Jennifer Ringgold shares perspectives and priorities for the Midland Public Schools Board of Education – Midland Daily News | Team Cansler

Jennifer Ringgold celebrates her recent election to the Midland Public Schools Board of Education with an eye on teachers.

“I’m so grateful that our community voted in a way that supports our schools and (it’s) what our teachers union wanted and demanded,” said Ringgold, who will take office in January. “I am extremely overwhelmed by the messages of gratitude I have received over the past week.”

Midlands voters re-elected incumbents Jon Lauderbach and Phil Rausch and elected newcomer Ringgold to the board during the general election on November 8th. The three candidates elected to the Board were supported by the Midland City Education Association.

Ringgold is a Midland parishioner and has been in the district-wide business for over five years.

“I just got to the point last winter where I just couldn’t be a spectator anymore,” she said. “I felt the need to put myself out there to be someone on the board who is a voice for everyone in our community.”

At school board meetings last winter, Ringgold was attuned to what she described as a “division” in the community. Her involvement over the past five years has included connecting with the school community, attending board meetings and communicating with parents and families during the campaign.

“The whole goal of my campaign was to put community first and see people rather than problems,” she said.

Ringgold’s platform aims to be a voice for everyone, but she admits it’s focused on teachers and students. She has an educational background. Ringgold said through her professional work with the young population, she has seen their needs in action.

However, Ringgold said the first step in her tenure as a board member is to build relationships. Eventually, she hopes to create a safe space for “difficult conversations.”

Midland’s Jennifer Ringgold hugs her daughter Lainey Ringgold, 10, during a Lights for Liberty vigil in support of southern border immigrants Friday, July 12, 2019 outside the Midland County Courthouse. (Katy Kildee/kkildee@mdn.net)

(Katy Kildee/kkildee@mdn.net)

“Our young people generally face a world that moves and changes so quickly,” she said. “Then add a pandemic and local issues like flooding and they need our help. They need to be seen and heard and have a space to process all of that – in addition to all the expectations that we have and continue to have of them in order to be successful.

“It’s definitely an interesting time in how our community and our country need to respond in education.”

For example, an intentional response develops within education based on the learning needs of young people. It comes from the Michigan Department of Education and is called Social Emotional Learning.

Ringgold would like to continue the work of Social Emotional Learning as required by the state.

“Are their (children’s) needs met? Are they fed and calm? Do you feel safe? and working with teachers in the same direction. There hasn’t been as much conversation about what it looks like to be willing to learn or to be willing to ask questions.”

Alongside the new approach to learning, Ringgold applauds current efforts in education to address mental health. For example, she recently attended a meeting related to the Midland County Educational Service Agency’s partnership with another organization to align efforts to combat mental health.

“We (Midland Public Schools) have exceptional schools, we have buildings that are being upgraded and we’ve worked really hard for it,” she said. “I think re-centering and re-aligning with people and relationships are my priorities in my personal and professional life. And not that they aren’t priorities for others.”

Midland Public Schools are in good financial shape. Ringgold recognized an importance for fiscal policy and budget balancing. At the same time, she believes dollars and cents communicate priorities, which Ringgold hopes she focuses on people.

“How we spend our money and what we budget for speaks to the values,” she said. “I think with our schools and education it’s mostly the people (and) our kids. How do we take care of them? How do we help them learn?”

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