State Council District 6 candidate Jones talks about health standards, state mandates, religion at school

Sherry Jones, a retired Grand Island public school teacher, is running for a seat on the Nebraska State Board of Education representing District 6.

Part of its platform has been fueled by the debate over the power of the state BOE over controlling local school entities, exemplified by the turmoil of the Nebraska Department of Education health education standards starting March 2021.







The first, probably the most controversial, of the drafts has been revised; the whole process was temporarily halted in September 2021.

Jones voiced his position against health education standards, but told The Independent there are situations that require standardization.

“I think we need math, reading, science and social studies (requirements),” Jones said. “I can appreciate these standards and I think school management appreciates the adoption of these standards.

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“Other standards that are not fundamental should be left to local decision makers, such as health education standards.”

The main subject areas governed by the Nebraska Department of Education are: reading, writing, math, science and social studies. These core standards teach measurable content.

According to the NDE, other course standards “are not required by law, these content area standards provide a framework for quality teaching and learning for all content areas”.

However, Jones said: “Who says that something that is not compulsory currently may not become compulsory in the future? I think we need to make sure what we’re publishing is very solid. “

Something Jones firmly believes in is local control, he said.

“I truly believe that local school districts – school boards, parents, community members… know (what is) best (for) their children and the needs of their community. I like that as many decisions as possible are made locally. “

Community members directly involved in the class, teachers, should have a say in what is being taught and not sacrifice their own values, including religion, Jones said.

Jones herself walked that walk and prayed those prayers, she said.

When he taught, he said, “I did it before the school day started, at their desks. This does not mean imparting my religious convictions to them. I will pray for my students. Do you see the difference? “

As a special education teacher, Jones said he has seen emotional social learning practiced for decades.

Working with students with special needs sometimes led to behavioral problems, something that still happens today.

“(Student behavior problems) have been around for a long time,” he said. “There are just a lot of expectations about teachers, probably more today, things that parents probably took care of.”

It’s important to look beyond labels, buzzwords, and jargon, Jones said.

“You have to look at what it contains. There are a lot of new terms these days and things have changed. When I was a counselor, part of what I did was probably considered socio-emotional learning. “

Most of the parents appreciated those efforts, she said.

Early childhood education has likely been overlooked in the State Education Council’s campaign landscape.

“I’ve talked to kindergarten teachers and they’re doing a lot of work just to get the kids ready,” Jones said. “A year or so in kindergarten, I’ll support him.”

Jones said the parameters of teacher certification in Nebraska are too limited. The guidelines and requirements for teacher certification are regulated by the state board of education and NDE.

One element of teacher certification that Jones claimed not to be sold on is the Praxis test, which is a series of standardized tests based on different teaching specialties.

According to the NDE, “it requires a pass score on the appropriate Praxis Subject Assessment / Content Test to have an approval placed on a regular Nebraska teaching or administrative certificate.”

Jones disputed the requirement.

“Not all individuals accept the test. They should be able to show competence in another way, “he said.” There is an art in teaching that we cannot capture on a written test, in my opinion. We need very qualified teachers, but to establish that I don’t think. it should be based only on a written test “.

To help tackle the teacher shortage, Jones said reform of the reciprocity requirements is needed when teachers with out-of-state credentials come to teach in Nebraska.

This was brought home, Jones said, when he spoke to a Nebraska teacher who had come to the state from Colorado.

“She has been a principal teacher for five years in the area of ​​the English Language Learners (ELL) program. She arrived on Grand Island and was granted a two-year interim certification by the state. After this year, you will no longer be able to teach (until other NDE requirements are met). “

“It’s not good enough for Nebraska considering we have a shortage of teachers,” Jones said. “This is very troubling to me.”

When decisions like that need to be made, Jones said the taxpayers he represents are the ones he considers the most, but influence drips from top to bottom.

“When you serve parents, you end up serving children through parents. Parents are the voters; parents are the decision makers in their family.

“But at the end of the day, I’m responsible for representing my District 6 constituency.”

Jessica Votipka is the educational journalist for the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.

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