Candidate Column: Jonathan Light for Springfield School Board

We have fantastic students in our schools, representing an array of diverse communities within the Springfield School District. I believe it’s the same in every district. However, as successful as we are with some of our kids, far too many of our wonderful students, nearly 28% in Springfield, fail to graduate on-time and are ill-prepared for the next step. Even more dismal, this statistic has been unchanged for decades. We can do better.

First and foremost, we need to modify our approach to assessment. We all agree that students need to be assessed and evaluated. We need to be constantly monitoring student progress since assessments’ primary responsibility is to inform a student’s education. Unfortunately, our current system of assessment, which is expensive and costly both in dollars and student time, does nothing to individually help our test-taking students. And if it doesn’t benefit students, do we have the money or time to waste? We can do better.

We must honor all students and their families in our district, especially students of difference. We should welcome their presence and their participation. Diversity in our schools offers a richness that benefits the education of every student. Working with stakeholders, we must design a curriculum that offers an accurate depiction of history and governance. As partners, we must listen, discuss, and, most importantly, move to action. The divisiveness and marginalization can only be addressed through education. We can do better.

Education is about relationships. Smaller class sizes make a difference. Every student deserves adequate time and attention from teachers and staff to be successful. When class size is excessive this goal becomes impossible. We need to also invest in hiring appropriate levels of mental health professionals to serve the needs of our students. Attention at this level will reap benefits downstream. We can do better.

Education is about connection. Students need opportunities to connect with their peers, teachers and staff. Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, afterschool programs, clubs, and teams are not “extra.” These groups provide connections that are integral to student success. We need to encourage and financially support these programs. We can do better.

Turn our schools into community centers. Taxpayers have already paid for the buildings so let’s maximize the value. Well-situated geographically, our schools can provide venues for community services, classes, workshops, celebrations, and other activities. Many businesses and organizations are eager to support the district in this effort. We can do better.

Honor all subjects. If a particular subject keeps a kid in school and engaged, then it’s important. In education, due in large part to our assessment system, we have evolved to a hierarchy of subjects that ignores the interests, talents, and capabilities of our students. This is unfair and inequitable. We must move to a system that honors all success. We can do better.

We must be willing to make the investment. Quality comes with a price. If our goal is for every student to be successful we must be willing to invest in that success. This takes money. Federal and state governments need to be willing to step up to that investment. But the investment pays dividends – higher graduation rates and students better educated and prepared for the step beyond high school. We can do better.

We must listen. We must listen to the people doing the work, we must listen to our students, and we must listen to our community. Teachers and support staff are proven professionals that work with our students on a daily basis. The solution for many educational issues can be found by listening and acting on the input from staff, students and community. This involvement pays huge dividends when fully utilized. We can do better.

Bottom line, we have to create schools that students are excited to attend. When school is the best part of every kid’s day, problem solved. Attendance improves, engagement improves, test results improve, dropouts decrease, and graduation rates will exceed expectations. Most importantly our kids will be truly prepared to meet that important next step beyond graduation!

We can do better. We must do better. Our students deserve better. 

I would be honored to have your vote!



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