May 8, 2017
I am the proud parent of two children in the Lansing School District. As mayor, I look forward to promoting the innovation and progress being made in our public schools. We need to prioritize familiarizing those with young children-- and those about to have children-- with the unique offerings our district has to offer, emphasizing Lansing as a district to choose. I will formalize a relationship between the Mayor’s office and the Lansing School District aimed at better showcasing and promoting the important improvements that we have made (and will continue to make). Moving forward, I would also like to see the City of Lansing partner with Ingham County, private partners, and the LSD to offer important wraparound services in our schools to help more directly address our community’s human service and socioeconomic needs. Additionally, I am committed to developing relationships with all of our schools (traditional public, private, and charter) as well as our higher education institutions in service of our community’s children.
City Relationship with Lansing Public Schools
Schools are the bedrock of any community, and high-quality schools are an essential component of creating equitable, healthy, and sustainable urban vitality. I want to see city leadership partner with Lansing School District leadership to ensure that our students have access to the best educational offerings possible. This isn’t just an investment in our students, it’s an investment in the future of our community; families that are happy with our schools will stay in Lansing. Too many have already left our city or moved their children to different school districts because of misperceptions surrounding Lansing schools (many of which are related to standardized test scores that fail to account for the diverse, immigrant-inclusive population our district serves).
To effectively pitch Lansing schools to our residents and to the world, the Mayor’s office needs a formal, positive relationship with Lansing School District leadership. Our current administration has no formal relationship with the district; the only formal collaboration between the two has been to support millage campaigns, which tends to happen late in the process. I am committed to working with the Lansing School District’s Board of Education and our superintendent to create a formal link between the city and schools aimed at ensuring we’re partners on issues important to our community.
School Quality and Student Opportunities
Through the leadership of its school board and is superintendent, the Lansing School District has done an impressive and admirable job of diversifying its curriculum and our children’s educational experiences. Lansing schools are unique in many of their offerings; we have a public Montessori program, offer Chinese and Spanish immersion, are home to the only International Baccalaureate degree program in the region, offer a technology-based New Tech program (which has a wait list), and have a variety of other focused offerings aimed at helping our students prepare for success. We also have the Lansing Promise, which provides financial assistance to Lansing high school graduates to complete a two-year degree, or a scholarship to Lansing Community College or Michigan State University. Earning overwhelming support from the community at the ballot box, Lansing’s Pathway Promise program provides real-world learning opportunities for our students and gives them a distinct edge in terms of career and college readiness. Different pathways are designed to offer students relevant, rich coursework—much of which is presented in partnership with business and industry. Moving forward, the Lansing Pathway Promise will help ensure that our students stay engaged in the district by offering them the opportunity to choose a Pathway that connects their passion to their educational environment. Another important advantage our schools offer is daily exposure to culture and diversity—a unique educational asset that graduates are able to leverage as they pursue an array of careers and college experiences. Additionally, our students have unique opportunities with early college partnerships through Lansing Community College and career-specific programs (such as the partnership with the Accident Fund for students to learn about the insurance industry).
Informing Residents of Improvements
Our schools continue to move in the right direction, but too often residents and non-residents are not aware of or don’t recognize it—part of a larger perception problem. As our district staff continue to work tirelessly on growing educational quality within our schools, the City of Lansing and its partners that sell Lansing to the region, state, nation, and world need to step up to dismantle negative perceptions of our school district. Entities like the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, LEAP, and others need to ensure that the positive story of what is happening in our schools is told to those we are considering coming to Lansing.
The City of Lansing has a role to play here, too. We need to proactively and proudly show our own residents what the Lansing School District has to offer to students. We spend a lot of time and resources attracting young talent to the region but don’t do a good enough job of helping them understand what the district has to offer to their children as they marry and start their own families. Instead, many young families move away from the city, utilizing School of Choice options to send their children elsewhere. I’d like to see the City of Lansing work in conjunction with partners to educate our residents—especially those who don’t have children yet or whose children are not yet school-aged—about the value the Lansing School District has to offer them. We must point out that we have exceptional buy-in to our schools from our retirees and tremendous support from those who do not have children. We need to work on convincing residents that their children can and will succeed as graduates of the Lansing School District and that their success is good for Lansing and our community as a whole.
The City must do what it can to assist the school district, as needed, with student readiness to move on to higher education or to get a job and start a career. Students need to be ready in the basics - reading, writing, and mathematics – as well as in other subjects that will help them be prepared for further education or life. Many factors influence the condition of readiness. These include socio-economic status, resources available, language and culture barriers and other factors. Lansing is a welcoming city and has a significant immigrant and refugee population. Students in the Lansing School District speak upwards of 65 different languages. This great diversity provides an education like non other in learning about cultural differences, but can also provide lower standardized testing scores due to language and other factors. Lansing must continue to assist and maintain programs for our immigrants and refugees such as the Refugee Development Center which provides the education, orientation, and support refugees need to become self-sufficient members of society. We must continue to support those efforts, especially for our children, with the programs that provide after school tutoring; youth group activities promoting literacy, leadership, and learning; school orientations for new arrival families; and support such as tutoring, mentoring and connecting with refugees. We also have great college financial assistance programs for our students that we need to continue to promote, such as the Lansing Promise and Hope Scholarships as well as the Lansing Public Schools Educational Advancement Foundation. We will continue to work with the foundations and school district to fundraise for these successful programs and to promote these programs to our students and prospective students. Promise scholarship partnerships with Olivet College, Lansing Community College, and MSU could be extended to other colleges and universities. Partnerships should also continue to be encouraged in a way similar to Lansing Community College’s Coalition for College and Career Readiness (C3R) which is aimed at improving college readiness in Lansing schools.
