Westerville Board of Education
Jennifer believes in strong public education as the way for all children–especially girls–to make better lives for themselves and their families. Jennifer holds an M.A. in anthropology and brings experience in understanding and honoring multiple cultural perspectives on each issue. Jennifer has spent the past 10 years volunteering with the school district at a very intense level, including as a levy committee co-chair and starting a 501c3 nonprofit (Westerville Partners for Education) to support Westerville schools. She is dedicated to making evidence-based decisions and helping the public understand the basis (including data) for decisions being made.
In 2020 Jennifer will begin her work as a Westerville Board of Education Member.Website
Meet the Candidate
Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
When I was a child, my mom was a public education advocate. I remember her organizing parents to save the PTA at my elementary school, serving as PTA president of more than one school I attended, helping to start Westerville’s district-wide Parent Council to improve dialogue between the PTAs and district administration. I always saw her serving our schools—even when, in middle school, running into my mom frequently in my school hallway wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for! I guess in some ways I assumed that everyone supported public education, even though logically I knew this wasn’t true. I just couldn’t imagine why a person wouldn’t. So, when I was asked to co-chair a levy committee in 2012 after our schools had just had a huge levy defeat, I couldn’t say no. We had to bring back funding for the arts, bussing for high school students, etc. That was probably the first step in my journey to filing as a candidate; I’ve been working with our school district ever since.
Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
My mom, as I mentioned above. But also my paternal grandmother. She was born in 1908 and grew up on a farm, the second-youngest of nine children. When she reached high school, as I understand the story, her father told her she shouldn’t go to school anymore, that she wouldn’t need more schooling to be a farm wife. But she insisted on going to school. She loved school and knew she belonged there just as much as her brothers. And guess what? She graduated as valedictorian!
Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and leader?
In retrospect, I’ve always been an advocate and an anthropologist, going back to high school at least. I stepped into leadership roles in advocacy groups early simply because I was passionate about the mission. I still work that way—mission-driven. Cross-pollinating advocacy work with scholarly work as an anthropologist, I find myself always seeking to understand how different people see the same situation differently, and construct different meanings from it as a result. In my own personal experience, having a brother who is just one year younger than I am, I saw as a child that the world had different expectations of and boundaries for him. I have been questioning those differences for as long as I can remember.
The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
My vision is that my community will be far more diverse. We will have schools that encourage students to learn from and co-create with each other, and to engage in community-based problem solving as part of their learning journey. We will be a community of learning, including learning about and growing respect for each other across differences.
Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
With our schools, our top issues are helping children from diverse backgrounds excel, whether they are students who identify as having disabilities, students who are English language learners, gifted identified students, economically disadvantaged students, or “average” students. We need to work on our gap closure so that all kids have the skills they need for success. Another huge issue in our schools, as everywhere, is an epidemic of depression and anxiety among our young people. Schools have a huge role to play in social-emotional wellness—both programmatically in addressing these issues directly, and in recognizing how our educational system might contribute to these problems. Nothing is more important than helping our students find meaning, well-being and connection in their lives.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I’m an archaeologist. This always surprises people! I feel very lucky to have worked in fascinating places—Ireland, Arizona, Virginia (including Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello), Tennessee (Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage), and now work in Ohio leading the effort to add eight American Indian earthworks to the UNESCO World Heritage List. I also love to garden and have a secret ambition to grow espaliered fruit trees in my small backyard as a tiny step toward self-sufficiency. Finally, my family has fostered about ten dogs in the past five years. Rescue dogs are the best!