SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI — Karen Humes is running for a seat on the South Kingstown School Committee. The 40-year-old Independent is a newcomer to elected office.
Humes holds a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Rhode Island and has worked as a physical education and health teacher at Cranston Public School for nearly two decades. Her husband, Jay, is the assistant building inspector for the town of South Kingstown. They have two sons, Jesse, 12, and Andrew, 9.
Why are you seeking elective office?
I am running for a position on the South Kingstown School Committee because I believe that educators are great leaders. Education has been my passion since before I became a teacher. I feel that education should be based and centered around students and their best interest. Being a teacher, working in schools, and working with students everyday gives me the knowledge and insight of what our schools need. I feel that we need a School Committee that is made up of members that are always putting students first, are fiscally responsible and are willing to listen to all members of the community
What do you believe should be done to contain the coronavirus pandemic, and what would you do to lessen its economic impacts?
I think we all need to continue to follow the guidelines that the Governor has issued for the state. I think it is imperative that educators need to be a strong voice in the school reentry plans and teacher voices must be listened to when determining what is best for our classrooms in our respective Districts. Every District in RI has unique needs based on their individual population and demographics. Obviously, while following the CDC guidelines, we need to take our specific community’s needs and teacher’s concerns into account before making concrete decisions.
Do you believe systemic racism is a problem in America generally and Rhode Island specifically, and if so, what would you do to combat it?
Yes, I think systemic racism exists everywhere. We need to do more at a younger educational level to address equity across the board. Looking at education specifically, we need to start with early childhood education, and what access all families in our town have. Quality early childhood education is a key component for children. Many families do not have access due to times available, transportation, and cost. As we go through the educational years, we need to take a hard look at absenteeism, discipline and availability of higher level courses of our students. Our approach from day one should be about getting to the root of why students are absent, and what we can do to help with getting them to school. We need to look at our discipline rates, we need to address our discipline policies and once again, get to the root of the issues. We know that children of color have a higher suspension rate and have been disciplined more than white students. That is not acceptable, and we need to dig into the reasons of why, and address it with our faculty and staff. We also need more training for staff in systemic racism, and how to also have our staff listen to people of color in our community about their own experiences.
Should the words “Providence Plantations” be removed from the state’s name?
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am a public school teacher, and have been for 18 years. I understand what teachers and students need every day. I understand what the school budgets do to our schools, because those budgets impact my teaching, classroom and supplies every single day. I have both the parent and teacher view when it comes to education. I see what our students are faced with every day, I feel them as a teacher, and I watch my own children. I do not believe in “sides”, I believe in all voices having a place and being valued. I have learned in my career how to listen to many sides in order to make decisions. I have also been on curriculum development committees, so I understand the curriculum development and revision process, and the impacts it has on education.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
I think that we need to move this district forward. I feel that our schools need responsible districting of neighborhood school buildings balanced around transportation and budget. We have to stop putting Special Education and Unified Arts on the chopping block year after year. These areas are what keep our children in school and developing as a whole child. They need to be valued and centralized. We have not solved our issues surrounding world language, or facilities that are crucial to our district. I firmly believe that the divide in our community can be resolved, and that only happens when people truly listen to all sides, and that includes members of our community that do not have children in our schools. We have to become student centered, it shouldn’t be a parent view or a teacher view. When we all center around our students, our view is the same, and we are willing and able to move forward for the best of our students.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
I am an educator to my core. I believe in our teachers, and the work they do every day. Everything the schools do needs to be student centered, and reach all of our students. Responsible budgets and facility planning has to be done. We need to make sure that we are getting everything we can for our students’ education. Unified arts, as well as social emotional learning is crucial to our students. These areas cannot be on the budget chopping block year after year. We have to always look at the whole student, in order for them to succeed. Special education is also a top priority. Our students need to have access to what they need to help them be successful. We have many resources, and we need to make sure that our students have as much access to all of those resources. Our early childhood learners, through grade 12 need to be able to rely on whatever services they need to succeed. Our teachers are our experts. We need to be sure they are involved with every conversation, as they are the ones that know our student body the best.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
In my career, I have had the opportunity to work in elementary schools (Kindergarten – 6th grade), as well as middle school (6th -8th grade). As a teacher I have had multiple opportunities to learn about the makeup and needs of different age levels.
I have been on PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) development teams for schools that I work in.
I have been on PE and Health curriculum development committees.
I have been an active member on the SK Wellness Committee for 4 years
I have been on school RTI (Response to Intervention) teams.
I am a tireless advocate for those who feel they have no voice. I am not afraid to speak up and do not relent until I am satisfied that all voices are heard.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Don’t ever give up and always be who you are at your core and don’t ever stop learning and growing as a person.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am here to help move South Kingstown schools in a positive and forward direction. I firmly believe in listening to all sides, and always putting the students first. People always say, “It takes a village to raise a child”, and I believe that the greater South Kingstown community, parents, staff and administration should all work together to be the village to raise our children.
This article originally appeared on the Narragansett-South Kingstown Patch