With resources limited for schools and the city, partnerships should be formed to help with assistance for our students in school and out. The Mayor can play a leadership role in helping our schools and students with outside resources to assist in the learning of our students. Non-profits, religions institutions, can dedicate both resources and time towards assisting our youth. Programs such as mentoring, life skills, guidance, sports and recreation, appreciation and arts, and special assembly programming could be beneficial to our students and supplement the important education that they receive in our schools. Additionally, these entities can help with parenting education which is a benefit to the adults in the Lansing community. We also must address the issues of children who drop out of school. These children become issues for the Lansing community and society. The City must work with the school district to identify and track these students and help them to get back into school or become productive members of our community.
Humans Services to Families in Schools
It’s worth noting that even though many of our community’s human service and socioeconomic needs are made transparent through the children in our school district, we don’t usually tackle those issues through the schools themselves. Schools have already identified at-risk populations by getting to know the families enrolled in our district, offering us a chance as a city to quickly connect our highest-need citizens with the resources they need. We have the Communities in Schools program offering wraparound services in Willow, North, and Attwood, and we have the Ingham Health Department operating health clinics at Eastern, Sexton, and Willow. The City can play a vital role, though, in expanding these offerings by combining resources with the Lansing School District as well as Ingham County and our other partners to include wraparound services for more schools in our district. The City of Lansing should expand its human services resources and place them directly into our schools, partnering with Ingham County human services staff to better assist our residents. Ingham County has some health center staff placed in our schools, but Lansing human services needs to come to that same table and coordinate with county staff. Students and their families need help in a variety of areas from dental needs, medical needs, and vision needs to food assistance and language learning. A comprehensive human services wraparound program coordinated between the Lansing School District, Ingham County, and the City of Lansing offers us a new avenue to address this important concern. It also offers us a way to outreach to those that provide support for the less fortunate and encourage them to ensure that the children involved are attending school and ensure them that the human services will be available. Lansing must also re-affirm its support for community policing in our schools. I’d like to bring students, parents, teachers, school administrators, the city, and the Lansing Police Department together to discuss how to most effectively continue to provide for the safety and security of our students.
Additionally, we need to make sure we are assisting our children at the earliest possible time. Lansing human services can work with Ingham County, the Lansing School District, and the Ingham Intermediate School District to screen students and at an early age for learning disabilities. This will ensure that they receive the services that they need and can be effective and productive in whatever school they attend.
City Relationship with All Schools
I would also like to see Lansing develop better relationships with the public charter schools and private schools in our community, Lansing Community College, Michigan State University, and Davenport University. Education (K-12 all the way up to higher education) is a key cog of the City of Lansing, and it’s time we recognized and formalize those relationships.
City Relationship with Higher Education
Lansing must also work closely with both Lansing Community College and Michigan State University. Many students and staff at these institutions of higher education live and work in Lansing. Additionally, the institutions themselves are important economically and socially for the region. Lansing must be a leader in the region by enabling partnerships with our higher education. We must work with our K-12 school districts to facilitate cooperation in many programs that benefit the city and its residents, and that allow for the continuation of education through programs like the Hope and Promise scholarships. This cannot be done in a vacuum. It must all be tied together.
Our students need career paths once they leave school. They may attend college or university after graduation from high school, but they may also go directly into the workforce. We must ensure they have the tools to succeed. Lansing must be involved with the Capital Area Michigan Works! agency and other workforce development groups to assure that students are prepared. Whether this means training in skilled trades, information technology, insurance, or some other field that needs talented workers, we must help our young adult and adult residents to be prepared for the workforce. Lansing should become actively involved with Teach. Talent. Thrive. or T3. This is a new committee of connected assets to support education and talent development in the Capital Area, and is committed to helping the Capital Area become the exemplary STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) region in America. Current partners involved include the Capital Area Michigan Works!, Lansing Community College, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Michigan State University and the Tri County Regional Planning Commission. T3 is a committee committed to lifelong learning led by business and community stakeholders to ensure regional prosperity in the ever-changing new economy, and the City of Lansing needs to be part of this effort.
City and Schools Vision Advisory Committee:
- Rev. Dr. Melvin T. Jones
- Hon. Dr. Nino Rodriguez
- Hon. Gabrielle Johnson
- Hon. Melissa Lilje
- Professor Nancy Wonch
- Dr. Yvonne Camaal Canul
This Advisory Committee includes individuals involved with our schools in Lansing. It also includes those doing work with our children and residents to help increase resources and tools for education. Many others not listed also provided feedback and input. This vision will continue to evolve throughout the campaign.