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    2020 School Board Candidates

    Saline Area Schools

October 14, 2020

Jenny Miller

How long have you lived in your district?

16 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Saline Education Association, Saline Educational Support Personnel, Washtenaw Democrats

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My main motivation to run for school board is my kids. It is overwhelmingly motivating to instill change in our community as I know this won’t only impact my own kids and their classmates, it will also directly influence my former students – from my time teaching at Saline – who have undeniably become a part of my family. In addition, recent events have underscored the need for change. I believe, through my experience being a teacher for 20 years, provides a different perspective than past board trustees. I believe that every board of education would benefit from having a member who has an extensive educational background. Teacher credibility has one of the highest effect sizes on student achievement (John Hattie, 2012). I believe that when trustees hold a high level of educational credibility, in partnership with other trustees, administrators, teachers and staff, the effect size will be compounded leading to greater student achievement for all students in Saline Area Schools.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Justice for all would mean eliminating systems of privilege and oppression to create a more just school community. Our school district has been in the spotlight this year for issues involving racism and xenophobia. These incidents weren’t isolated but garnered national attention. Saline Area Schools hosted Community Conversations and involved experts and organizations to facilitate these events. This was a notable first step but these are not just issues within the school buildings, but rather, these are issues that need to be addressed as a community. Now is the time for actionable steps to be taken with the ideas generated from the community conversations and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. I’d like to see SAS expand these conversations to coordinate efforts with other community organizations such as City Council and surrounding townships. By actively pursuing culture change, there will be no question that this is a place that values each member of our community.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

Opportunities to provide additional access to enrichment and support for students and families beyond the academic setting are essential elements to provide access to education for all students. This could include opportunities to learn more about family priorities, goals in and out of school, and funds of knowledge in homes. This could include partnering with local groups and community centers to connect families to resources that could support the development of whole child.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

In this pandemic, as an educator in a neighboring school district, we have begun the school year with family interviews. We are reaching out to families to ask them what is going well and what has been a challenge. We are inquiring about academic, technology, and physical needs. We are asking caregivers about their goals for their children and how they’d like to be involved. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are involving parents and caregivers in ways beyond the parent-teacher organizations. Increasing relevance in school board meetings, PTA/O meetings, and school events could increase engagement. By connecting with families through these school interviews, more families feel connected to their child’s school experience. Increased involvement leads to greater student achievement.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

I am funding my campaign.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

Safety: Creating and maintaining safe and engaging learning and teaching experiences, especially during Covid-19.
Academic Excellence: Contributing expertise to the areas of teaching and pedagogy to ensure access and achievement opportunities for all students.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Advancing and supporting the commitment to DEI practices throughout the district.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

Funding for Public Education: The current model is neither adequate nor equitable.
Academic Excellence: Supporting legislative initiatives with adequate funding for personnel, resources, and professional development.
Safety: Equipping all districts with measures to provide safe learning environments, during Covid-19 and beyond.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

The biggest challenge has been providing equitable opportunities for all students to engage in learning. Saline Student Services is leading the way for many others in our state with their efforts to meet the needs of our most vulnerable learners. During the first month of school when school was being provided remotely, students with IEPs were able to connect in person with their service providers for small windows of time. We need to share that model with others so more students who depend on these accommodations can access their learning opportunities too.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

The highest spending priority needs to be directed toward the students. This means that we must prioritize the people who provide instruction and operational support services that directly impact the daily achievement of students. That includes the bus drivers who pick up our students, the custodians and maintenance personnel who ready the buildings and classrooms, the office staff who ensure the organization and information of the school building, the teachers who plan engaging learning opportunities, and the administrators who manage the big picture. When times are lean, we need to make difficult decisions about spending and we can also look for areas of cost savings. In the last few years the school district has saved money by installing for eco-friendly lighting. I would like to pursue additional similar saving measures.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

