Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Volunteerism & Leadership: My role with CARRA: Childhood Arthritis & Rheumatology Research Alliance

Our family
I share our family story because I'm not just the mom of three girls who's passionate about their education in the Camas School District.  I'm also an advocate for my daughter.

When our daughter was diagnosed at age 2 with rheumatoid arthritis, I threw myself into the throws of investigating, studying & understanding the disease & the medications available for her. We became part of the team (of many) trying to make decisions on what path to take to make her well.  Research, research, research!

Now at age 8, Charlotte is happy & healthy on an immune suppressant low dose chemo drug & Humira.  Charlotte has uveitis, arthritis in the eyes and visits the pediatric ophthalmologist frequently.  During the beginning battle when her eyes were at the top of the flare scale, we looked to studies as to situations similar to hers, so together with her rheumatologist, ophthalmologist & uveitis specialist, we knew which path to take.  There were very few studies & no situations exactly like hers.  Reaching out via my blog, I met moms across the nation and found their stories differed as well: some kids go on one drug while others are prescribed another.  We sought the guidance of a uveitis specialist in Cambridge who recommended a specific route for Charlotte.  That route worked for four years & failed her the first week of 1st grade.  Back to the research I went, the communication across the team of doctors & many eye appointments later, Charlotte is doing well & celebrating one year being flare free!

For 6 years, I have raised funds & awareness for a non-profit called CARRA: Childhood Arthritis & Rheumatology Research.  I believe in CARRA because every dollar donated goes to research. Research that 6 years ago, I wish would have been available to know for certain which path to take for Charlotte.

I've organized:
  • the CARRA Costume ball (2 years @ CHS & @PHE)
  • the Walk for CARRA (@PHE)
  • & for the past two years, I've had a Shop for CARRA event in my home.  

We've participated every year, in other CARRA fundraisers in Portland:  the Race for CARRA &  the Hayhurst Triathlon!  And you might have seen little girls wearing big flowered headbands at school & at football games.  That's because for 6 years I have made & sold Tottie's Pretties headbands where I donate profits to CARRA.
Tottie's Pretties headbands at a Camas fundraising event coordinated by Ann Matthews
Shopping for CARRA last year
CARRA now has a committee that is solely dedicated to arthritis induced uveitis. 

I was asked to be a part of the CARRA uveitis committee with Doctors from across the nation, to be the voice of the parent with a child with uveitis.  

The committee has been working for a year now, meeting via conference calls once a month, creating a protocol for doctors to follow for their uveitis patients.

My fact-finding knowledge on Charlotte's condition, and my determination to fund research is work that I am devoted to and passionate about.  It's why Friends of CARRA leaders asked for my participation & it's the same drive & conviction I have to represent every student in the Camas School District.

I hope to join the CSD School Board of Directors on November 5th & you can count on the same persistence & dedication to every decision I make on behalf of the families in our community.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Flyers & About Erika Cox

About Erika Cox for Camas School Board:

Erika Cox is the current Chairwoman of the Citizens advisory committee to the school board.  she is a longtime parent teacher association (PTA) volunteer including President, and chair of executive committees.  Cox served on the  most recent boundary review committee for the new Woodburn Elementary School in Camas & is on her Homeowners Association executive board.

For almost 10 years, Cox was a Hi-Tech Pubic Relations specialist for Microsoft & Siemens where she utilized her skills as a collaborator & communicator.  She has a B.S. in Political Science & Written English from Oregon State University.  Cox & her husband Ryan, have 3 daughters who have attended Prune Hill Elementary & now attend Dorothy Fox Elementary & Skyridge Middle School.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 Voters Guide - Cox for Camas School Board responses

On September 10th, The League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA) will post an online voters' guide, for the 2013 general election.  Each question only allowed a 500 character response.  My full responses are below.  

Please share with your neighbors, family & friends!  I appreciate your vote!

Why did you decide to run for this position?
I’m the daughter of two retired public educators & was raised attending public schools in Oregon.  Working for an Oregon State Senator & being his liaison to the early childhood education committee, I became even more involved & passionate about the needs & support for public education.

When my husband & I moved to Camas with our three daughters, 8 years ago, I knew there was no better way to get involved with their education than to volunteer in the schools.  I started out as PTA President at the elementary level and now I’m involved at both the elementary & middle school PTA/PTO’s & volunteer in the classroom.  I’ve been on executive boards and most recently, I’m the chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the School Board.  

