Meet the Candidates: Kristen L. Fauson
- My family and I moved to Forest Hills 10 years ago. When moving back to Michigan, our primary concern was finding an excellent school district for our three children. Our search quickly led us to Forest Hills and our kids currently attend Forest Hills Central Middle and High schools. I have been actively involved in the district since moving here: I worked as a substitute teacher, I volunteered in our children’s classrooms, and continue volunteering today with their sports teams, musical groups, and as an Odyssey of the Mind coach for the past 10 years. I own Launch College Consulting, which allows me to work with local families to help guide their college-bound students to find a college where they will continue to grow and thrive after FHPS. I grew up in a household that prioritized education and after high school, I received my BA from Cornell University and my Ph.D. from Georgetown University. My father was a superintendent in Ottawa County, so I understood from an early age the importance of strong working relationships between the Board, the Superintendent, and the community. I believe an active and engaged Board can transform the educational experience for our children.
- I have a passion for education, and I want all children to feel excited about going to school each day. School should not be a one-size-fits-all model. As a Board member, I’d like to expand innovative approaches to teaching and learning so that all students have access to learning in a way that makes sense for them. Kent Innovation High School, Project Next, Goodwillie Environmental School, flipped classrooms, and remote learning are all examples of ways to engage students in a less traditional 20th-century format, and move toward a 21st-century format that allows flexibility, engagement, and collaboration. As an entrepreneur who works with high school kids, I listen to them to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and what is important as they move into life after high school. As an Odyssey of the Mind coach, I know that problems sometimes need to be viewed in unconventional ways to arrive at the best solutions. I would bring these same skills and insights to the Board in an effort to improve education for everyone.
- The biggest challenge facing public schools, including Forest Hills, is finding a way to get our kids back to school safely in the face of the ongoing pandemic. The health and safety of everyone – kids, teachers, staff, and ultimately the families that they return to at the end of the day – is of the utmost importance. As I write this, school has not yet started for the fall, and I hope by the time this is published we will be having a successful start to the school year. It is important for the Board to balance the educational and social-emotional needs of the children with the rapidly changing dynamics of the virus while also being attuned to the needs of the teachers, the families, and the community as a whole. This challenge is made more difficult by cuts in state funding. Funding is always an issue, and Forest Hills has weathered financial storms thanks to sound financial stewardship over the years. But each year, schools are asked to do more with less and less. We need to use our funds strategically and invest in the technology and innovative practices that make school engaging and enriching for all learners.
- Working well with others requires good listening skills. Listen to learn, not just to respond. No one person has all the answers; but many people together, listening to each others’ experiences, can collectively find solutions that no one individual can arrive at on their own. Active listening means engaging, asking questions, and being willing to absorb relevant information and adapt your position accordingly. I do this in my college consulting practice, where listening to the needs of kids and their families is paramount to finding the right college experience for each student. I did this as a substitute teacher, listening to the needs of the teacher, but balancing that with the immediate needs of the classroom. I do this as an Odyssey of the Mind coach, where my job is to understand what the team is saying, and help guide them to come up with answers on their own, balancing individual needs and wants for the good of the team. I always strive to be respectful and resourceful, and will bring these qualities to the Board to work for the good of everyone in FHPS.
- I want to help move the district toward an inclusive learning model that works for all children. We need to let teachers innovate and explore new ways of delivering material that is engaging to students and it is up to the Board to champion those initiatives. Our teachers, who are in the classrooms every day with all different types of learners, are aware of what works and what doesn’t, and should not be hamstrung by convention and those who say “we’ve always done it that way.” Innovation is what will continue to make FHPS a shining star in West Michigan and throughout the state. We need to provide an inspiring and enriching education for all students, whether they are headed to college, the military, community service, or the job market. And we need to make sure that the culture at FHPS is inclusive to all children. Systems that perpetuate discrimination, intentionally or unintentionally, need to be dismantled and differences not just tolerated but celebrated. I want to ensure that every child is inspired and pushed to reach their own individual potential.