What do you want readers to know about your campaign for YCS Board of Education, and its impact on culture across the school district?
I want people to know that my journey to this election was led by the students that I had the pleasure to serve over the course of the last ten years and feeling inspired by their imagination, resilience, and passion. Knowing our students and the journey that we have all been on over the course of the last ten years with constant transition and working in deficits in so many areas I feel that it is my duty to bring a stable environment that is built with putting our children first and helping them find their path to successful adulthood in a nurturing environment that capitalizes on their assets.
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from your campaign trail as a candidate running for office in Washtenaw County?
At the most recent candidate forum I was asked a lot of questions about the current state of our school district and how I hope to transition us from where we are at to where we all want to be. In the crowd I could see the heads of parents, teachers, and community members nod in unison as I brought forth plans to make action in areas that are actionable and help to create more partnerships with those that currently serve our young people. My ideas on how to help improve our school district are nothing without the community supporting them and them feeling like they will make sense for our young people. I feel lucky that this path that I have followed has connected me to so many parents and organizations that have a common interest of our young people’s best outcomes and it feels good to be informed and supported by my community.
YCS Board of Education leadership bring perspective, local resources, and a range of schools of thought to the decision-making table? Can you tell readers a little bit about your goals?
As the chairperson of the Ypsilanti Community Schools Facility Board I lead a community conversation over the course of three months with community leaders and stakeholders that made recommendations to the YCS Board of Education on what to do with our buildings to make the highest and best use of them and to help to stabilize a district that has been in constant transition. Although the recommendations were fully adopted by the board, three years have gone by with us leaving two buildings in dire disrepair and need of being completely raised in two east side neighborhoods (Kettering + Thurston). And two other east side schools vacant with occupaible space with no plans of making them of higher use (Chaney, Willow Run HS). I deeply understand how these vacant and derelict buildings impact our neighborhoods and the people in them, and will turn the districts focus to making sure these are assets to our community not liabilities. In addition, I helped to create the Ypsilanti International Elementary School three years ago at what was previously Adams School. We as a committee took an idea and with working with administration created a school that is now one of the highest rated elementary schools in Washtenaw County. I want to build on this victory an being that I was a large part of this process I would like to empower others in our community to bring creative programming to YCS families and young people. I also will be advocating at AAPS board meetings during public comments for them to stop taking our children via open enrollment. We currently do not advocate in any space for this measure to stop although it has egregiously affected our district and families. I will also be “inspecting what I expect” as a board member and intentionally spending time in each of our schools to make sure that the expectations we have given ourselves and told parents are being brought to fruition.
What about the opportunity to serve as a YCS Board of Education first interested you in committing your time and energy to campaigning?
Again, I felt led. Our most recent Superintendent Dr. Ben Edmonson motioned to me casually two years ago that I should run for school board, I didn’t take it seriously at the time but his comment stayed with me. After, I was encouraged by parents in my community that I should run as well as well as my wife. I took quite a while to think about what life would be like as a board candidate and with my families and friends support decided that I would move forward. I thought deeply about my experiences in the district and my unique knowledge I have gained thru service and in my professional career and found that my talents and knowledge matched up well with the district’s current leadership voids. But the ultimate reason was for the kids, the kids that need us, the kids that are voiceless, the kids that are my neighbors, and the kids that I love.
What do you think are the three key takeaways from your campaign?
For one, the task before our school district is a tough one, but we owe it to our children to provide high quality environments for them to thrive in, and despite our problems we simply need to figure it out and provide solutions. Secondarily, we must also remember that we are a new school district, not two failed school districts. This applies to a lot of our policies and emotions as a community about our schools, as we cannot get trapped into the way “things have always have been” as that path in part led us to having to create a new school district. And lastly, we also have to hire a superintendent that creates a positive model for our young people like that which Dr. Edmonson provided, as well as make sure that the new superintendent keeps the deep community connections their predecessor established as we are only going to get where we need to be as a district if it is a true “Community” school, being one that reflects the community it is a part of in every way possible.
Amplifying student voice is a significant priority for YCS leadership. With that in mind, can you tell us about your experience in engaging with leadership across Ypsilanti Proper and Ypsilanti Township that is an example of uplifting young people?
I am happy to say that I have been able to engage with so many nonprofits that serve our community and been able to observe as well as soak up their organizations abilities to allow for ownership amongst our young people. Here is a list of specific examples:
While matched as a Big Brother at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County I was telling a story to their leadership of a note my little brother wrote me the day of my wife and I’s wedding in 2013. They asked if they could use Damon and I’s story as well as his words for an advertising campaign, and they did just that. I remembered the first time he saw his face on the back of the AAATA bus in a picture of me helping him tie his tie and just how excited he was, and how empowered he felt.
While working for EMU Bright Futures at Washtenaw Intonational Middle School in 2014 under the guidance of administrator Will Spotts I was asked to come in and help the students create a basketball program. Instead of coming with my program to the school I met for weeks ahead of time with students and discussed how we were going to create a culture and goals to meet their desired outcomes. Once running the program, we reflected weekly on how we we meeting our mutual goals and adjusted our program as the young people felt were fit. It was beautiful to watch them reflect and learn thru the process and gain so much more than just a time period to recreate.
Watching YCS high school art teacher Lynne Settles class mature from soaking up information about Ypsilanti’s past to creating three murals in our community that each spoke to our beautiful history has been amazing to witness. The way this must have affected young people in connection to their community must be one that stays with them every time they drive by and say “I was a part of that.”
Gesture of Solidarity is a digital repository of Q&As + profiles depicting public life, and culture in Ypsilanti, MI.
Get to know Tyler Weston on October 29, 2018 from 6:30-8PM (EST) at Eastern Michigan University, Student Center Room 310A. (Event facilitated by the EMU Black Student Union.)