Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board Of Education Profile: Karen Mitchell

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ — Scotch Plains-Fanwood Regional School Board has five candidates vying for three seats in the upcoming election on Nov. 3.

Dr. David Levine, Evan Murray, and Karen Mitchell are running for the two, three-year seats to represent Scotch Plains on the board.

Amy Boroff and Margaret Maggie Savoca are running for the one, three-year seat to represent Fanwood on the board.

Are you running for office in Scotch Plains-Fanwood? Contact Alexis Tarrazi at [email protected] for information on being featured in a candidate’s profile and submitting campaign announcements to Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch.

Karen Mitchell

1. Why are running for Board of Education?

Last year, I had the privilege of serving on the BOE for a one year term, filling a vacant spot due to a member move. My motivation for serving then and my motivation for serving now is the same: the kids. With four sons in the district, I personally understand how a SPF education can provide the comprehensive foundation our children need to thrive in our modern and complex world. Contributing to this foundation and being a helpful part of our community for three more years would be an honor.

2. What are your qualifications for this position?

As a licensed social worker (therapist) in private practice, I listen for a living. The lives of my patients depend on the ability to hear issues, create a plan for progress, and communicate this plan effectively. If elected, I will bring my critical ear and communication skills to the BOE seat. I will commit to what I would like to call LTCA: listen, think, communicate, act. I will listen to the community. I will listen to the issues. I will listen to the experts.I will listen to the teachers, administrators, and staff. After gathering information, I will then think. What is really being said here? What is needed? What resources are already available? What has not yet been considered? Finally, after communicating with the other BOE members, action will be taken. I use these skills daily in my practice and will use them to fight for what is best for our children.

Another strength that I would bring the Board is the simple fact that I care. I care about the students who deserve our commitment to them in these essential years of development. I care about parents who have to sacrifice and manage child care and job responsibilities in a virtual learning environment. I care about our teachers and staff who need a supportive environment to best develop young minds. I care. And I am willing to dedicate the time to turn this care into productive action.

Finally, I bring the strength of experience. I have clinical training in child development. I have the experience of sitting on a Board and during a pandemic. I have the experience of hearing from frustrated parents on how to make challenging situations work. I have experience of learning from and communicating with a Board that works together for the betterment of our schools. If elected, I offer my experience to you, our children, and the SPF community.

3. The single most pressing issue facing our school district is ____ and this is what I intend to do about it:

As we all can likely agree, the year 2020 has been unique in many ways. For this reason, I would choose the safe return of all students to school as the most pressing issue at the school board election. Through my experience on the Board, I have been able to witness, first hand, the layered and complicated process of educating, supporting, and protecting our students, teachers, and staff while following State guidelines for COVID safety. This past year has provided me with the information and experience to better understand how, together, we can help students return to the school experience they love and need. If elected, my primary goal is a safe school return.

4. What are other issues you would like to see addressed in the school district?

Another issue that I wish to further support in the district are equity and representation of all students in our schools. Throughout my year on the school board, I have already witnessed focused efforts in these areas. Some of these improvements include an extended curriculum representing authors and titles of various races and ethnicities, the removal of AP barriers, advanced and specialized Spanish classes for native speakers, increased efforts to increase diversity in teacher and staff district recruitment, the founding of the “Equity and Wellness” committee (of which I am a member), the hiring of a Student Assistance Specialist focusing on inclusion and diversity, and further professional development of teachers to increase awareness of the school’s role in social injustice and unconscious bias. I applaud these district efforts and realize that there is more to do in order to continue this positive trajectory.

Next, if elected to the School Board, I will ensure that the social and emotional health of our students is on the forefront of our agenda. My LSW licensure allows me to review our process with a trained, clinical eye and help further the incredible work already being done. Virtual learning has, in some cases, exacerbated childrens’ emotional struggles. We must best understand our students’ realities. An anxious student can not learn and, as a district, our job is to educate. If elected, I will bring my nonjudgemental, therapist lens to our district and offer my energy, expertise, and collaboration to best support the social-emotional learning of all students.

Finally, I would like to increase the level of communication between the Board and community. In many instances, the extensive and thoughtful work being done on all district levels is not being properly articulated to the community. Better correspondence creates stronger connection. As a BOE member, I will focus not only on developing programs and addressing issues but articulating this work on a timely and consistent basis.

This article originally appeared on the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch

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