Election Q&A: Washock runs for school board

Gabriella Di Lalla, Staff Writer

To prepare for the upcoming Nov. 2 election, The Paw Print’s Gabriella Di Lalla conducted email interviews with the seven candidates running for three positions on the Mayfield City Schools Board of Education. The Paw Print has not taken a position in the election and has not endorsed a candidate.

The story below reflects the interview that took place between Gabriella and Maureen Washock.

Gabriella: Why are you running for the Board of Education? If elected, what will be your priorities?

Ms. Washock: I have a child in third grade, second grade, and preschool. When I look at our board, I don’t see someone who represents someone in my stage of parenting with the concerns of elementary students in the front of their minds. I think more diversity of representation is needed.  Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, Ohio changed how schools are to be assessed and we will start seeing those reports next year. The system is changing from a five-level, A-F letter grade system for schools to a nine-level star system, and the metrics are changing as well. It is important that we begin talking about this change before the report cards come out and then address the results in a way that is easily accessible to the larger community. This is a big change and I think it will require board members to be put in a good amount of time reviewing and revising the strategic plan to set goals that are in alignment with the new metrics and address any gaps that are identified. This is something I am not only willing but excited to do. I also think it is critical that community relations are repaired, especially with district parents and I think that transparent, two-way communication is the way to approach it. I would like to explore standardizing the use of surveys to solicit stakeholder opinion (parent or student) prior to decisions. I would advocate for renewing the parent council that would advise the board on community opinion. I would like to facilitate connecting the superintendent with the community to answer questions and explain decisions and programs with town hall-style meetings that could be held at various times and utilize technology to increase accessibility. I would also like to revisit current board policy that hinders community participation at board meetings.

Gabriella: Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the Board of Education?

Ms. Washock: Originally, the issue that made me start paying attention to the Board of Education was the practice of arming teachers. Shortly after Parkland when the idea of arming teachers took on a national spotlight, I learned through my advocacy work that Ohio local Boards of Education are the ones deciding security protocols including whether or not to arm school employees, how much training should be required, and how those weapons should be stored. Under the law at the time, they also did not have to inform parents or students if this measure was adopted. Parts of this have gone to the Ohio Supreme Court and been ruled against, but it remains legal to arm school staff and the effort to loosen the amount of safety training is actively being pursued with active legislation in our statehouse. This has underscored for me the importance of paying attention to your local Board of Education, expecting transparency, and electing board members you can trust to make evidence-based decisions with student safety, health, and overall well-being at the forefront.

Gabriella: What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?

Ms. Washock: In my career as a nurse educator, I am very familiar with writing measurable goals with which to evaluate interventions. The Mayfield BOE currently uses a dynamic strategic plan with four pillars of focus. Within these four categories, goals and objectives are written. In order to evaluate our superintendent and treasurer, it is important that these goals are strategic, realistic, and measurable and I am experienced in writing and evaluating these types of plans.  I am trained in and very experienced with facilitating and debriefing critical conversations. School board meetings across the country have become heated and passionate with parents that want to be heard. Our board needs to be able to receive community feedback and facilitate productive conversation so that we can work together for the benefit of Mayfield students.  I have a certification and clinical background in pediatric nursing. I am uniquely qualified to assess not only the evolving pandemic-related concerns, but I also understand the impact and need for training to support our students with not just racial and cultural diversity, but LGBTQIA+, neurodiversity, disabilities, and mental health concerns.  I have taken the candidate training offered by the Ohio School Board Association to learn about the role. If elected, I plan to attend the capital conference and the new board member offerings put on by the same organization.

Gabriella: What issues do you believe our district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? What changes would you recommend?

Maureen Washock: In my review of the most recent school report cards, math seems to be the area where we have the most room for improvement. Within the strategic plan, there is a pillar that addresses teaching and learning. Should I be assigned to this subgroup of the board, I would work with our teachers and school administrators to set goals for interventions. I do not believe that it is my role as someone that does not hold a degree in education to select the most appropriate interventions and nor is it under the board’s duties as designated by the state to do so. I would be interested in hearing from teachers and administrators what resources they would need to succeed in meeting the goals set by the board and then addressing those resources in the budget as appropriate.  Additionally, there appear to be some opportunities to support achievement for our students with IEPs. Mayfield has a higher percentage than the state average of students with IEPs within our student body. If elected, I would want to explore this area more to seek out opportunities where I could help to set goals and allocate resources that would lay the foundation for progress.

Gabriella: What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members?

Ms. Washock: I pride myself on being the candidate who does her homework. I believe in evidence-based practice and researching issues using reputable sources and recognized expert opinions. I believe decisions should be made not based on my own opinion, but taking into account community opinion and weighing all the potential impacts before making a decision. My volunteer advocacy experience has given me practice in finding common ground, even when politics conflict.