We asked all candidates to fill out a survey and our group has chosen to endorse, recommend or not recommend based on their answers. Here are Jennifer Partridge’s responses that shows that she is a great representative for our teachers, students and parents!
How do you define SEL strategies and what do you believe it does in the classroom?
Teaching & learning do not happen in a vacuum. Social Emotional Learning is an important part of teaching our students. It provides a framework for teachers to help students with things like conflict resolution, goal setting, managing stress and anxiety, and many other aspects of human interactions. I think it is important for teachers to address these topics with students proactively so that many problems can be avoided and more time can be spent on learning. It frustrates me that some parents think that SEL is some kind of subversive indoctrination. It is simply helping our students in a way that any caring adult would do!
What importance do you attribute to PE and health and how do feel about the cuts made to these subject areas in the past?
I personally have learned a lot about health and fitness over the last 5 years and I’m very passionate about getting enough movement and eating healthy. It is important to keep PE in school and also recess. I’d also love to see our wellness program at the district include a focus on health in more ways than just counting your steps, although I don’t see that as something the board would mandate or anything.
What ideas have you formulated that will increase public school funding to keep up with growth, fully compensate teachers for their expertise and commitment to teaching, ensure they have the classroom resources they need to be effective educators, and making teacher retention a priority?
I don’t think our society will ever pay teachers the amount that I personally think they are worth. I am in my 4th year of being a board member, and I have now voted twice to increase our tax rates (Truth in Taxation) to raise teacher salaries. We went from a starting salary of $41,000 to $44,500 two years ago, and then in August we adjusted up to $48,450. I’d like to continue to work with PEA leadership to understand what additional factors affect retention. But I want our district to be a place where teachers know we love them, we are grateful for them, we trust them as the professionals they are and want to give them freedom to be creative as they teach the standards, while also providing the resources and training and support to help teachers be successful. I have recently become more aware of the important role I can play in speaking with state legislators, and plan to devote time to building a relationship with them and advocating for more funding for our schools and fewer mandates and restrictions.
How do you define CRT and do you believe it is currently being taught in Utah public schools?
I define Critical Race Theory as a way of teaching history from a viewpoint of the oppression of minority groups. It is not being taught in Provo schools, and I assume that it is not being taught in any Utah public school. I do feel it is important to look at our history from all perspectives and viewpoints. Native Americans and Black people have been treated very poorly throughout much of our history and it’s important to talk about that in age appropriate ways, but we should continue to teach about the ideals of freedom and justice that our country was founded upon. Build upon the lessons of the past, including our mistakes, to make our country better today.
What vetting process do you support when a parent objects to a book in their child’s school? What actions do you believe school districts should take or not take?
A parent should take their concerns to the teacher and/or principal. I think it’s important for schools and districts to listen to parent concerns and evaluate whether a book has inappropriate content. However, what is inappropriate for one parent may not be inappropriate for most people. The district should then go through a review process that includes parents, teachers, and administrators who read the book and evaluate whether or not it has inappropriate content. If it is determined to be inappropriate, we should remove it from our shelves.
Considering legislation that has been proposed in the last 10 years, how would you vote on voucher/school choice bills?
I do not support moving public education money into private school options.
What are your views on the Summit program or programs like it being implemented in our schools?
I was not familiar with the Summit Program, but just watched the video I found on Farmington Junior High’s website. From what I learned there, it looks like a good program. As we prepare our students for their 21st century careers, I think it’s important that we teach in a way that is engaging, that encourages student responsibility for learning, that helps students develop critical thinking and collaborative skills. Based on the video, it looks like this program does this. I do think that we also need to have our teachers help scaffold new ways of learning such as this. We learned from Covid that you can’t just throw a self-guided online learning set of lessons at students and expect them to excel. They still need a teacher! Teachers are important not only for imparting knowledge of the content area, but also to help students learn the skills to be able to be responsible for their own learning. I do like that the Summit program gives students the opportunity to try some formative assessments multiple times without affecting their grades. They can decide when they think they are ready to show they’ve learned the content and can then take a summative assessment to show what they know and receive a grade.
What ways can we support diversity in our curriculum so that all students see themselves as culturally relevant?
As teachers work to get to know the individual students in their classrooms, they can determine how to make the content relevant. Perhaps it is using picture books with characters from similar cultural or social backgrounds as various students. Maybe it is designing math story problems that are relevant to real life situations for their students. Not every lesson needs to relate to the minority students, but it is important for teachers to be thinking how over the course of a week they can integrate something into lessons that will be relatable for each student in some way. As a school board member, I can look at our budgets to allow for our schools to have enough resources to have diverse books and other materials for teachers to be able to access.
What have you personally done to support teachers/public education?
I got my degree in Elementary Education and taught 4th grade for 1 year before starting my family. As soon as my oldest got to kindergarten, I’ve been volunteering in classrooms and serving on the PTA (including president at both the school and district levels) for many years. As a citizen, I actively advocated for two bonds to help rebuild our old, seismically-unsafe schools. As a current board member, I continue to advocate for teachers. When we are faced with decisions, including things like what our fall 2020 schedule would look like, I weighed what was best for students AND for teachers. In May 2022 I posted on my Jennifer Partridge Provo School Board Member facebook page about a touching moment at graduation when a school counselor helped a student who was too nervous to begin his graduation speech. That post went relatively viral in our Provo community, I think because it struck a chord with many when I said, “This. This is who our teachers are.” I’m very frustrated that the current political climate has created some mistrust towards teachers. Our teachers are in the classroom because they love our students and want to help each one reach his or her potential, not because they want to indoctrinate our kids with their own political agenda. I hope I can help our community see how wonderful our teachers are and help some of that mistrust go away.
How will you show your commitment to public education outside of your role as an elected official?
I will continue to advocate for our teachers and our students. I will continue to show up in our schools, to love and thank our teachers, and to speak publicly for them!