July 23, 2014 - Still wanting "to be a part of providing opportunities for kids" is why Trustee Kim Shumaker is seeking re-election to the Oxford Board of Education.
Shumaker (click for larger version)
"My experience, having lived in Ohio and Michigan and multiple different cities and different school districts is that sometimes school districts can be very focused on a particular thing. My high school (that I went to) was very sports, sport, sports, sports, another school might be fine arts heavy," Shumaker said. "The one thing I can say about Oxford is they are very well rounded. That's what's cool to me is because kids are not all the same. I have four kids and they are not the same, so to be able to bring your kids into this district, there is literally something for every child in this district. If you're not finding something, you're not looking."
What are some highlights of the district?
For Shumaker, it's the students themselves. "If you're doing anything right in your district the kids are going to shine and (in Oxford) they do. As much as I would love to say program X, Y, Z is our highlight or employee such and such is our highlight. That's not why we exist as a school. We exist for students and our students truly are our highlights."
She also believes the Oxford staff is "amazing."
"If you think of the programs we've implemented, just since I came on the board (in 2009), it's a lot. You're talking about language K-12, IB through the district, Chinese, Suzuki Strings, new technology (and) building projects. It has been a busy, busy five years. The fact that your employees have stayed through that, performed well through that and you're still producing kids with skills and abilities and experiences that says something."
What are her concerns?
While Shumaker is proud of the previous mentioned programs that have been implemented, the speed at which everything was done also gave her concern.
"In 2012, I really started seeing employee stress. It was too much too fast," she added. "My personal belief is that you can do a few things really, really well. You can do a lot of things maybe mediocre to well."
Even though the district has slowed down a bit and is starting to fine tune the programs they've put in place, the Chinese program is one that still needs fine-tuning, according to Shumaker. The initial plan was to have Chinese students stay in host homes, but the growth of that program and the growth of host families hasn't been equal with each other.
"I stepped up and did it but it's a big commitment. I'm glad for the experience, we've learned a lot, my kids have learned a lot about another culture and other ways of people's thinking, other ways they are raised and a different value system, but it's an impact on your home, for sure," she said.
"As much as you want them to be family, at the end of the day, they are not. I think they come . . to get through two years (of high school) and get into an American college – and we all know that up front. That's no secret, but I think that almost holds them back, in some cases, from really integrating into your family."
However, she did point out that there have been cases where the students "completely integrated" into a family, but it's "fewer than the norm."
"I just feel that we need to figure out what our final solution for housing them is going to be because it's kind of been a moving target," Shumaker said.
While the Weiming housing plan was set to possibly open in 2016, no plans have been submitted to the Oxford Township Planning Commission and no shovels have touched the ground. "I think the thing I've learned is I think the Chinese do things slowly. They don't have the sense of urgency that maybe we do," noted Shumaker. "I compare it to living in the north and south. The south just has that laid-back (attitude)."
One area that she is glad to see the district making strides towards is more and better interventions for students.
"This district, in the time I've been here, have cared about every kid," she said. "I think in the mix of doing so many things to try to be financially stable, maybe some of the focuses just got distracted."
For Shumaker, she just wants "every kid to feel they have a place" and help them figure out what their skills and what their goals are. One of those ways is working as mentor for the high school's robotics team and teaching students how to get scholarship money and get to that next level.
"For me it's not about a particular employee, it's not about an employee group (and) it's not about a reputation for your school in the state," she said. "It's about each individual child."
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.