2021 August 5, Thursday
Aimee Cothran speaks clearly about what she believes. And, what she believes is, it’s time for change on the Blair, Nebraska School Board.
This is our first interview with her – or any candidate – for the three positions at stake in the 2022 election. (Note: We do not endorse any candidate at this time. This is an interview, not an endorsement.)
BLAIR TODAY: Who is Aimee Cothran, and, why are you a candidate for the school board in Blair?
AIMEE COTHRAN: My name is Aimee Cothran. I’ve got a nine year old in the Blair school system. I am a former educator with 12 years in a public school, and now I’m a data analyst. I’m actually “knee deep” in the educational system. The data I analyze is all educational data. Why am I a candidate? I feel like I just need to have a voice. I need to have a voice in the school system. I need to have a voice for my son. I need to be able to have a voice for the community. We need to have somebody, and I hope that I can be somebody that other people feel like is listening to them. Since I am invested – I mean, totally invested, in the Blair school system. Since I have a third grader, almost going into the fourth grade.
BLAIR TODAY: Some people who read this might say, “That’s what everyone who runs for school board says before they run. But, if they win, the amount of listening they drops dramatically.” Can you be specific on some issues that motivate you to want to be a school board member?
AIMEE COTHRAN: Being an educator, I have done a lot. I helped write the math curriculum for the school system I worked for. So I dug into state standards, and, I understand what’s going on. And, this is all getting around to the “critical race theory”, and, the sex education theory, and I think my understanding of all that stuff would be helpful when the board decides to look at those more in depth. I feel like I would be an asset. And, I pray I would be able to take into account what parents want. And, like I said, I’m vested. I have a child in the system. I’m not sure how many of our school board members are invested in our school system currently.
BLAIR TODAY: Beyond the desire and a grasp on some of issues, what skills do you have that allow you to serve effectively?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I know standards. I understand education-speak. I’ve been in it. I understand data because I’m a data analyst. I taught statistics, and I understand all the models that are presented. I’ve also taught on online. I know different kinds of pedagogies. I can tackle problems with a different slant on them, because I do have a different background than a lot of the people there now.
BLAIR TODAY: You mentioned “critical race theory” and sex education. I want to get to those in a moment, but, first, let’s say there’s something you believe, and, it’s something you think you were voted to represent people for. And, let’s say the state of Nebraska were to mandate something in opposition to your belief. Would you vote your conscience – with the people who put you on the board – or, as a rubber-stamp under cover of a mandate?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I would absolutely vote my conscience because it’s our children. And, they are our community, and, they are our future.
BLAIR TODAY: At what age do you believe children should be exposed to issues such as gender identity, pornography, or specific sex acts as part of a curriculum?
AIMEE COTHRAN: Basic biological functions, like they teach in biology and like the curriculum now teaches in health in high school… That has to do with your health. And, I feel like that is appropriate. However other sex education is mom and dad’s responsibility and it needs to be taught at home.
BLAIR TODAY: Because you have a nine-year-old in school, you’ve got, as you said, a vested interest in this. How would you feel if you found there was to be, say, “drag queens” doing “story time”, or, counseling on whether your child was a boy or a girl without your permission? These are issues which happen in districts around the country. How would you feel if those things were happening with your child in the school they attended?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I would do everything I could to stop it. If I couldn’t stop it, I would not have my child exposed to it. Even if I had to move his education.
BLAIR TODAY: On the issue of COVID, there are some who believe kids need to wear masks in school again. What is your feeling on putting masks on children during school?
AIMEE COTHRAN: You know, I think the Blair school system really did a great job this past year of keeping our kids safe on doing what they needed to do… To get our kids in school. Lots of school systems were not in school. They were all out of school. And, Blair employed a lot of different methods. They employed methods such as, social distancing, and, different teaching styles. And, obviously they did a marvelous job in their pedagogy this year, and maybe they even need to continue that because their scores went up significantly. They cut off water fountains. They looked at disinfection. They did a lot of things right to keep our kids safe, they did require masks. And, I feel like there was a large majority of us that went along with masks to get our children in school. I feel like masks are invasive, and I’m not a hundred percent sure that masks are the right thing. There’s a lot of research out there that says cloth masks do not prevent the the aerosol particles that spread COVID from entering or exiting.
BLAIR TODAY: It’s true there’s research on both sides. So, hypothetically, if you’re on the board, and, the question is masking or no masking, how would you vote?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I would vote for parent choice.
BLAIR TODAY: I wrote an article on “critical race theory”. I contacted the school board, and, not one of them answered a very simple question. So, I would like to know what is your opinion about “critical race theory”, as far as you understand it to be?
AIMEE COTHRAN: “Critical Race Theory” is just a divisive theory meant to split the races along “victim” and “victor” lines. I am not a victim because I was born a certain color and I am not a victor because I was born a certain color or sex. Therefore, I would not want “critical race theory” taught to my son in school.
