Giannini Upton vs. Glowitz: Mercer Island School District, Principal No.2

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Brian Giannini Upton

* Why are you running for the position of Director of the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors?

I believe that every child, regardless of race, characteristics or circumstances, has the right to the supports and resources they need to create their future. I am a community volunteer and an advocate for children and public education. It has been a privilege to serve and an honor to represent for the past four years – I ask for your support in continuing this important work for our children.

* What do you think are the three most critical issues in the school district and how do you hope to solve them?

Being on the board is a collaborative effort, it is impossible to govern effectively without cooperation and without compromise. I think the most critical issues MISD will face in the years to come will be stabilizing the system, addressing the urgent mental / physical / emotional health needs of students and staff, and hiring a new one. superintendent. My promise has always been to focus on building student-centered policy and managing value-aligned budgets. Investing in the needs of our staff and students today will enable success in the future.

* What’s the best way to help students thrive if they are having issues with returning in-person learning after spending time in distance learning during the pandemic?

Each student comes from a different background and with varying needs. Recovery will require that the system and everyone involved take the time to be attentive to our needs and aspirations, to set clear goals, and to work at an appropriate pace. It’s a marathon not a sprint; we can have high expectations and rigor while respecting boundaries and healthy approaches.

* What is your philosophy of life and how can you apply it to school district matters?

The theater taught me to always say “yes, and…”. We have to take risks, be prepared to fail or appear silly the first few tries, but through persistence and discipline we will master new skills over time.

* An immense amount of learning takes place at home. What would you tell parents about the best way to prepare their children for school learning and to be in a social atmosphere?

For parents: listen to your children, make sure you surround them with support, and remind them that they can do it… that you believe in them. For students: get plenty of rest, be patient with yourself, seek the help you need, and take the time to pay attention.

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Dan Glowitz

* Why are you running for the position of Director of the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors?

As a graduate of Mercer Island High School (1999), I know firsthand what a first-class public education looks like. My wife and I returned to the island and to the house where I grew up when our oldest entered kindergarten due to the strengths of the school here. We are fortunate to live in a small, well educated and passionate community. Together, I firmly believe that we can be a beacon that shows what is possible in public education. Right now, however, we are at a crossroads and the legacy of academic excellence is in jeopardy.

In the last year alone, 400 students, or nearly 10% of the total, left our neighborhood in a mass exodus caused by a loss of confidence. The consequences of this loss are enormous; a budget deficit of $ 7 million and the risk of financial insolvency before the end of the academic year.

Despite these immense challenges, I remain optimistic. The fact that we are in distress provides a unique opportunity to reset, reflect and reinvigorate. If we embrace transparency, make data-driven decisions, and lead with courage and conviction, we can realize our potential. And, by focusing on the fundamentals, we can deliver an education that prepares our children to thrive in a difficult and interconnected world – rigorous, relevant, innovative and individualized education; one that allows them to take the next step in their journey after graduation, anywhere.

* What do you think are the three most critical issues in the school district and how do you hope to solve them?

Above all, the district must regain the trust of the public. As an experienced lawyer in financial restructuring, corporate governance and board issues, I can help regain that trust by emphasizing transformative transparency and evidence-informed decisions. The district can mend strained relationships and win back skeptics, but it must first unlock and open the door and invite all stakeholders to the table, so it can listen, present its reasons, and chart a course forward.

Second, we need to fix a budget that is in ruins. Unfortunately, until last spring, the circumstances should have been clear when the board met on April 22. More than a year after the start of the pandemic, the district had given up on any staff adjustment and had reached “the point of close monitoring and strict control of expenditure”. In addition, the likelihood of a bailout in the form of public funding was quickly fading, our only hopes resting on “unforeseen additions or inflators that will happen later in the year.” Yet despite the many warning signs, the district has made few adjustments, with one board member cavalierly stating that “in projecting budgets there is always hope that you land the plane on. vapors “.

Unfortunately, now it looks like we can’t make the trail. In order to face financial crises, the board must face the facts with lucidity, openness and with a plan that prioritizes the retention of the greatest possible number of employees who interact directly with the students. To this end, the board should immediately order the Superintendent to prepare several proposals for various listing scenarios outlining the trade-offs and considerations underlying each alternative.

Third, we must not lose sight of our identity as a school district that has thrived on high academic standards. Mercer Island is a unique and special place. Our school district should reflect this. An education is more than a grade, it is a lens for understanding the world in all its beauty and complexity. If we lower our expectations, we decrease opportunities and imagination and risk disengagement and apathy. Like many, my most memorable and meaningful classes were those taught by teachers with the highest expectations. These are the courses that have left an imprint both academically and personally.

* What’s the best way to help students thrive if they are having issues with returning in-person learning after spending time in distance learning during the pandemic?

The best way to help students readjust to the return to in-person learning is to focus on the learning loss and the social and emotional traumas imposed by forced isolation. But, on a preliminary basis, the district should be transparent and held accountable for keeping our schools closed long after it became clear that with proper precautions, private schools on the island could return without incident. And now, as a result, we face some of the fallout, including a mental health crisis and a steep drop in enrollment.

Given the current situation, the school district should not experiment with massively unpopular curriculum changes that eliminate differentiated learning programs. We just don’t have the resources to indulge in untested pedagogy based on out-of-the-box, out-of-the-box consultants who charge $ 3,500 an hour. Simply put, we need to get back to reality and focus on the fundamentals.

* What is your philosophy of life and how can you apply it to school district matters?

I believe in the energetic research of his passion. To quote Susan Orléans:

“The world is so big that people always get lost in it… the reason it is important to care passionately about something is that it shrinks the world to a more manageable size. It gives the impression that the world is not huge and empty, but full of possibilities. “

Education in the broadest and truest sense allows students to find their passion, be it math, literature, chess, orchestra, radio, computer programming or athletics. Passion is what helps make sense of the world and creates the potential for greatness. Given this importance, it is imperative to preserve extracurricular and enrichment opportunities. As Steve Jobs observed, “Passionate people change the world for the better.” We must not lose sight of this truth when making difficult financial decisions. Our children and our future depend on it.

* An immense amount of learning takes place at home. What would you tell parents about the best way to prepare their children for school learning and to be in a social atmosphere?

I don’t think it’s my role as a candidate for the school board to offer parenting advice. As a father of a 12 year old boy and a 9 year old girl I know it is difficult and you constantly wonder if the choices we make as parents are the best while we are coping. and try to do our best. . Ultimately, I think the best a parent can do is love their children unconditionally and try to pass on some of the wisdom that each of us has learned from our own lives. Perhaps Khalil Gibran captured it most eloquently in The Prophet:

“You can give them your love but not your thoughts, because they have their own thoughts. You can shelter their bodies but not their souls, for their souls inhabit the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

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