Already doing the DEI work we want to see, Amy Winkler has been immersed in the goals outlined in the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan personally and professionally for years, and has the experience, ideas and connections to help achieve them for the district.
On top of that, her natural drive for studying the finer details, fact-checking, and thoughtful review makes her an invaluable asset to the management of district policies, old and new--the foundation our school district builds up and out from as we grow.
Learn more about why we are endorsing her here.
1. What accomplishments, either in your current Board of Education role or in your personal/professional life, demonstrate your commitment to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district community?
I have lived in Fanwood for over 20 years. We moved here in part because of the excellent reputation of the schools. Once my children entered the schools, I joined the local PTA. I served the Coles PTA as chair of the Earth Day committee, as a member of the Mini-Grant committee, and a member of the Nominating committee, as well as volunteering for various activities such as book fairs, field days, and other roles. I was also a member of the Terrill PTA and the SPFHS PTA. While serving on the SPF school board for the last 13 years, I have worked hard to learn everything I can about our schools and our students, as well as about education across the state and the country. This includes taking advantage of the training offered to all board of education members by the New Jersey School Boards Association, which has honored me with Certified Board Member, Master Board Member, and Certified Board Leader credentials. For the last 8 years I have served on the board of Social Justice Matters, a local organization that works to eliminate inequity and to lift up diverse voices by fostering positive relationships among neighbors through education and advocacy. I have also volunteered through my temple as well as other initiatives in the community.
2. What is your vision for the future of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District?
I envision a school district where all students feel welcome and valued and contribute positively to the school community, and where parents are partners in the educational process bringing a broader perspective to the work. I also envision all of our students graduating with confidence in themselves and with the skills necessary to be productive members of the wider world.
3. The SPF School District’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan’s first goal is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to “increase opportunities to develop a district committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion through hiring practices of educational and support staff, curriculum development and student empowerment.” How important is this goal to you? What concrete actions will you take to actively help our district achieve these goals?
I feel that this goal is very important and is closely connected to (though different from) the Educating the Whole Child goal. Of course, as a board member, it is my responsibility to see that we follow the Strategic Plan.
What concrete actions I will take to move this goal (or any goal) forward is a tricky question to answer since board members do not act alone, but in concert with each other. Our job as board members is to set the policies for the district and ensure the district is well run, not to administer the schools. That is solely the job of the superintendent. Board members do not act as individuals.
[Much of the public does not really understand the job of the board or the responsibilities of individual board members. This document, particularly the FAQs on the last page, does a good job of clarifying things. This page also has excellent resources, including 4 videos, that help explain the roles and responsibilities of school board members.]
So in light of the above, please understand that my answer to the question of what concrete actions I will take to help the district achieve these goals may sound somewhat limited. I firmly believe in this goal and its importance for our students, especially since so much of the community came together to create the Strategic Plan. I do and will look at all decisions I make as a board member through an equity lens (much as I also look at all decisions through a student achievement lens, a financial lens, and other lenses). I do and will ask what effect these various decisions have on different groups of students as well as on individual students, and if the effects are disproportionate. I do and will make suggestions intended to create a more equitable environment for our students and their families.
As a member of the Wellness and Equity committee of the board I have advocated for and support the district's efforts to examine the use of the "n word" and to create specific guidance for students and staff around this. I have advocated for and support the district's efforts to review the school calendar and give consideration to all sacred and important dates, either as days off and/or days to raise up with lessons about their importance and significance. I have advocated for and support the district's efforts to incorporate Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and AAPI history and accomplishments into the year-round curriculum as well as being specifically recognized during the designated months.
4. Which Representation, Equity, Anti-Racism and Literary diversity issues do you think are most pressing for SPF students? If elected/re-elected, how do you think you could help improve those for our students?
I believe implicit bias is probably the most pressing diversity issue for our students, followed closely by lack of diversity of staff. I think there is much good intention here, but many of us do not see beyond our own experiences to understand the perspectives of others, which may be very different from our own. This is why literary diversity is so important as "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors." Implicit bias has wide ranging effects such as teacher expectations of particular students, which students enroll in more challenging courses, guidance counselor expectations of particular students, code of conduct infractions etc. In terms of diversity of staff, unfortunately the state (as well as the country) is experiencing a shortage of educators. And as diversity of staff has become widely recognized as a driver of greater student achievement, the demand for more diverse staff has increased in recent years. These are not easy issues to fix.
I do and will advocate for and support the district's ongoing professional development for our staff around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I do and will advocate for and support the district's work to "grow our own" future educators, especially the work toward creating a social justice-focused education academy within our high school. As part of the Wellness and Equity committee I advocated for and supported the expansion of recruitment forums for new staff to include HBCUs and other more diverse venues. Of course, there is still much work to be done.
5. For transparency purposes, we may share quotes of your partial or complete responses. Does R.E.A.L. Parents x SPF have your consent to publish your responses in the mediums we see fit?
Click here to return to the 2022 SPF BOE Candidate Endorsement and Election Resources page.