I am not a fan of standardized tests that are linked to high-stakes and the billion dollar testing industry. Many of the standardized tests are a snap-shot of one moment in a child’s life and don’t take into consideration the child’s whole story. They are often used to compare students to other students, again without consideration of differences in opportunities which can influence performance. There are assessments that can be used to gather formal and informal information to guide teacher decision-making that can drive achievement. Without a major overhaul, most of the current standardized tests are widening the opportunity gap for students in America.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

Saline is a leader in many curricular areas. I would like to see a greater emphasis on culturally responsive teaching practices at all levels and in all courses. These practices can improve relationships between students and teachers, and students and their peers to build a community of learning that allows all students to feel safe and valued.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

I believe that the mental and emotional health and well-being of everyone involved in education-students, families, and staff-is incredibly important to maintaining an environment that is conducive to learning. Marc Brackett, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a Professor in the Child Study Center of Yale University. He has developed tools that allow children and adults to recognize and regulate their emotions. As we see rates of suicide increasing each year amongst teens, we must take action to equip schools with opportunities to develop the skills needed to provide learning opportunities for students to recognize their emotions and make decisions that allow them to regulate them in healthy and safe ways. It would be naive to overlook the fact that many emotional challenges are the result of systemic social problems like inequality, racism, sexism, and poverty. Tools to foster emotional intelligence can acknowledge these inequities and improve the ways individuals deal with the feelings they encounter.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Bullying behavior doesn’t typically begin at the high school level but rather in our earliest school experiences. Many of our elementary schools have begun to explore opportunities to expand community building practices through school-wide initiatives, including community meetings and programs, such as Leader in Me. We must address root causes of bullying early, seek accountability to safeguard against it, and implement teaching methods to equip students with strategies when faced with adversity.
When justice has been violated, staff and students must be equipped with resources and tools to interrupt the injustice. Implementation of restorative practices and courageous conversations could support and repair harm that has occurred. The school district has adopted a student-led stance in learning spaces and could extend that to incidents of hate speech, bullying, and other injustices. With support, students could lead efforts to implement restorative circles to develop relationships, build community, and respond to reports of harm. These are not easy practices to implement and will take commitments from all of the stakeholders to be effective.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Currently, there is a focus on the Seclusion and Restraint Policy. The board policy states that Seclusion & Restraint will be eliminated, but practices and training continue. Either the policy needs to be revised or the practice needs to be reevaluated. In the state of Michigan, 73% of school districts do not employ S&R practices. SAS and stakeholders, including families and teachers, should explore alternative tools and resources that would continue to ensure safety for all. Having worked with SAS special education colleagues for years, I have seen first hand their advocacy for their students and I have no doubt that they want to provide the best for their students.
All classroom teachers should be trained to recognize verbal and non-verbal cues from students that could indicate a student’s need for a change or a break. Every teacher should be trained in de-escalation techniques so they can safely support all students. It is imperative that measures are in place to protect all students and staff while reducing the trauma related to seclusion and restraint.
With the numbers of students who have experienced trauma increasing, and we anticipate numbers could increase due to a variety of variables related to Covid-19, school districts must provide professional opportunities to support trauma informed teaching. Often students exhibiting signs of trauma may not have IEPs or 504s, so it will be increasingly important for schools to expand training opportunities beyond the special education staff.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

Any policies and decisions need to be made with the consideration of the most marginalized students first. Each course, at all levels, needs to be reviewed and assessed with the lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity to determine that resources and teaching methods are fair and void of any biases or stereotyping. It is imperative that SAS resources and teaching are embedded with experiences and identities that have, historically, been excluded. Inclusive curricula and resources enable all children to expand their compassion and understanding of experiences that don’t mirror their own.

Any other information you want to include or share?

October 14, 2020

Thomas Frederick

Pronouns: he/him
School District:Saline Area Schools
City: Saline

How long have you lived in your district?

