Ask the Candidate: Bree Mills

Bree Mills.

Candidate for Cordova School Board

Job: Executive assistant/marketer at Cordova Telecom/Cordova Wireless; parent

Public service: Salvation Army board member, Salvation Army toy and food distribution volunteer, Salvation Army bell-ringer, The Little Chapel children’s program leader, community online anti-racist book club leader, volunteer with community Independence Day children’s activities, volunteer with Cordova Clean Up, volunteer with Stage of the Tides, donated professional services to events and organizations including the Native Village of Eyak, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Cordova Iceworm Festival

Education: Studied at Northeast State Community College in Tennessee


How would you like to see the school district adjust its coronavirus response?
At the beginning of the school year, we did not know how our schools would weather the challenges presented by the pandemic. We decided to keep our fourth grader home for the first part of the year while observing CSD’s COVID-19 safety plan in action. We then made the results-based decision to send our daughter back to school after the Christmas break.

­I am a firm believer in allowing experts to be experts. One of the most valuable things about the scientific process is the constant use of new information to refine and improve our understanding of how to approach a problem. Vaccines, viral variants, and scientific studies about COVID-19 will cause prevailing expert advice to adjust.

The school district has access to valuable advice from public health experts on local, state, national and global levels. We should prioritize this advice as we continually adjust our response to the pandemic.

Other than dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, what is the school district’s biggest task for the coming year?
Budget. Our school system’s budget is constantly impacted by outside factors, including political decisions at the state and federal levels. We cannot always directly control the numbers that make up our available funds, but we can do our best to spend our money efficiently and effectively.

When confronting budget issues, I will carefully consider how those decisions impact our students, faculty and staff. I will support our district employees as they work hard to stretch every dollar, and I will closely examine how any cost-saving proposals might impact our students of all backgrounds.

What sets you apart from your opponents in this race?
I have a strong desire to understand and advocate for all our students, even and especially if their families do not look like mine. I am learning to endure the discomfort that often comes with speaking up for others or for things I believe. I understand that sometimes it is necessary to “rock the boat,” but I always try to do so in a kind and compassionate way.

I understand that systemic problems can create disproportionate impact on our students based on their race, religion, gender, ability, sexuality etc. I commit to learning from the people who are disadvantaged by these systems, and I will work to improve systems that are failing our students in these ways.

I want our district’s parents to be comfortable talking to me if they see an issue that needs to be addressed. I will tirelessly advocate to implement civic education and issues of social justice, inclusion, and equity in our schools.

What can schools do to promote good mental health among students?
I am so glad this question is being asked! As a person who has struggled with her own mental health challenges related to addiction and anxiety, I understand that mental health is a vital part of each student’s wellbeing.

Just as physical health education is an important part of our students’ learning, mental health has a role to play as well. Mental health topics like anxiety, depression, suicide and substance abuse should be commonly and openly discussed and addressed in and out of our classrooms. We should be ensuring that all our faculty and staff are equipped with knowledge about these subjects to best serve our students.

Our students should be learning that mental health challenges are a normal part of life, and they are not alone when they struggle with them. We should aim to create an environment where children feel heard and empowered to speak about their emotions. Having access to someone who can help them work through those things can be a lifeline for many.

I also believe that extracurricular activities play a role in promoting good mental health, including sports, clubs, teams, volunteering, or participating in other events. We live in a place that can sometimes feel isolated, cold, and dark for much of the year. Providing opportunities for our students to remain engaged and active is valuable to their mental and physical wellbeing.

Identify one previous decision by the school board that you disagree with, and explain why.
I truly can’t think of anything in recent history I have outright disagreed with. We truly have a fantastic board and they really do have the best interest of our kids at heart.

I don’t see my role as coming into a new board position trying to critique what’s been done in the past and name everything I disagree with or that I think has been done wrong. I feel it is much more important to be forward-thinking and to work as a group to create a culture of constant improvement.