October 4, 2020
School DistrictSaline Area Schools
How long have you lived in your district?
Have you received any endorsements?
Yes. The Washtenaw Democratic Party. Additional endorsements pending.
Are you an incumbent?
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?
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.
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.