20 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Only from local school officials

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

As a former teacher and coach in the school district for 25 years, and as a father of seven children currently in the schools, I want to continue to serve the community, provide resources for students and staff, advocate for teachers and students, and ensure high quality academic and extracurricular experiences for ALL students.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Equal access for all students to all resources needed for a positive educational experience. Every student who enters a Saline School building should feel physically and psychologically safe, loved, and able to achieve their highest potential. But it doesn’t matter how good your facilities or staff or sports programs are if students do not have access to them. We need to ask if our great academic and athletic programs are accessible to all our students and families. In academics, we are moving quickly to technology-based education. This has greatly accelerated due to Covid19. I see the benefit of technology and virtual learning but wonder if some students with fewer technology resources are being left behind. Have we carefully thought out and planned out technology infusions? Are we partnering with internet service providers to ensure students in rural areas (and all students) have reliable high-speed internet connections? Are we providing students with devices they can use to access the educational resources SAS is providing? In my decades of teaching, I have seen a divide between the top 25% of students and the bottom 25%. It is often easy for top tier students to be successful. They are often driven, self-motivated, supported at home, and have access. But what about those who are less fortunate? How do Saline Schools make academic success available to those students who face challenges economically, emotionally, and physically? As a board trustee, I am committed to removing as many obstacles to access as possible.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

I think we have learned a lot of virtual content delivery and how to do so in a meaningful and effective manner. I see future possibilities of more distance learning options, expanded schools of choice, and hybrid education that meets the diverse needs of all families. I envision schools changing from an educational monopoly (here is what we have, take it or leave it) to a more a la carte approach where students and parents can choose educational pathways and delivery systems that meet their needs. I envision square classrooms with 32 desks facing the front and a teacher “telling” information all day being redesigned into collaborative, self-driven learning experiences that produce critical thinkers, team players, and problem-solvers.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

As with any organization, success can only be achieved by including and engaging all stakeholders. The role of a Board Trustee is to assist in that process; to listen, to learn, to provide resources, and to help remove obstacles. Schools need to listen to students, parents, and staff, in order to candidly understand what they believe will provide value from their perspectives, and then take action to accomplish that. Students, parents, and families (and staff) need to have a seat on all school-related committees from finances, to curriculum, to school climate, in order to give input, and direct future decisions.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

My support is all grass roots

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

Students need to be taught how to work collaboratively to think critically, listen to all perspectives, and solve problems together. Schools need to provide safe and effective virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning experiences in order to meet the needs of ALL students and families. Students need to learn and practice practical people and job skills, not just memorize facts or “learn for the test”. These “people skills” must include respect for all, empathy, how to reach mutual understanding in the face of differences, and how to work hard toward a common goal.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

The state must provide adequate funding for schools, especially in this time of covid19 that is requiring schools to move financial resources from academic and extracurricular areas to keeping kids physically safe. The state must also provide educational outcomes and best practices based on science, data, and the consensus of global experts while respecting the local rights of communities and parents to shape the future of their local school districts. The state must provide incentives for local businesses to partner with schools in teacher training, student co-ops and internships, and sharing talent and resources in order to provide students with the best learning environments possible.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

This is an unprecedented time! In light of Covid19 schools need to provide access for ALL students to learn safely in-person, virtually, and in hybrid educational experiences. This has put incredible stress on teachers and district budgets on the one hand, and on students and parents on the other. Schools need to include all stakeholders, listen to all perspectives, and be willing to invest extra resources to provide physically and psychologically safe learning environments that are accessible to ALL students.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

Schools need to be focused on keeping kids safe, first and foremost. This includes physical and psychological safety (in a time of pandemic or not). Schools need to provide resources to students so that no student has obstacles to access, and all students can learn on an even playing field. Schools need to provide adequate wages and benefits to teachers and staff in order to recruit and retain the best teachers.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardized tests are one way to measure learning outcomes but they are limited in many ways. Some test questions present unconscious bias that may negatively affects certain subgroups of the student population. Standardized tests only look at one small window of student performance (one or two days in a whole year) during which students may be sick, dealing with personal issues, overwhelmed at work, or a host of other factors that can affect performance. While I see the need for standardized tests as an outcome measure that can provide a high level view and benchmark schools in a context of national and state standards, I understand limitations of such measures and strongly encourage other means of assessing student understanding, like formative assessments by teachers.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

