Jessica Swaisgood wants to see change on the Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education, and she thinks she is the person to do it.
Swaisgood is one of four candidates running to fill two seats on the board.
She has been vocal about what she sees as deficiencies in board leadership since the decision was made to teach remotely for much of the 2020-21 school year.
Swaisgood started BG VOICE the night the previous board voted to hold classes remotely. She was not going to complain, she was going to take action, she said.
“If I was going to do that and critique others, I needed to put myself forth and run for the school board,” Swaisgood said.
The BG VOICE Facebook page has 811 members.
Swaisgood has two children in the district.
Swaisgood said when she tried to voice her concerns about remote learning to district leaders, she was told she needed to run for school board.
“I want that seat for our parents and community members. If that’s what we have to do, I’m going to run for them and be their seat at the table.”
She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a master’s degree in organizational management with a specialization in human resources. She has worked for non-profits serving adults and children with developmental disabilities and, most recently in adoption and foster care.
Her HR experience will come into play when it is time to pick a new superintendent when Francis Scruci’s contract is up, she said.
Her background in organizational development has provided training in change management, which requires leaders to put methods in place to resolve issues and develop solutions that move organizations closer to their desired goals and vision.
“I would use these skills in my role as a board member to help rebuild trust and credibility between the community and the board,” Swaisgood said in a post listing her priorities.
She said she listens before making informed decisions and is not indecisive. She doesn’t go with the status quo and her votes will be based on what she thinks the community wants and what the district needs.
Swaisgood said there are amazing staff and teachers in the district and they need to be appreciated by getting paid a fair wage.
However, administrators need to figure out a way to improve the district without asking for a lot of money.
“We just need to be more transparent. We need to add trust back into our schools. Because right now I don’t feel we have that,” Swaisgood said.
As for masks, they should not be forced, “but I also think because of the current rules that are out of our hands, this keeps the kids from being quarantined.”
Until the rules change, wearing masks will keep kids in school, she said.
“The rules are dictating to us that in order to keep our kids in school, they need to wear masks. And it’s important to keep them in school.
“If parents do not want their kids to be masked, we should provide an alternate education. That’s one thing we do not do well. We do not give parents a choice.”
Swaisgood said she is not opposed to asking voters to fund improvements to the school buildings, but a consolidated elementary is out of the question.
“The community has spoke three times. They want to keep community schools.”
This was another example of the board not listening to the community and members need to be held accountable.
“Once we have that, if we need to ask voters to help fund improvements to our community schools, I would be in favor of that.”
Facility improvements cannot be made with the current board and administration, she said.
While schools were closed and students were taught remotely, that would have been a perfect time to fix the buildings, but nothing was done, Swaisgood said.
“I feel like people don’t trust them with their money. Tax dollars need to be earned. And until we earn those tax dollars, we need to work with what we have.”
She gave the district a D for the way it handled the coronavirus pandemic, the current state of the school buildings, not having simple repairs done, recent state test scores, staff being grossly underpaid compared to surrounding area, and not having well-thought out plans by the administration.
“I really just hope to be a voice for our community. I normally would not be in this situation. I just want our community to have a voice and come together.”
Swaisgood said that owners of farmland feel the district is building schools on their backs because of unfair taxation.
“My role is not to come up with the plans. My role is to listen to plans and move forward and come up with a solution.”