Hi I’m Willard Sheppy and I’m running for Zone 2 School Board Member.
For the past five years, I’ve been on your side serving the community. Most recently on the Park and Recreation Commission and before that on the Traffic and Safety Commission. I’m the guy that cares about keeping our streets safe and parks fun for your family.
Working together we will put the pandemic behind us and face the real challenge of closing the education gap and getting our kids and families back to a safe and regular routine.
I’m not a politician. I’m about getting down to business. Nationally we’ve all seen the results of governing by ideology. You deserve better.
Just like you when it comes to public safety, quality education, and public services, I want schools to work efficiently with balanced budgets and community pride. A School district worthy of its people.
The challenges facing Albany are complex but my reason for running is simple. I am on your side. I want your kids and my kids to have the same opportunities I had growing up here in Albany.
And as much as I’d like your vote I want to hear from you, so send me your thoughts and questions.
Let’s do this together.
In my work as a coach, educator, and parent, these three principles are the most important:
When children know they are protected and that no harm will come to them, they feel free to reach out to others and explore their environment. By maintaining clear guidelines that respect individuals’ community needs while protecting the most vulnerable groups, we can reopen our schools as quickly and safely as possible
A huge part of education is growing social and emotional well-being: giving and receiving acceptance and respect, being a part of a team, club or supportive friend groups, etc. Learning to engage multiple perspectives and interact with different people helps students to become more successful in life.
Helping children discover that they are competent and capable is the foundation for building lifelong learners. With the ever-changing work environment and advancements in technology, having employees with skills to maintain this esteem and progress is critical.
My entire life and career I’ve worked with people struggling to achieve their learning goals.
It started with myself: In elementary and middle school I had to overcome a learning disability. I was having a hard time learning to read and was pulled out of class and sent to the resource room for help. There I watched some students excel, and others fall farther behind.
I experienced the needs and struggles of students with learning disabilities firsthand, but also witnessed a lot of teachers doing great work for their students. This set me on the path to where I am today.
Watching my dad, Michael Sheppy, teach night school at West Albany High School inspired me to work as a Kiwanis counselor for kids with autism and severe ADHD. Facilitating student relations in college drove me to work as a mediator for Linn County. Coaching martial arts for students of all ages led me to found my sports acupuncture and coaching office, Valley Health Clinic.
Through it all, I’ve learned two major lessons.
The first is that everyone learns differently, and the more we meet our students, patients, or colleagues where they are, the more progress they’ll make. That takes listening, empathy, and a willingness to participate in difficult conversations.
The second is that the only way to ensure the best outcomes for our community—whether that’s our students, our teachers, our patients, or our employees—is to invest just as much into our well-being as we do into our work. Tired, overworked, and burned-out staff are never going to be as effective as those who are balanced and happy.
The biggest challenges facing GAPS starts with the transition out of COVID-19 distance learning. Covid has exposed and exacerbated a gap that our most at risk students have fallen through. While the task of expanded reopening has already begun, the effects of its closing are not to be underestimated. Disadvantaged students have fallen further behind and the district has a new challenge of playing catch up.
Covid has magnified the gap in access to school resources that falls along racial and socioeconomic lines. When physical schools were removed many of its safety nets, access to hot meals, special education services, therapy, high-speed internet went to.
During Covid some families were able to convert bedrooms and spare offices into mini classrooms. They were able to have parents or child care monitors,supporting students as they learned. Other students had to work from crowded apartments with spotty internet and little to no supervision.
Greater Albany Public School understood what was going on and did a great job to meet the needs of its students but it wasn’t enough. The Boys and Girls Club. I still heard stories from BGC staff of students who just didn’t turn in work, or would just take selfies of themselves because it would show as been turned in. Also heard from high school students that said everyone was just cheating on a test because there was no way to prevent it.
Mental health is strongly coupled with the transition of students back into school. A year at home, many in trauma, and many of our students existing in critical adolescent and teen years will all contribute to a large need for mental health support. A focus on supporting social and emotional skills, especially resiliency training, will be of the utmost importances.
There is a desperate need for counseling. Superintendent Goff said “ that counselors and mental health professionals are needed and that reportsof child abuse have decreased by 60 percent a day since school has not been insession because the mandatory reporters are not involved with students daily”.
Students have not been able to access learning at near the same level as pre-Covid, including a significant number with little to no engagement. The biggest challenge schools have is closing this widening spectrum of skills and knowledge.
GAPS was forced to innovate and reevaluate its systems. Many of these changes were very successful and should become permanent options moving forward.
The new Albany Online was a new and successful option for some students. I have heard from parents that their children, who were struggling in the classroom model, are now doing great with online school. They were able to be more self directed, take breaks when needed and were less distracted by other students.
Continuing to look into digital learning practices provides another tool to help students be successful. GAPS has done all the hard work creating new ways of learning, now we need to evaluate and keep the ones that are working. Evaluating platforms like canvas for efficacy and continue to implement one to one technology.
This is also a great time to reevaluate equity practices. Training staff to look at their professional practices and curriculum to be more inclusive of all students. We need to move past spending one day talking about Martin Luther King to an education model that teaches multiple perspectives of history, highlighting the failures and triumphs of many cultures and people.