I think the curriculum needs to be reviewed and revised at a regular cadence in order to ensure it is up to date and meeting/exceeding all state and national outcomes. I believe school officials must partner with parents and students and be transparent about curriculum changes when curriculum is revised. As a Board Trustee I would begin a K-12 curriculum review process with information gathering sessions including students, teachers, and parents to better understand areas of best practices and gaps that need to be closed related to our current curriculum.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

Human beings are not machines or widgets to be “processed educationally.” Human beings have emotional, physical, and psychological needs and schools need to address these with just as much sincerity, honesty, and commitment as providing academic resources. This is a very important concern, especially in light of Covid19 and how the lockdowns, changes in access to education, and limitations on in-person academic and extracurricular options for students. In light of this, as well as the current polarization in our society, assessing and protecting the mental/emotional health and safety of students, staff, and parents is of dire importance. I will encourage listening to the input of students, staff, and parents, regarding their emotional needs and work tirelessly to promote a culture of psychological safety.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

I have been a vocal advocate within the Saline school for decades for consistent enforcement of ALL policies as well as fair treatment for ALL students. The current board policy regarding discrimination and bullying is robust and does not permit any forms of it. Beyond that, all people have human dignity based on the mere fact that they are human, apart from race, creed, gender or any other factor and are given unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as written in our Constitution. I firmly believe that bad behaviors in our schools is not a result of insufficient policies, rather, a result of two things (1) poor choices by people, and (2) failure to consistently apply the current policies in all situations and for all students. As a board trustee, I will ensure that anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies (and all school policies) are applied consistently and compassionately with the goal of keeping schools safe for all students and staff.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Saline Schools have had a storied reputation for care of students with special needs, and providing a full inclusion approach. In recent years there have been concerns raised by parents of children with special needs, especially related to restraint. As a board trustee I will listen to parents and students concerns, and encourage swift action to restore Saline’s great reputation for meeting needs of our special needs students.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

In recent years we have witnessed a level of polarization in society markedly worse than in past decades. This has often lead to a breakdown of communication, failure to listen to ideas different than our own, and people acting poorly toward each other. As a board trustee, I will foster a culture of mutual respect in light of our many diverse differences. I will listen with empathy but I will stand against any subgroup of our school community shouting down or ostracizing any other or group. I will do all in my ability to give ALL stakeholders a voice, as is their right, and foster a culture of psychological and physical safety for all.

Any other information you want to include or share?

-I served as an innovative classroom and online teacher of secondary Mathematics and Science at Saline High School for over 25 years.
-I hold advanced degrees in Mathematics, Physics Education and Curriculum Design, as well as Quality Management.
-I team-taught with Special Education teachers to meet the unique needs of exceptional students and advocated for accommodations based on my experience.
-I was a leader in technology innovation in mathematics and physics, including video-based lessons for an entire Algebra 2 class to allow students a “flipped classroom” experience.
-I served as Chair of the Science Department for 10 years with a focus on activity-based learning and technology augmented experimentation.
-I served on the Governing Board, as a Negotiations Team member, and as the Grievance Chair for the Saline Education Association–advocating for student and teacher rights, fair treatment, and collaborative problem-solving between teachers and school administration.
-I served as a Trustee and Treasurer of the Board for a local not for profit pediatric care provider serving underrepresented and impoverished families in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
-I served on the Strategic Framework Finances Committee for Saline Schools.
-I currently teach and coach Continuous Improvement and Quality Management at a large local health system.

October 4, 2020

Heidi Elizabeth Pfannes

Pronouns:She/Her
School DistrictSaline Area Schools
City:Saline

How long have you lived in your district?

