League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Westside Board of Education

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

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Dana Blakely (D):
Occupation: Teacher
Current Public Office, dates held: Westside Board of Education, 2014-present.
Past Public Office, dates held: None.
Education: BS in Political Science from Santa Clara University, BS in Secondary Education from University of Nebraska Omaha, MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Peru State College.
Military experience: None.
Volunteer experience: Food Bank of the Heartland, Salvation Army Kids Cruisin’ Kitchen, Sunset Hills Community Club

Edgar Hicks (NP):
Occupation: Grain Marketing(ret.), youth mentor
Current Public Office, dates held: Humanities Nebraska (appointed January 2020)
Past Public Office, dates held: Westside High School (Principal Search Committee)2004, Douglas County Cooperative Extension/UNL (1996-2000), USDA Committee on Small Farms 1999-2001), Nebraska Rural Development Commission (2007-2010)
Education: Pace University BBA (New York City), Southern University (Baton Rouge)
Volunteer experience: History Challenge (Judge-yearly) 100BMO, Mildred Brown Memorial Study Center, Carver Grange of Omaha, Whispering Roots, No More Empty Pots, USDA SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Administrative Council, American Philatelic Society

Beth Morrissette (R):  No response received.

Candidate Responses

How can schools use technology to foster better equity and educational outcomes?

Dana Blakely: We are in a very unique moment right now, so I think this answer is changing even as I respond.  Technology, both in and out of the classroom, can level the playing field by putting a device in the hands of students who may not have access to one otherwise.  It can also provide successful outcomes for students with disabilities. It develops a useful life skill.  Currently, it is allowing students to access ongoing education while schools are closed.  I am concerned about students without access.

Edgar Hicks: A: Since 1982, when we outfitted an elementary school bus with a computer creating a mobile lab, Westside Community Schools has embraced technology.  When I hear “equity” and “outcomes” I am thinking more along the lines of improving using technology for better health monitoring and social safety of our students.  District 66’s “Philosophy of Technology” is fostering an area along with the utility of current staff.  Anticipating current nature of work changes we are dealing with a new health enviro

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Dana Blakely: I believe the ability to control who goes in and out of a school is important.  I campaigned for a successful facilities bond for Westside that allowed secure entrances to be put in our elementary schools and the middle school.  School resource officers help in keeping our students safe.  Anonymous ways to report security concerns are also essential.  I think the ability of students and staff to develop strong connections is also good.  As a school board member, this is my greatest priority.

Edgar Hicks: Along the use of technology, there is a popular national interest in the application of social media monitoring as a safety resource that may have support. While I have caution for application at elementary school level, at the high school level there may be more applicability, but also with privacy invasion caveats. More appealing may be last years collaboration (and 24 hour availability) of Safe2Help that is currently developed and being shared in over180 Douglas County schools.  UNO SCCJ grant

What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Nebraska educational system?

Dana Blakely:  They should play no role. Our public schools are absolutely the best.  It is our privilege to educate ALL students, and one of the greatest features of our society.  I remain committed to lobbying  the legislature on behalf of fully funding our public schools.  I am sure the discussion around charter schools will continue.  I would hope that future discussions would be data-driven, and more than anecdotal.  Accountability of charters is a concern, as is accessibility of charters by all students.

Edgar Hicks:  As a product of 12 years of parochial school education in Louisiana, I am open to any discussion of school choice and an outreach mission by a charter school.  However, In this years Unicameral, LB1202 “Opportunity Scholarship Act” calls for the use of tax credits. Currently, I am opposed in all forms, any legislation that has financial implications towards our public schools mission.  Again, there may be a role for charter schools in the Nebraska educational system, but please not tax dollar$.

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