When I join the Camas School Board, I'll bring the ability to build strong & trustworthy relationships within the community & to those I work with.  Prior to my volunteerism, I was in the corporate world advising Microsoft on their public relations strategy.  This involved working with various groups across the agency, Microsoft, 3rd party partners & customers.  Together we drove results that surpassed client expectations and we collectively celebrated the accomplishments & recognition.  With my neighbors & community, I look forward to sharing & celebrating our school district wins & practicing creative problem solving for the challenges that arise.

Of three major issues facing your district, which one is the most urgent?
We’re a growing community saddled with tight state & federal funding like all our neighboring districts, however, we’re lucky in Camas.  Camas School District test scores have incrementally increased year after year & yet,  special programs or sports have not been cut, like some of our neighbors.  Moving forward, school board decisions will need to be deliberate in regards to managing school growth and budget.  We will need to focus on growing one student at a time and continuing to incrementally improve our students growth (not just test scores) & knowledge every year.  I want to join the board and help make systemic & thoughtful decisions that are fiscally responsible & making sure we’re moving at the right pace.

How will you ensure excellent physical facilities for your students?
Facility upkeep takes forward thinking planning & strategic budget forecasting so that you can maintain facilities & upkeep a little at a time.  Camas has beautiful facilities that range in age from a brand new elementary school that opened this fall to another elementary school that is 50 years old.  Each facility in Camas School District is unique & beautiful in their character & history. Working with the board of directors, and the team in the district, and city leaders, I look forward to helping plan for the future growth & needs of facilities for our families. 

What is your position on testing of your students?
The importance of testing is evident.  We need to understand what students are absorbing in their learning so we can build on that for academic success.  Teachers need to understand the effectiveness of their lessons & how to teach it in a way that students will get it, and then figure out what to do if they don’t get it or if they already know it.  This type of testing is important for helping teachers understand needs of one child at a time, every day. Year end, state assessment testing is important as well for grade level learning communities within our district,  to understand the effectiveness & impact of curriculum. 

If we are not assessing students, we won’t know the answers to these questions, however our focus shouldn’t be on the results of state ratings as the the only barometer in teaching & learning.  An aha! moment won't happen when they are filling in a bubble but instead comes from engaging curriculum from passionate teachers on a day to day basis. 

With our new teacher & principal evaluation program (TPEP), teachers & principals can utilize opportunities to grow their passions in the classroom.  When teachers are passionate and motivated, learning is contagious, students learn & state testing scores are a positive result of that flow. I'm a big supporter of TPEP, the work that goes into evaluating teachers & principals and the efforts made to make each evaluation as unique as the person associated with it.  I believe that professional goals will drive careers & lead to quality instruction, therefore reflecting in the day to day student assessments as well as the year end measurements of student progress. 

How should civics education be provided?
Civics education should be woven into age appropriate curriculum at every grade level & continue with the School Board of Directors.  If we are defining civics education to be the study of citizenship in regards to our community & our government, then in the K-12 system, we can begin at kindergarten learning and continue building on that knowledge at every grade level until they are seniors taking Current World Issues.  Our city government & school district have a good relationship & its that integration that is visible real world learning  for our students.  Civics is alive in Camas & the involvement of our elected officials in our community is visible to all in Camas on Friday nights:  Mayor Higgins moves the chains at the Varsity football games!

How should the on-time graduation rate be improved?
When we think about improving on-time graduation rates, we need to support students before they reach high school.

Early Childhood education: It’s about supporting new parents in our community with tools for their early learners including making universal pre-k available, nationally, for four year olds.  Senator, Patty Murray, is passionate about making this available as well & it will take partnership & education to make this a reality to our families in Camas.

Elementary education:  Once children get to kindergarten its about having programs like LEAP (Learning Early Advocacy Program) to help their literacy expand & having programs in place at the elementary level as they grow, to make sure that they are reading at grade level by grade 3. Camas School District is vested in growing young readers with programs like LEAP because studies show that reading proficiently by grade three is a benchmark for future success including graduating on time.  

I support putting emphasis in early education to improve on-time graduation rates and will passionately support the programs that support the needs of our youngest students & future students.

How should bullying be addressed?

Bullying isn’t an age specific issue, its a k-12 issue and starts with educating students and staff on what bullying is and what it isn’t.  With the positive behavior strategies implemented in the Camas School District, our students are learning to prevent bullying, identify bullying & responding to bullying.  For staff, its teaching anti-bullying curriculum and reinforcing those lessons.