8 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

Yes

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I want to make sure every student has access to the very best possible education. I have worked for public schools my entire adult life. For over 12 years, I have been on a board of education dedicated to providing quality public education. For six years, I served in Mattawan Consolidated Schools and over six years for Saline Area Schools. I believe I am called to serve our community in whatever way I can. As a board member, I can use my God-given talents to impact kids’ lives. We have a lot of work to do, and I’d like to continue doing my part to improve public education for every child.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

Every child deserves equitable access to the very best public education. No matter where they start, or who they are, we should provide the resources and the safe environment needed to grow into productive citizens. Every child is unique in their background, needs, and talents. We should help students identify and develop their skills and talents, and explore how to use them to make their place in the world.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

This crisis will allow us to transform the way the education system works. Our teachers and students will discover new ways to teach and learn in our face-paced digital world. I think we will see more of a transformation from seat time to self-directed learning. Integrated Technology is a tool across all grade levels. We will see more collaboration between teachers as they work together, aligning instruction across multiple classes. Hence, teachers have more time to work individually with smaller groups of students for individualized instruction. We will see more self-directed learning with mastery moving from test scores to skill development. The school day may end up looking very different, especially at the high school.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

As a public school, we are responsible for educating all the children in the community. We will have parents, students, and families with various values, backgrounds, and conflicting priorities. It is essential to bring civility to the conversations to share and listen to each other and identify the district’s most critical issues. In our strategic vision, we recognize the highest priorities to address first. Students are encouraged to work within their buildings through their student organizations and their building leadership to discover and share their voices with others.

Parents are encouraged to support their students by partnering with classroom teachers. Teachers need to be appreciated for their training and expertise in teaching and student development. Parents need to make sure their children are prepared to learn. Healthy partnerships between the family and the school all contribute to the performance of the school district. Parent’s participation in focus groups with building principals helps the schools understand the priorities of the community. Look for opportunities to engage in district-wide conversations on topics of interest to you. “Let’s Talk” is one of these methods to share your thoughts with the district. The public comment time at Board of Education meetings provides an opportunity for the community to share their voice with the school board and the public. Communicating directly with board members allows us to share with the superintendent your perspective and issues. Follow-up from these discussions is addressed through the superintendent and his administrative team.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

I am my only financial supporter for my campaign.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

1. Teaching the whole child. We need to continue to work on the elements identified in our learner profile.
2. Prepare the kids to be productive citizens.
3. Loving and respecting each other for who they are.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

1. Kids from all communities & backgrounds deserve equitable & quality education.
2. Appropriate funding for public schools.
3. The teacher shortage needs to be addressed. Payscale for beginning teachers is well below the pay scale of other professions of equal schooling. Teachers need to be appreciated and paid accordingly for their work.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

It is a challenge this year. COVID has disrupted everything we know in education. Physical safety and emotional safety need to be balanced. We know humans need to be in a community with each other. Kids need to interact with each other and with other people. However, many have health challenges, caregiving issues, and fear. All of these are mixing to create anxiety and chaos. We need to ask our community to work with us through all this uncertainty. We will need to be flexible to respond to health department guidelines. We need to do our part to practice social distancing, wear a mask. We need to care for each other and hold each other accountable to follow the rules to get back to in-person instruction as quickly and safely as possible.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

The most significant focus of our budget is providing the best possible education for our students. We also need to provide a safe environment for our students and staff. We need to be lean in our operations and make sure anything that does not add value to educating children has the lowest priority.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardized tests are essential to make sure our students are progressing in their learning. Our students need to have the skills and knowledge to prepare for their future. Standardized tests are measures of accountability. However, we need to balance standardized tests with actual project-based evaluations. It is essential to have the knowledge and know-how to apply it in real-life situations.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

I would like to see more inclusive instruction. We need to teach history and other lessons through various lenses. Our focus needs to be more on softer skills, especially being kind and compassionate to others. Collaboration with each other will help our students as they seek to understand different points of view.

