Christine Stead is one of eight candidates and four incumbents running for the Ann Arbor Board of Education. There are four seats to fill for four-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The general election is Nov. 6. Stead recently answered WLAA’s candidate profile:
Name: Christine Stead
Background: I grew up on a farm in Emmett, Michigan; a rural town West of Port Huron. People worked very hard where I grew up. I moved to Ann Arbor in 1990 to study at the University of Michigan. I have two degrees from UM: B.S. in Cellular & Molecular Biology; MHSA in Health Management & Policy from the School of Public Health, where I will be teaching a graduate course next semester on Organization & Management of Health Systems. I spend most of my time in healthcare and education. In healthcare, I work with academic health systems in a changing market with an emphasis on systems change that improves value for patients and preserves the academic mission. I also work on innovation in system delivery in healthcare.
How long have you lived in AA: Since 1990, so 28 years
Family: Husband: Jim Stead (married 20 years this May); Sons: Aidan Stead (18, studying engineering at Michigan Technological University); and Conleth Stead (16, Junior, Skyline High School)
Occupation: Business Owner/Strategic Advisory Firm: Headlamp Advisors, LLC (www.headlampadvisors.com)
How long have you been a member of the board of education? Eight years
Other government/political experience: None prior
As an incumbent, what are you most proud of during your term on the BOE? Turning this district around financially and educationally. When I started my services, AAPS had just endured a $10M reduction in funds. My first budget involved another $18M gap in funds; the following year a $12M reduction. We had to find a way to be able to invest in AAPS and inspire the community’s confidence. Bringing in a new Superintendent, standing up 7 new programs in one year based on areas the community wanted, executing them ahead of schedule, preserving our commitment to arts and extracurricular activities (won a Kennedy Center Award in 2015 for our Commitment to the Arts), investing in programs and supports that would help our children succeed – so much so that we are the #1 district in the state for at risk students (you do best with us!) – all of these coalesced into the ultimate vote of confidence from our community: picking our district as the place to educate your children.
Why are you running again for the Board of Education? My top priorities are 1) Continue to be an excellent financial steward of this district for long-term success; 2) continue to improve the safety and well-being of our students; and 3) ensure that every child has a high quality education so that they can be successful in their lives. This is a crucial time for public education – it has been discredited, defunded, and the political environment is harder now than in my lifetime. We must create an environment that continues to value diversity, support all students with a wide variety of needs, and create the high performing environment that this community expects, deserves, and can have confidence in for the long term.
What are some of the issues you feel are important at this time? 1) Fiscal stewardship: strong finances enable all other aspects of our work; 2) creating a safe and secure environment for our children so that they can focus on learning; and 3) enabling the full potential of each and every student. There is a lot of work that goes behind each of these categories. But I believe these categories rise to the top in terms of what positions AAPS for long-term success and where we need visionary and pragmatic leaders that know how to get this done on behalf of our students and our community.
What do you bring to the Board of Education? I approach my work based on what is best for students. Educating all students is our core mission. I bring a laser focus on that as my guiding principle for how I approach the many issues and challenges that are part of board service. Professionally, I bring systems thinking, a scientific foundation, a professional and inclusive leadership approach, a team model that brings together people across entities to get things done for our children; excellent listening skills and attention to detail; compassion; empathy; and a long track record of advocating for public education.
The No. 1 issue in most people’s mind is student safety. Are the schools doing enough in this area and is there anything more that can be done? In 2015, I helped write our gun policies that was a commitment to keep guns out of schools. In July, we won our Supreme Court case – our policies were able to withstand legal challenges, as we based them on the unique responsibility that BOE’s have to keep students safe, and the classification of a dangerous weapon as constituting an emergency, as articulated by the Michigan Department of Education. More importantly, we have invested in programs and supports to improve the social and emotional health of our students. We have been able to add back counselors at the middle schools that were cut years ago and create peer-based and other innovative programs and partnerships that we will continue to enhance to create a safe and warm environment that allows our students to focus on their education. We have led the way in progressive anti-discrimination policies, which the State BOE then modeled state policy after (LGBTQ policies, bathroom use policies as two recent examples). I am committed to continuing to evolve our work in this area to best meet the needs of our students.
What should voters remember on Nov. 6? This is a time where experienced leadership matters. Our state’s diversion of $4.5B in revenue away from K12 education won’t easily be reversed. We need trustees that can be excellent financial stewards, navigate policy, advocate for change, while continuing to invest and grow our district in a way that lifts up our entire community.