During the next few days, we will introduce you to the Fenton Board of Education Candidates.
There are three candidates competing for one four-year term, including Dior Rushton, Drew Shapiro and Sandra Mathews-Barnes.
Today we meet Sandra Mathews-Barnes.
How long have you lived in the area?
I have lived in Fenton for 26 years
What community and organizations are you currently involved in?
I am a member of the Fenton United Methodist Church and the Fenton Lions Club
Why did you want to run for school board?
I am running to complete the job I began four years ago and because I have the skills to assist the students of Fenton. My four years on the Board of Education saw the worst financial crisis in memory and there were many challenges to Fenton continuing to offer quality education. We have met these challenges financially by making significant cuts to the budget items that least affected the students' learning. The next four years will continue to offer many challenges whether the financial conditions improve or not and I believe my experiences offer the necessary skills to assist in meeting them.
What personal and professional experiences make you qualified to hold that position?
As the incumbent I bring experience gained in four years as a Board member. During my term I participated in the hiring of a new superintendent, settling contracts with all bargaining groups, creating a new Strategic Plan, planning a Bond issue and passing a renewal of the Building and Site fund, as well as overseeing the reduction of school budgets due to declining revenues. These experience build the skills needed to navigate the next four years.
I also bring to the Board of Education 37 years as an educator. Having taught elementary through high school I understand the challenges of the teaching staff to meet the academic needs of students. Having taught during years of serious economic recession and during prosperity I understand that each brings students to the classroom with many social and emotional needs that affect their learning. As a teacher I was also an active MEA member, serving as my local district President, Negotiator and Grievance Chairperson. I also chaired the county Political Action Committee and served on the state Political Action Board of Directors. I have the skills needed to deal with the employees of the school district and to advocate for our District with the legislature.
What is the most important issue and what do you intend to do about it during your term in office?
The most important issue continues to be maintaining and improving quality education while maintaining a balanced budget. My experience in education gives me the perspective to understand how "non instructional" budget cuts affect the quality of education and how these cuts must be balanced. When the financial conditions improve I also understand which items should be reinstated and which can be delayed or never reinstated.
What are some other issues you would like to see change in the school district?
Fenton, like most school districts, must work to improve education to prepare students for the real world. For many years we have concentrated on improving test scores, too often at the expense of vocational, practical and life skills. In Fenton we have tried to address the "teaching to the test" issue by instituting the International Baccalaureate (IB) program whose goal is to help all students develop intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills. Now we must add additional programs and curriculum to continue to meet all students educational needs.