We need to continue ensuring the curriculum is meaningful for the students. Our focus on 4-C’s Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking are lifelong skills our children need to learn. We need to continue to build on the attributes in the Learner Profile.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

Balancing stresses in our lives takes practice and skills. Our children have so many pressures, and adults do too. COVID has taught us that we don’t have to be going 90 miles an hour every day. We need to take the time to pause, reflect, recharge, and refocus. We need to build physical and emotional supports and relief valves into the structure of the school.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

All students deserve respect and dignity, but they also must be held accountable for their actions. The expectations must be clear, and when boundaries are crossed, there must be corrective action. Kids will make mistakes. Let’s make these mistakes learning opportunities, and whenever possible, rehabilitate vs. punitive. The safety of the students and others is critical in any case.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

Our special education population deserves a quality education. It is our responsibility to teach all students to be the best person they can be. We need to ensure our students receive fair and safe treatment. Our parents and caregivers are essential advocates and need to be engaged in the IEP for their children. We must follow all state and federal laws and guidelines.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

We need to make sure all our children have equal access to a safe and comfortable environment to learn. We need to make sure every child has access to quality education. Some students may need more support than others. It is my responsibility as a board member to make sure every child can enjoy the same benefits of quality education and are prepared with the knowledge and skills to be productive citizens.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Please visit my election website: www.electheidipfannes.weebly.com

October 4, 2020

Brad Gerbe

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictSaline Area Schools
City:Saline

How long have you lived in your district?

10 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Yes. The Washtenaw Democratic Party. Additional endorsements pending.

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

I care about kids. I want to be a voice for students. Like many Saline residents, I have a 12 year old and a 9 year old that I would do anything for! When I evaluate the ways that I can be involved in my children’s life, aside from coaching their teams (which I do), I think being actively involved in their education is the best investment that I can make in their future. I understand the awesome privilege and responsibility that I will have if I am entrusted by the community of Saline with a board seat. I will protect our children and make it my goal to work together with the community to maintain a thriving and inclusive school district for all students. I hope that Saline voters will relate to that and give me their trust.

I will represent all kids. I believe that all students should have the freedom and peace to live life as the student that he/she/they is. I want to grace students with the knowledge that their school is a safe place and that they are loved when they are present in our school and in our community.

Aside from that, I believe I am qualified. 17 years in the classroom. Department chairperson in science. Coach. Link Crew leader. I am involved and I have the skills and requisite knowledge to help make good decisions as a member of a school board team.

What does education justice mean to you? What does it mean specifically in the context of your school district?

It means that all students are welcome, all students are supported and all students are accepted for the students that they are in our schools. So what do we do to ensure education justice? How do we ensure that our schools are a place where all learners can feel safe and thrive? I think there are a number of ways. And I acknowledge that Saline is currently working on, and has more work to do, with regards to many. First, Saline needs to provide high quality instruction by educational professionals that are highly qualified and whose values and educational practices reflect the need for diversity, inclusion, and equity. Next, we need to provide equitable access to course materials and diverse course offering including AP and high level courses available to all learners. Lastly, and I know this is a current focus of Saline administration, we need to incorporate and utilize restorative justice practices. Restorative practices reduce suspension numbers and help to raise graduation rates.

If you could completely reimagine the way schools look after this public health crisis, what would they look like?

This is a big question. I think schools are doing most of the right things. Saline has a strong school system with dedicated and engaged teachers, administrators and support staff. The parents are supportive and involved.

COVID has caused a lot of relevant and necessary change. As we emerge in a post-COVID educational world, I think we should embrace many of the innovations that COVID has made a reality. These include additional access and incorporation of technologies, but also extend to important topics such as access to internet.

A lot schools and communities are having important discussions surround diversity, equity and inclusion. Saline is one of those communities who must continue these discussions. Saline has had its share of challenges over the last year. It’s unfortunate that Saline has made national news. There is work to be done.

