Shanna FIshel’s vision for fair and responsive educational programming stems from their experience as a special education teacher, as well as a certified human sexuality educator, both in the public and private sector. In their first year teaching, Fishel stepped into the role of school building Union Rep and took part in leading a union strike for better pay and contract negotiations. Fishel understands the need to invest in the needs of our students and families, and increase training and support for our teachers, administrators and school staff.
We must commit to an education system that inspires our youth to become critical thinkers and civic participants, while we work to address the needs of the whole child. To accomplish this, we need educators who are experienced, passionate, and excel in the trade, and compensate them accordingly. Fishel believes that Northampton Schools should provide high academic standards to a diverse population, and prepare our youth for real life challenges and to rise towards success. Fishel supports increased investment in our school budget so that Northampton education can lead in performance, while supporting youth and their families. To accomplish this, Fishel commits to the following measures:
- Invest in high-quality STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) classes, and enhance learning models towards career pathways, expecting excellence in teaching and learning,
- Implement a green trade program and a computer coding program in Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, and establish deeper cooperation with local unions to strengthen our vocational programming,
- Increase preschool, afterschool and summer learning programs, to support working families and ensure students’ safety, inspiration, and wellbeing throughout the year,
- Fund salary increases for teachers and staff [to well above the state’s average] in order to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce,
- Safeguard equal access for students with disabilities and invest in special education programming across all schools and with consideration of community needs,
- Enhance Family Student Engagement services to include family outreach programs and better assess, intervene, and support students and their guardians/families,
- To challenge explicit and implicit bigotry, hatred and racism, include educator teach-ins and curricula - with history and identity as the pivotal point of reflection - that will foster civic learning and social-justice engagement
- Certify that administrative policies and resources uphold sex- and gender- justice, and are culturally-proficient, including the presence of anti-oppressive school policies and gender-inclusive bathrooms in all school buildings
- Include comprehensive, evidence-based sexuality and relationship curriculum that fosters agency, accountability, and values of consent
- Keep district leaders and school staff accountable for municipal commitment to social justice and ensure restorative practices are implemented in all parts of our public schools, enhancing students’ well-being, ethical competences, and social-emotional learning.
Shanna Fishel's statement on the school district's proposed "Protections from Discriminatory Bias and Symbols of Hate" policy
I appreciate the efforts by members of REAL, Principal Caldwell, and various community groups who raised voice and action to combat the hate symbols and biases displayed at JFK in early 2021. It is meaningful to see the anti-bias and anti-hate policy proposal come out of this event; and, as it is groundbreaking, issues arise. The issue of freedom of expression asks us to revise the policy so it is defensible in court. Yet, while we commit to vigilant protection of our first amendment, we must acknowledge that when bias and hate are displayed in schools there exists a disproportionate effect on students of color and historically marginalized individuals. This protective policy forces us to decide what constitutes hateful symbols, and while the government may not have the power to decide which opinions are hateful, we have that option, and duty, as a school community. We must, as a community, confront our troubled racial history and ensure our learning environments are undisruptive and safe for all - students, teachers, and staff. Our school district should ensure schools lead through engagement, not penalizing strategies. Thus, the policy must include pathways to implement effective and proven strategies to disrupt all forms of hate and bigotry, empower teachers and admistrators to protect those who face discrimination and oppression, and include deliberate procuedures to address any incidents of hate through transformative learning and social repair. Our district must work on ways to protect our community of color and other historically marginalized groups to ensure the policy indeed increases safety measures for those most impacted by hate and bigotry. We must enhance our engagement and response system in schools, such as increased access to school counseling and increase teachers’ pay to attract educators and staff who can relate to diverse experiences. This policy will reach its mark if it creates opportunities to increase dialogue around systemic oppression, hatred and racism, through transformative justice learning and discussion. While we tackle the practicalities of implementing the policy within our school system, I would call it a welcome impact if we interfere with systemic and “acceptable” forms of biases, such as Native American mascots of opposing sports teams.