Ann Heitkemper for Olympia School Board
Share by Email Twitter
Ann Heitkemper
for School Board
Democrat for Olympia District 4
Elect an Educator for School Board

I was born and raised in Washington State. I am running for school board as a way of giving back to my community. I am a college biology professor and I have lived in Olympia for over 24 years. Some of my fondest memories are walking my daughter four blocks to Garfield Elementary School. Parents, kids, and pets starting their morning together. We still live in the neighborhood and I am still close friends with many of these people.

My daughter received an excellent education from Olympia School District. I am an experienced educator and I humbly offer my expertise and assistance to the OSD community.

I Advocate for Strengthening Neighborhood Schools
Neighborhood schools are good for our children for many reasons. They can create strong supportive communities, reduce the carbon-footprint, and they can be effective equalizers that reduce the achievement gap.

Neighborhood schools can foster community building. Parents and kids in the neighborhood interact more outside of school and look out for each other. As a working mother, I would have been lost without the support of my neighbors who helped with emergency childcare. Neighbors watch out for the safety of children as they walk or bike to and from school because they know each other. I felt a sense of relief knowing that my daughter and her friends were part of such a supportive neighborhood community.

With neighborhood schools we drive less, reducing the use of fossil fuel and the level of air pollutants. The health of the environment is one of the most important issues our children have to face. As we enter the climate "changed" era, we should pull out all the stops to reduce our carbon footprint to combat and slow the further deterioration of our environment. Walking and biking to school are also more likely to occur with neighborhood schools, promoting healthier bodies and minds.

Options and magnet schools are very important and they are supported by the community. The Olympia School District has a variety of options for their students. I help many students with various learning styles in my college classes and have firsthand knowledge of the need for different methods of instruction and engagement. Avante and GRUB are examples of programs that allow students to use different approaches to explore their unique skills and aspirations. JAMS is an innovative and successful program for high-achieving science students. The teachers motivate their students by using real-world problem-solving projects.

Even with transportation provided, such as buses and car-pooling, low income students are less likely to participate in distant "options" school programs, however. For parents, such distant programs are difficult to participate in when you are trying to work two jobs, go to school and keep track of two or more kids being bused to different schools. Additionally, afterschool and extracurricular activities are more difficult to participate in. Parents that participate in options are typically wealthier and able to more easily navigate the educational system for their children's benefit. They take away their input, participation and advocacy from the neighborhood school.

What Is The Solution?
Bring successful teaching methods from "options" to the neighborhood schools. The question is which ideas and methods should be brought into traditional schools? My background with college students and running start students has prepared me for such conversations. I speak to many college and running start students who explain the shock they experience going from high school to college. Students have told me that the amount and difficulty of the work required for college classes increases significantly. High graduation rates are important, but what good is a high school diploma, if our students are not prepared for post-graduate work? K-12 educators and college educators working together, would help with this often difficult transition.

School to Job Options in High School
Expansion of trade, certificate, and other direct school to job options in high schools is an idea that I would like to see explored more. New Market Skills Center is a model to expand on. I think we should stop telling all our kids that they have to get a four-year degree to be successful and happy. We are in need of trade jobs right now. Businesses can't fill positions. Let's put more focus on helping students figure out where their skills can be best used and be realistic about opportunities for individuals. A balanced approach can help lead students to successful careers and jobs with secure futures without big debt.

Who Should Be On Your School Board?
Any over-sight board should have a diversity of people chosen from the community. Parents, educators from different levels (e.g. grade, middle, high, college), people from the local business sector, and students have important voices to be heard. School boards should represent the people they serve. It is critical that people of color, indigenous people, and LGBTQ people be elected to promote real equity. Parents from a variety of schools, and school programs, are also important so that no one program or philosophy has an unfair advantage over others. School board directors are typically made up of people who have the resources and time to run for an office and volunteer, like myself, further promoting inequity. Olympia has a changing demographic and its over-sight boards should reflect that change.

Ann Heitkemper
Olympia, Washington