As a board candidate I will tell you this. I will work together with stakeholders in our community to build stronger, safer schools for all of our students. I will seek to understand and I will listen to the desires of our community. I will attend seminars and listening sessions, as I have previously with the MEJC and I will seek continuous professional development. I am NOT an expert in social and education justice, but I will seek to know more.

Describe how you think parents, students, and families should be involved in making decisions within your school district?

We have to listen and work together. We have to work hard to understand each other. In our currently hyper-partisan world, it is difficult to find right now. I think it is imperative that we work together so that we can maximize the educational experience for all of our students. I will be a voice for all students and we will be 100% compliant with Title IX and state and federal laws. That said, I want to engage in discussion with all community members and parents as we work together to support all students.

Who (if any) are your top financial supporters for your campaign?

Myself.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals within your school district?

1. The need to listen to one another and seek out understanding.
2. A commitment to all students… that they will safe and that they will be embraced for people that they are.
3. Literacy.

As a future board member, my biggest responsibility is to listen and to do what I think is right. I will listen to all members of our community. I may not be able to vote every community member’s way, but I will listen. When I listen to those who have a different viewpoint from my own, I sometimes come to a different conclusion than I had originally made. I like to do that.

I don’t know if our community of Saline does that enough. I am sorry, but that’s just how I feel. I am a Democrat. I own that. I simply align personally with more of the Democrat principles. I am not ultra-left though. I believe that we all need to listen and try for one another. For our kids. I will protect students’ rights and I will uphold the law. However, I think the greatest challenge Saline has right now is unity. And as a board member, I will try to insulate our kids from that as much as possible. There will be topics where there are multiple viewpoints and we are going to have to make difficult calls and decisions, but I will listen and I will try to be a unifying voice, when I can. And I will stand up for the things that I think are worthy.

Educationally there are a few things I want to see Saline improve upon. My primary concern is literacy. Particularly in young students. Our teachers, administrators, and support staff are doing great work. That said, there could be achievement gaps in literacy and we have to fix those. We also need to continue on the path of developing real policies that reflect the core values of our community.

What are your top 3 educational priorities/goals at a state level?

1. Funding that actually provides for the full educational needs of students. In particular, additional funding is needed for at risk and ESL populations. Funding is also currently inadequate for meeting the needs of all special education students.
2. Additional financial allocation targeted at literacy gaps and needs.
3. Continued partnership with school districts to develop laws that are inclusive of all students.

What challenges do you anticipate this school year to COVID and what do you think your school district must do to keep students & staff safe?

I want to work with our educators, parents and leaders to keep trying and to not be discouraged. To know that they are appreciated. COVID has changed the game in education. In some good ways, and in some ways that are not great yet. I want to make sure we are focused on communicating with families and developing the best education plan we can for students as we continue working through the challenges of this pandemic.

I already spoke to literacy, but I can’t say it enough. If we fail our youngest learners in literacy (and numeracy) we could impact their ability to be lifelong learners and citizens for a lifetime. So, as a board member, who makes decisions about educational priorities, I say that just can’t happen!

I want to continue the important work of our DEI committee and I want to work together with the board and community to talk about implementation. I also want to stay knowledgeable of important school topics. For example, at the most recent board meeting, seclusion and restraint. I want to learn more. I will seek out professional development and conversations so that I can better understand.

What should be your school district’s top spending priorities in their budget? Alternatively, what should not be prioritized your district’s budget?

This is simple for me… the priority is the classroom, the classroom, the classroom.

The total education of students is so important. Especially when we think about the mental health of students. There are students whose connection to school is rooted in pride for co-curricular activities (sports, arts, drama, clubs, organizations, etc). As a dad who recognizes the intrinsic value of these offerings and programs, when financial decisions need to be made, I will be glad to support them through pay to participate fees and fundraising efforts. Though admittedly, like any other household, I wish my dollars could stay in my bank account. Furthermore, we need to be mindful of any equity barriers that participation fees create. I want all students to feel connected and have pride in school. Pride for school and school connectedness is shown through studies to enhance the mental health of students. This is why we need to think longly before cutting these items.

