By Harold C. Ford
Linda Boose was selected Tuesday by the Flint Board of Education (FBOE) to fill a seat vacated a month ago by Adrian Walker.
The decision came after two rounds of interviews lasting nearly 2.5 hours, with five members of the board – Danielle Green, president; Joyce Ellis-McNeal, vice-president; Laura MacIntyre, treasurer; Allen Gilbert and Chris Del Morone, trustees, voting unanimously for Boose. Trustee Carol McIntosh was absent.
Walker, then board treasurer, left to take a position in Michigan state government.
Candidates for the vacant board seat included Boose, Estella Simpkins, Ezekiel Harris, and Raymond Hall. Boose and Simpkins advanced from a first round of six questions to a second round of five questions.
Boose: Boose attended Flint Community Schools (FCS). She graduated from Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint where she majored in Health Care Administration. She taught briefly at Whittier Middle School. She worked for the Michigan Department of Health, based in Flint. She is the parent of three children that all attended Flint schools.
Simpkins: Simpkins is the parent of two children who attended and graduated from Flint schools. She served former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in an executive administrator position; she served as personal assistant to Pamela Pugh, former chief public health advisor for the City of Flint. She is currently head adviser to Crescent Moon Fraternity, a local masonic organization.
Harris: Harris was born in Flint and attended Flint schools until his middle school years when he transitioned to Carman-Ainsworth. An executive director position with the nonprofit MACC Development drew him to Detroit. Ramifications of the COVID epidemic led him to return to Flint, “to the city that we love.” At 29 years, he told East Village Magazine (EVM), “There aren’t too many people my age moving back.”
Raymond Hall: Hall attended Flint schools and graduated from Flint Northern. He has two daughters in Flint schools. The publicly free-spirited Hall worked as a laborer.
Candidates’ responses were ranked on a scale of one to ten (ten the best) with the candidate(s) accumulating the highest point total moving forward. Critics of the process have suggested that calculating the numbers can advance a candidate preferred by a minority of FBOE members.
Contrary to recent past practice, point totals awarded each candidate by FBOE members were not announced to the public.
[Note: To achieve brevity, only the responses of the two finalists, Boose and Simpkins, to the second round of questions are represented below. The responses are edited for purposes of clarity and brevity.]
2nd round questions
- Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. How do you see yourself working with other members of the leadership team? What is your vision for education in this community?
- Do you understand the term ‘community benefit agreement’? How could that benefit the school board?
- What would you do to ameliorate the school-to-prison pipeline in the Flint School District?
- How many FBOE meetings have you attended? When was the first? When was the last?
- Identify a recent board decision you felt strongly about. Describe how you would balance community concerns, student needs, state and Federal law, staff considerations, and your personal values and beliefs to determine how you would vote on the issue?
- “I can work at a high capacity … I respect each person’s opinion … I do not hold grudges … It takes a team … the superintendent, staff, the board, students, and the parents … My vision is to have a wholistic approach dealing with individual minds, body, and intellect … for the kids to have a complete understanding of how their skills and education will form their future.”
- “To get all the community partners … to make an agreement to support and serve … in partnership with the schools. It’s an agreement between the schools and the community partners.”
- “They (students) get lost in the system … drop out … and end up in the juvenile system. (Boose noted that most of her clients at the Department of Health and Human Services had no more than a 9th grade education.) They (students) get lost in the system and drop out … The kids have nowhere to go … (The schools) have to make sure they have a curriculum in place … to instill in the kids how important it is to finish their education and what the benefits are … A lot are not getting parented at home … Some families have barriers …The schools are the first line of defense … They can even start at preschool …”
- Boose said the first FBOE meeting she attended in-person was in the 1998-99 school year; the last was when Lawrence Watkins was the superintendent (2013-2015). She’s attended, virtually, a few meetings since then.
- “All of those areas are important … You have to weigh out the pros and cons in each situation … The staff, the students, and parents are the most important … The parents are the ones who choose the schools to send their children to … Student needs are very important … They (decisions/votes) have to line up with what the school district needs … You have to go by state and Federal law … You have to make sure your decision is not unlawful … My values and opinions would be last …”
[Note: Boose’s responses above are a synthesis of her public interview responses and subsequent comments made to EVM.]
- “I think it is very imperative that the school board be in contact with their local community, especially the parents … and to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to their curriculums, the health, and different things that are concerns of the school board … The school board should also have a desire to move the students into the 21st century with their education … and bring in programs that will address their behavioral issues the kids have, like neurological assessments … free physicals. (Ms. Simpkins continued by addressing the impact of the water crisis and COVID pandemic on the educational achievement of FCS students.)”
- “I have … it could really benefit the school board. (It’s) where the community would have some kind of contract or agreement … where they can work hand in hand … You want to have the community involved in different things the school board is doing (such as) the need for demolition of some schools, the need for building of other schools. The community is affected by anything you would do so you want to have an agreement … with whomever you might contract with … The decision is threefold; you’ve got to have the community … the board … local contractors … on the same page.”
- “I just hate the terms the pipeline thing … to eliminate it … It’s going to have to be something that’s very inclusive to include psychologists for students … physicians … a police force that would understand all children aren’t bad … We would have to have … special judges that could see through the exterior of that child to really get at the cause of what’s causing them to get into the situation that they’re in … We (should be) putting more money into schools, teachers, counselors … We have a lot of school-to-prison pipeline parents … parents are acting out too …”
- “I’ve only attended two but they were wide apart.” [One was “two weeks ago” and the other “about 15 years ago.”]
- “It was the building of this new school over in the culture district … I felt like many of our inner-city kids was not going to have an opportunity really to attend it because of where it was located and … only a certain number of kids could go there … and they had to have a certain scholastic IQ … most of the children were going to be discriminated against … That school was for the ‘other kids’ and not the inner-city kids … Right now, we don’t have candidates in position that are in favor of the inner-city schools. It seems it always goes to the parochial schools … charter schools … private schools … and the inner-city kids seem to get the tail end of the stick …” [The reader should know that Flint Cultural Center Academy is a public charter school with membership open to all students in the state of Michigan and that enrollment was determined by a lottery system. Articles about the FCC Academy have been published previously by EVM.]
Meetings of the FBOE are posted online at YouTube; a full reproduction of both rounds of interviews with all the candidates on March 15, 2022 should soon be accessible there.
The next meetings of the FBOE are April 13 (Committee of the Whole/COW) and April 20 (regular meeting). Much of the board’s work is done at COW meetings and then ratified at regular meetings a week later. Meetings typically start at 6:30 p.m.
At present, meetings can be accessed virtually via YouTube; visit the FCS website for details. Meetings can be attended in-person at ALA (Accelerated Learning Academy, formerly Scott School), 1802 S. Averill Ave., Flint, MI 48503.
EVM Education reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.