BLAIR TODAY: One comment I’ve heard from people is, “the school board really doesn’t need to answer a lot of questions about ‘critical race theory’ because it hasn’t been mandated yet.” But, if it does come to a vote – and let’s say the state of Nebraska does mandate it as something you have to put into the curriculum, would you vote your conscience, would you object, would you put your own board seat on the line, or would you go along with a mandate from the state of Nebraska?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I would not go along with the mandate, with the state of Nebraska, to teach our children things they do not need to be taught, like “critical race theory”. Just a caveat to that… I went to the discussion Matthew Innis had on “critical race theory,” and, the sex education curriculum the board of education is proposing has “critical race theory” woven into it.
BLAIR TODAY: You have five children from 30 to 35 years old, and a 9-year-old in school. You’ve been involved as a parent or as an educator for 40 years. Do you understand why so many parents these days feel lost? They don’t feel like they have any control or say-so about their children’s education – which is mandated by the state. Parents must send their kids to school, or homeschool; but financially some people can’t homeschool (or, send the kids to private school.) Do you understand why parents feel they’re between a rock and a hard place?
AIMEE COTHRAN: Oh, absolutely. For the past year and a half, when our children were sent home for spring break… And, they stayed home… And, parents got to dive into some of the curriculum; they started to see some of the things that are being taught to our children or not being taught. It opened a lot of people’s eyes.
BLAIR TODAY: Do you believe boys and girls are different? Should children be able use bathrooms or changing rooms with children born of the other sex? This happens all over the country. Not something we face, necessarily, in Blair, Nebraska, NOW… but, you would be comfortable in a situation if your child was involved in private areas with someone born of a different sex claiming to be the sex of your child?
AIMEE COTHRAN: Oh, that is so hard. I know that’s a hard topic. I believe when you’re born a boy, you’re a boy. When you’re born a girl, you’re a girl. I think there’s children out there that feel like they’re one sex when they’re born another sex. But, whatever your biological sex is – that’s the restroom you need to use, and locker rooms you need to use. Girls and boys, they expose themselves in those places getting dressed, getting changed, and getting showered. You should not have a biological boy in the girl’s locker room, in the girl’s bathroom, or vice-versa.
BLAIR TODAY: Do you know about “reassessment?” I asked a teacher and guidance counselor at Blair High School, about the way they allow students to retake tests, and, I was told this was the way they did things now: If a child didn’t get a good grade on the test, well, they could just retake it. Have you heard about that? And, do you think that’s the right way to motivate kids to get their work done right the first time; or, does that encourage what it would’ve done for me, which is to put it off over and over and over…
AIMEE COTHRAN: All children are different, and children all learn in different ways. Some children know things, and, do not test well. Some children need to test in order to figure out what they don’t know. I mean, children are just different. When we were teaching to the standards, and trying to get the children ready for the Algebra 1 “end-of-course test”, we would absolutely let them retest on tasks that they didn’t do so well on. But, it wouldn’t be exactly the same test. It’d be the same class. I’m not sure what kind of retest the teachers were talking about, but, we would retest concepts and let them come up with a better grade. But, that just really meant the teacher worked harder, and, the students learned more.
BLAIR TODAY: You mentioned earlier things the current school board got right (in a very difficult and trying time.) Why would someone vote for you over an incumbent you say got some things right last year?
AIMEE COTHRAN: I’m going to be transparent. And, always have been transparent. I want to be there for the parents. I want to be there for the community. If you’ve got a question about something, I really want people to be able to come to me and talk to me. The people on the school board are there for the parents. They are there to represent the parents, represent the children, and work with the school system in order to be able to mesh all that together so that it works well for the students. In order to be able to do that, you’ve got to listen. And, you’ve got to be there. I pray I can stay open, with an open door, communicative, encourage parents to come to board meetings. This is so we do know what their thoughts are.
BLAIR TODAY: More than one school board member wrote me in email to say Randy Gilson, the current School Superintendent, spoke for the board. If you are elected to the school board in Blair, will the superintendent speak for you, or, will you speak for yourself as a representative of the parents who voted for you?
AIMEE COTHRAN: If I make it onto the school board, the superintendent is not the one who voted me on there. The superintendent was hired by the school system. The people who put me on the school board would be the community at large – that voted for me. Therefore, I’m going to listen to those who support me, AND, those who don’t support me… the whole community. The community are the ones who vote you onto the school board. Those are the important people. And, those are the people you should listen to.
FROM BLAIR TODAY STAFF: Current School Board members should take note of Aimee’s candor. And, although we don’t endorse any candidates as of this interview, we do appreciate open, honest, and strong opinions. If you vote next year – which you should – we believe if a candidate won’t answer directly about what they believe, you should VOTE THEM OUT.