Bottom line, if I have to choose between Spanish textbooks and volleyballs, I will choose the Spanish textbooks. We will find another way to provide volleyballs. I believe that.

So, what should we cut first? I don’t know. As a board member, I shouldn’t be in the game of making those recommendations. Please let me explain. I believe that directly engaging with individuals who are the most impacted by decisions is paramount in organizations that contain strong culture and have established strong decision making hierarchies. I believe in collaboration. As a board, we will recognize the need for financial cuts through our budget discussions with Ms. Miranda Owsley. Boards of education are required by the state of Michigan to pass initial and amended budgets throughout the school year. If cuts are necessary, the board will then direct the superintendent to make budget recommendations. Mr. Graden will work collaboratively with the talented administrators, staff members and support teams around him, to figure out areas of opportunity. I’d trust those individuals to make the best decisions for the school district. Frankly, I would trust them to do their jobs well and to prioritize those items that are most important. From there, I am hopeful that Superintendent Graden will provide the board with options that reflect the amount required for financial adjustment. From there, I will work together with other board members to analyze and engage with the community to figure out what priorities exist, and where we should allocate, cut, or reallocate district financial resources. That is when I will get involved in making decisions about what should be cut first and/ or last.

What role do you think standardized tests should play in your school district?

Standardized tests provide a snapshot in time of student learning. But they don’t tell the total educational experience of a child. There are so many things that can factor into high stakes testing that is simply not accounted for. Whether it bias, whether it is testing anxiety, perhaps the student had a cold and/ or health challenges, etc.

I think standardized testing can be part of the information that is gathered about teaching and learning, and about evaluating educators, but it should be a very small amount. Mostly, we should let those things be controlled by local school boards and district leadership.

If you could have an impact on your school district’s curriculum , what changes would you make? What, if anything, would you keep the same?

I can have an impact. By listening. By encouraging risk taking. And by encouraging inclusive curriculum that speaks to all students collective school experience.

As far as changes go, I don’t think I should be directly influencing lesson creation. That is the work of teachers, support personnel and administration. My job as a board member is to create policies that remove barriers from education professionals and to provide the resources necessary to execute the goals and mission of the schools.

What responsibility do you believe your school district has in supporting students’ and staffs’ mental and emotional health/wellbeing?

Quite a bit. In Saline we have extraordinary education professionals! Our students are committed to their education and we have top notch facilities. I want to work collaboratively with stakeholders to make sure that we are implementing procedures and policies that maintain the overall health and wellness of students and of staff. Students and staff are human beings and they deserve to feel appreciated and dignified within their school experience.

How do you think your school district should handle student discipline/and make schools a safe place for students and staff?

Create an environment where all students feel safe and supported. I’ve already discussed the benefits of restorative practices and I would like to reemphasize those here. Restorative discipline practices rebuild relationships and help remove barriers. I strongly encourage their incorporation, and I know that the Saline Area Schools are using restorative practices. I will support administrators and teachers as they seek out professional development and through conversations as board meetings and in the community.

What are your top priorities around special education in your district?

We have tremendous special education personnel in Saline. I will continue to build relationships with them. Listen to their needs and challenges. Work collaboratively with them. Right now, specifically, seclusion and restraint, is a focus area of special education and of the board. I am interested in learning a great deal more. I will do the work that is required to build understanding and to seek out professional development and acquire knowledge of special education matters.

What is your perspective on working towards achieving equity within your school district?

We are working on this in Saline. Every day. It is an evolving process and necessary. All students should be recognized and celebrated in recognition of their diverse experiences. Also, all students should have the grace and dignity of knowing that they are appreciated for the student that they are.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I am learning. I am a growing person who makes mistakes and does not fully understand all things. My white privileged, Troy/ Saline upbringing has sheltered me from some of the experiences that other have. I want to learn. I want to understand. But I will need help along the way and I will require the patience and grace of others. Please know this… I want to listen. I want to understand. I do care.