Manuela Michaels: Immigrant background makes me uniquely qualified to help students |

Manuela Michaels: Immigrant background makes me uniquely qualified to help students

Manuela Michaels
Summit School District board candidate
Manuela Michaels

I am originally a native of Brazil. I became a naturalized American citizen in 2008, and English is a second language for me. I attended the Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo in Vitoria and graduated in 2003 with a degree in architecture and urban planning. In 2004, I moved to Minneapolis, where I worked as an office manager for a financial management firm for seven years. I started my family in Minneapolis and then moved to Breckenridge in 2014.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly concerned with the path the school district has taken. We’ve had five years of declining academic performance, three superintendents in three years and several Summit School District Board of Education member resignations. There has been a tremendous amount of money wasted on legal fees, and there doesn’t seem to be a focus on quality education. These are some of the reasons I decided to run for the school board. We can’t keep doing the same thing.

I’m running with three other candidates as the 4 For the Kids slate. We all have very diverse backgrounds, but we all agree that academic excellence should be the top priority for the kids. As a group, we have five priorities: academic excellence, fiscal responsibility, teacher retention, transparency and student health. We think these priorities are the same as most parents.

My personal top three priorities are below. I’ve included English as a second language barriers because I believe my unique strength is in being an immigrant who has first-hand experience struggling with a new country and language.

Priority No. 1: Academics

I know from personal experience that a quality education is the way to escape poverty and to open up opportunities. That is why I believe we need to turn our focus to academics. While test scores don’t tell the entire story, ours have fallen for five years in a row, and we are doing worse than the average Colorado school. This is not fair to our kids with the incredible resources this county has. I will do everything I can to turn this around.

Priority No. 2: English as a second language barriers

I came from Brazil to the U.S. in 2004 and became a citizen in 2008. I understand the struggles of being an ESL student and citizen. Even today, I sometimes lack confidence because of my English skills, but I’ve learned that Summit County and most Americans are very accepting and patient. This has given me the courage to be active in our community and now run for the school board.

Occupation: Administrative assistant

Years in Summit County: 10

Family: Two children in the school district

Civic involvement: Upper Blue Elementary volunteer

If elected, I plan to lead an outreach program for our growing ESL community to make sure we know what is affecting their achievement. I’d then set up programs specifically targeted at those issues. We may want to help ESL parents with adult language education to help them be more involved. This would have helped me when I first arrived. To be a citizen of the world, it is very important to learn how to speak and write in English. I love living in the U.S., and I want to help these students and families overcome these barriers so they can succeed, not only in school but outside in the world!

Priority No. 3: Fiscal responsibility

The school board has a huge responsibility managing a budget of over $50 million. We need to make sure we tackle the wasteful spending and eliminate substantial legal fees that the school district is incurring. We also need to look at the administration budget. It has been growing much faster than any other segment of the budget, including teachers. I would look at streamlining the administration team through attrition to make it more supportive of the teachers. We would use any savings to hire more teachers and increase their pay and benefits.

I have some experience in the finance industry, and the other 4 For the Kids candidates have many years of budgeting, program management and administrative skills. We will make sure spending is directed at educating students, and we will be completely transparent about how the money is spent.

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