July 23, 2014 - "Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat," rings true for Joyce Brasington, having been born and raised in Oxford and graduated from Oxford High School in 1982.
Brasington (click for larger version)
It's that lifetime experience that she hopes to bring to the Oxford Board of Education if elected in November.
"I love the community and I love the small town feel," Brasington said. "My parents still reside in the community as well and have been lifelong Oxford supporters."
It was that love of her hometown, which led her and her husband of 22 years, James, to build their house in Oxford.
"We built our home in Oxford Schools because it was important for us to raise our children here in the community," she said.
Brasington received college degrees in education, counseling and administration from Wayne State University and is currently in University of Michigan's Doctorate Program, for Educational Leadership.
She has also been active in the community as a Girl Scout Leader to one of her daughters from first grade until she was a freshman in high school, as well as a member of the Kiwanis Club.
Why is she running?
After working 17 years as a teacher, counselor, assistant principal and building administrator for Oxford Schools, Brasington made a hard decision to take an elementary principal position with Troy School District.
"When I left Oxford (schools to go to Troy) it was with a heavy heart, but I really felt I couldn't support the direction the district was going any longer," Brasington said. "In order for me to have a voice I needed to leave and no longer be an employee for the district."
That's why she has thrown her name into the hat of candidates going for one of the four open seats. "Between being a parent, a taxpayer, (an) Oxford alumni and just being someone in the educational system and having been an employee in the Oxford School system for so many years, I think I have a lot to offer," she added. "I know the different employees groups and I respect every single employee that's in the district and I know they work as hard as they can possibly work."
However, with her youngest entering her junior year at Oxford High School, Brasington said she is concerned about the education her daughter is receiving.
What are her concerns?
One of the biggest concerns is the "test scores don't matter" statement from district leadership and to Brasington, "there is no more important number for her daughter (or another student) to go the next step than their ACT score.
"That's going to open up doors or close doors depending on what that number is," she said. "In my mind we need to do everything we need to do as a district to prepare students to be career and college ready (and) I have a concern that we're not doing everything we can do within the district to prepare student to be college and career ready."
"It seems like everyone from the outside looking in is critical of Oxford Community Schools. Our ACT scores aren't going up. In ranking from top to bottom out of 500 some school districts, we're ranked 350 and our letter grade from the State of Michigan for 2012-2013 as school district was a letter E," continued Brasington. "Only 15 percent of school districts in the state of Michigan received a letter grade of an E and we were one of them."
Brasington said the district "has gone off the rails" and lost focus of their primary goal, which is the education of students and she has a hard time seeing where the programs like the Chinese Program, the Arts Conservatory or even having K-12 Schools of Choice is a benefit to her daughter and the other students in Oxford.
"I'm not sure if those programs are cost effective or not," she said. "If we're going to run this Chinese residential program how much money is it costing? How much money are we gaining? How much time is Oxford staff spending on this Chinese program, when they're no longer focused on the kids in the district they support K-12?"
For many of the things she questions, Brasington knows "the bell has rung and there is no going back," so she is looking at going forward. "How can the board, with the superintendent, make decisions that are going to positively impact student achievement from this point forward?" she asked. "That should be the only focus and only initiative."
What are some highlights?
Brasington does think some of the things the board has implemented have been very good for the district, such as the Engineering Program, which focuses on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).
"The fact that every student is part of that from the middle school through high school, I think that is a huge, huge program in the right direction and that we kept our auto-program at the high school," she said.
As far as being a possible board member, Brasington said she is excited about being active in the community again and believes as a former administrator that she can provide "more educational information" with regard to decisions. "Local boards of education have a great responsibility," she added. "There is a check and balance system in place and it needs to be exercised."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.