to serving our community, and devoted to affecting positive change in public education.
In what ways can the district better improve on its mission to “build futures by preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities”?
Today’s students will need a wide range of skills and knowledge to be ready for tomorrow’s opportunities. The district should continue the great work they have been doing to build futures and as a school board member I would support those initiatives. I would also support a renewed energy and focus on producing well rounded and engaged students, starting with kindergarten readiness. There should be a focus on real world application of learning, social-emotional learning, and collaboration with community stakeholders. Social-emotional learning will continue to be a key part of this mission as we address the needs of students after eighteen months of disruption and uncertainty. I would also support initiatives that focus on combating chronic absenteeism and addressing the district’s rate of students dropping out of high school.
How can the district ensure an inclusive and supportive environment for all of its students, teachers and staff?
The answer to this question is twofold. First, the district must prioritize creating a supportive environment for staff to ensure high rates of teacher retention. This means focusing on competitive salaries, providing support to teachers of all experience levels, and ensuring access to high quality, meaningful professional development. Second, the district should consider the diverse needs of families in our community. This includes special education students, families who speak multiple languages, and families of varying socio-economic statuses. I would want all families to feel heard and included in their schools; the best way to do this is to offer multiple methods of communication and parent involvement. When we are all on the same team working for the greater good of our students, anything is possible.
With the recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive cases, do you think the school district should do more in response to the pandemic?
As an educator myself, I uniquely understand the challenges we have been through and the uncertainty we face in this school year and want to do what is best for students and staff alike. My hope is that moving forward we can reopen schools in a more normal fashion, while learning from our experiences during the past year. The district should make informed decisions that will be best for students, teachers and the community. We can all agree that we would love nothing more than to return our classrooms and schools back to normal, as quickly as possible, with the health and safety for all factored into each decision we make. As new data continues to develop, schools should utilize mitigation strategies based on the best science available to them and continue to follow local guidelines to the best of their abilities.
Do you agree with the district’s current COVID-19 mitigation plan? If not, what mitigation strategies would you propose to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools?
What matters the most is keeping our students in school, and healthy. With mitigation strategies we can keep more students in school. Utilizing these strategies prioritizes student learning, and the health and safety of staff and students, which should be front of mind for a school board. Keeping the students’ needs a priority may mean pivoting to various other mitigation strategies as the school year goes on. My priority is to keep educators and students healthy and in schools.