Jon Fila for Stillwater School Board

Why I’m running for the board in Independent School District #834

I want to support the work of this district so that our children are ready to be leaders in their communities and have the skills to achieve their goals. It is my desire to use my years of experience in education to support and guide Stillwater Public Schools as they develop policies and procedures to prepare learners for their future. I’m not only passionate about this because of my career as an educator, but also because I have children in this district.

Here are some of my central issues:

Safety

I spent most of my senior year in high school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, FL. Seeing the images on television of my old school in the context of another school shooting was deeply disturbing. I walked those halls and never thought it would happen there. Seeing those students share their stories made me realize that I needed to take my experiences, what I learned from those teachers, and add my voice to those seeking solutions.

Innovation

New practices and problem solving do not happen in isolation. Collaboration is necessary for the development of new ideas. Every person in the district, including community members, are a part of making this happen. There are practices that are more efficient, less expensive, and are designed to help students learn that can be implemented to drive modern education. ISD #834 has a history of innovative practices and we should work to return to the core values that allow those frameworks.

Curriculum & Instruction

There is a movement in higher education and in K12 settings to develop, use, implement Open Educational Resources (OER). As a leader in this movement I have presented at statewide/national/international conferences on this topic. These resources serve a number of purposes:

  1. Build teacher capacity – Developing curriculum, using digital tools, collaboration with other educators are all beneficial to improving teaching practices. Instructors with these skills are able to support others within their programs and sites to help personalize instruction. Growing our own experts is key to successful implementation.
  2. Blended Learning – Using technology to aid instruction is a necessity. Used properly, blended learning is more efficient, and allows learners to cover more content that is more likely to stick in long term memory.
  3. Cost savings – Avoiding expensive textbooks and costly recurring subscription fees to vendors allows for more targeted professional development
  4. Personalized Instruction – Textbooks are not written to specifically address MN Academic Standards. By developing existing OER we can make sure that we are targeting the standards

OER is only part of the solution. I want our learners to have skills not easily targeted for replacement by an increasingly automated workforce. I want our students to be creative problem solvers, who can work with individuals of diverse backgrounds. I want students exposed to coding; new methods of communication; and web development.

College & Career Readiness

We are not seeking to educate students for our past or present, but for their futures. Students who take Developmental courses in college are likely to drop out because they are paying for courses for which they earn no credit. We want students who are not limited because they may have a few gaps in their educational experience. There are many pathways to success (certifications, Career & Tech Ed; College etc.); and important elements to that success are Math and Literacy instruction. Focusing on targeting specific skills and gaps are a proven way to make sure students are ready for their chosen paths. Students proficient in these skills are not limited; their ACT and Accuplacer scores are higher and being able to progress in their chosen pathway can result in generational change.

Accessibility

Did you know that most, if not all, school districts do not have policies specifically related to how they make their materials and services accessible to individuals with disabilities? Making content and materials accessible is required by Federal Law. Many learners also have disabilities that are not explicitly addressed by IEP/504 plans. They do not receive additional services by the district but still require support in order to be successful accessing materials. I have experience working on those policies as well as making digital content accessible for users of assistive technologies. I have worked with a cohort of districts and curriculum vendors at the MN Dept. of Education working on improving practices in those areas. I have also made publicly available, to all interested districts, free professional development modules to help support teachers as they work to make their materials accessible for all learners.

Online Learning

Online learning experiences are integral to a learner’s experience in order to prepare them for their futures. From taking online courses in college and in trainings, licensure and professional development in all fields; it is necessary that students are able to navigate digital content efficiently and effectively. All learners in Minnesota have an option to enroll in online courses as part of their school day and it is in the best interest of district residents to choose from the best of these options and have the capability to offer these courses to our students.