It is important curriculum changes and equity practice be directed by communities that they most impact. GAPS has done and needs to continue to listen first.Now is a great time to review policies and procedures to ensure all students are provided for and treated equally and equitably.
Greater Albany Public Schools do have the funding to be successful but it doesn’t have the funding to be its best.
There has been a steady disinvestment in school since passing of Measure 5/50 which shifted funding form property taxes to income tax. Income tax revenue fluctuates more than property taxes. There have been more bad years than good ones and 2020 was no different.
This decline in funding is reflected in reports showing the State is funding below a “Quality Education Model” established in 2000.
The Student Success Act,Measure 98, and other state and federal funding will help close this gap but that money was meant to be proactive not reactive.
I’m excited about the Student Success Act to recruit/retain teachers of color, more counselors in schools, waiving participation fees, more instructional days.
One opportunity to develop a more stable and equal budget distribution is to take a proactive long term look at the partnership between city development and schools. City development impacts school and schools impact city development. Another way of looking at it is school budget impact communities and communities impact school budgets. It is difficult to address racial and economic equity within the schools without considering what is going on outside of them. When school districts collaborate with city planners, Albany benefits both socially and economically.
I talked a little about how socioeconomics has made the impact of Covid hit some students harder but as a healthcare provider I also want to talk about the impact socioeconomic status has on health and learning.
Socioeconomic status (SES) is an important predictor of a range of health and illness outcomes. There are many reasons for this but a simplification of this effect is due to chronic stress. Lower SES is associated with a number of conditions that contribute to chronic stress; like over crowding, crime, noise pollution, and discrimination.
As parents it is hard to constantly worry about money and even though we try to hide it from our kids they feel this stress too.
This increase in stress can drag our kids down. A number of researchers have shown that chronic stress affects the thinking skills and brain development of students.
Stress hormones produced during worrisome times can shape the developing circuitry of the brain. They influence the neural connections in the prefrontal cortex which houses our executive functions. These functions include our memory, self-regulation and cognitive flexibility. Executive functions are critical for reasoning, planning, and for regulating emotions and attention. They are essential to academic success.
When children know they are protected, that no harm will come to them and that they belong in the school community they feel free to reach out to others and learn new things. Combating the socioeconomics imbalances will make all kids healthier and smarter.
In Jemar Tisby’s book How to Fight Racism, he provides a model called the ARC of racial justice which shows the different paradigms we can be used to fight racism. The ARC is an acronym for, awareness, relationship and commitment. I have dedicated most of my energy to awareness and relationships..
In college, at Oregon State University I was a part of a Team Liberations. An organization that provides interactive workshops to the Oregon State University community on issues of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, religious intolerance, communications, community and leadership development. We used a model developed by the National Conference for Community and Justice which focuses on promoting inclusion by using human relations to educate and develop respectful and just communities.
After I graduated, Oregon State University I volunteered my time with the Community Alliance for Diversity. I implemented study circles on race and youth issues in Crescent Valley and Thurston High School.
While getting my Masters Degree at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine I was elected to the Student Council. The goal was to effectively represent and advocate on behalf of students. One of our objectives was to replace the word “Oriental” in the school’s name. Although we began the conversation it wasn’t until 10 years after I left did the board of trustees vote and agree to the change.
In recent years my efforts have been more internal as I focused on building a business and raising a family. My wife and I donate to organizations to end racism. We proactively spend time talking to our kids about what is going on in the world. At work, I seek to create a safe space for people by using appropriate language and intake forms.
Despite all this my efforts feel inadequate, though it is a space I continue to challenge myself to grow in.I am excited about working with the school board to continue my commitment and have a greater impact on our kids and communities.
My work as a mediator with Linn-Benton Mediation Services and Acupuncturist has left me with a focus for ending institutional inequalities in two areas: Restorative justices and Students Health. This breaks down to belonging and safety.
Being comfortable with and connected to others by giving and receiving acceptance and respect. The feeling of belonging to a school is important for promoting social and emotional well-being. Learning to engage multiple perspectives and interact with different people helps students to become more successful in life.
Restorative justice seeks to restore students belonging to a community and not punish them out of it. It teaches and empowers students to resolve conflict on their own and acknowledges the victim. It asks the question what is wrong, not what is wrong with you. Research has shown that these programs have helped strengthen school communities, prevent bullying, and reduce student conflicts. Proactive use of these techniques can reduce suspension and expulsion.
Zero-tolerance disciplinary approach while intended to be only used to address serious threats to students has caused a disproportionate suspension of minority students and students with disabilities. It is an area of anger for many in the larger community and micro community of our schools.
When children know they are protected and that no harm will come to them, they are better able to reach out to others and explore their education.
Student mental and physical health is affected by socioeconomic and race-based stress, which makes academic success that much more difficult. Promoting positive ethnic and racial identity rescues feelings of exclusion and improves the ability of students to focus in the classroom.
Teachers can help students develop positive feelings about their ethnic and racial identity by exposing them to diverse role models. Schools and districts should incentivize and support educators in developing and using culturally relevant curricula. GAPS can improve practices for recruiting and retaining more educators of color and cultural competence.
And as much as I’d like your vote, I want to hear from you, so send me your thoughts and questions.