October 4, 2020

David Brumbaugh

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictGrosse Pointe Public Schools
City:Grosse Pointe Park

How long have you lived in your district?

5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

Endorsed by the unions representing our hard-working teachers and staff (GPEA, GPEPA, GPPA, and GPAEOP), the GP Democratic Club, and additional local officials and community members listed on our site

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Our school district is in a profound crisis, and I want to see us out of it stronger than when we came in. I am a career data analyst, expert in national security and public safety, and parent of two young students at Defer and Trombly ECC. I have advocated effectively for early education here, opening the way for the current expansion at Trombly and Poupard, and hopefully beyond. As a former intel officer, I learned to tackle hard problems by learning from smart people and data, and thinking creatively to evaluate all options. I’ve worked on school safety and technology projects relevant to our district, and have the proactive, collaborative, mission-first attitude needed to get things done. I want to do my part because I believe we’re stronger when we work together.

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

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day. It has been heartbreaking to hear the stories of current and former students on the Black in GPPSS Instagram and recent meetings of our Board of Education. Our school district has a trouble history with equity, inclusion, and diversity, and we need a school board with the will, skills, and connections to help get us on the right track.

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

I think schools that provide comprehensive education within the mandate of the Board of Education are critical to our community, so I think finding ways to better assert ourselves in the whole 0-26 and broader community education space are important to counter the challenge of declining enrollment. As the working needs of families change, we have a brief window to work with our teachers, staff, and administrators to think big about how they think we should “do” education for the future and find ways to support and enable their good ideas.

School funding also is broken in Michigan, and is made worse by our declining enrollment and per-pupil funding cuts expected due to COVID. We may start the year with a $4 million operating deficit, and can’t wait for DC or Lansing to fix it for us. But we may be in a moment where advocacy for better, more robust, and more reliable funding models could be successful.

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

I believe that our district has a profound trust deficit now because of failures to pursue transparency and open communication with our teachers, families, students, and communities over the last few years. Our administration is also grossly under-resourced and under-staffed, at less than 1/4 of its peak strength. We should empower stakeholder committees to take the lead on hard problems, to augment and supplement the resources and expertise of our district leaders.

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

My campaign is built on small donations from community members. We have received larger donations from people we know well in the community, and from the organizations endorsing our campaign (MEA, Dems).

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

1. Strength our district through innovation, to include early education expansion, career readiness, early college / advanced programs, and other ideas from our teachers, staff, and community.
2. Make GPPSS a powerhouse for special education by building a strategic plan to improve our programs and communication in partnership with our committed special ed families.
3. Review test and ranking data to see if we can learn anything about how we can improve and pursue excellence in our district. At times, these metrics can be arbitrary and not completely reflect the strengths of a program, school, or district. But they should be used to seek insights and understanding on areas of strength and concern.

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

1. Fix education finance to ensure equity without removing the ability of high-performing districts to lean on their supportive communities to strengthen their schools.
2. Reduce unnecessary testing and administrative burdens
3. Create mechanisms to encourage collaboration and shared resources across districts, to promote innovation and provide increased opportunities to all

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?

Public health conditions mean virtual school is safest, but do allow for in-person or hybrid options–such as the early ed and K-8 summer programs we ran over the summer, and opened this week at three schools. But some of our schools still aren’t ready for students because GPPSS proceeded with major construction despite COVID. This makes it harder to give families options they need–especially our special ed students, youngest learners, and families in difficult situations. The district was right to offer a robust virtual option, but should have given teachers the whole summer to prepare.

The biggest challenges we face will be the limited funding and resources available to our schools despite the gravity of the challenge ahead. The district will need to be constantly listening and learning from public health experts, peer and neighboring school district, parents and families, and other stakeholders to ensure our plans account for all conceivable scenarios and have a panel of experts on standby to handle the unforeseen scenarios.

The district will need to undertake building and safety (PPE, training, etc) readiness work to ensure teachers have everything they need on day one, and that they’ll be entering buildings free of dangerous construction debris. Then we need to be brave enough to make the right choices despite significant pressure from concerned families as well as political interests at the national, state, and even local level.s

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

For the moment, we need to prioritize the things our teachers need to conduct effective remote learning, and the actions and items we need to get our schools fully prepared for return to learn. Over the summer, the district undertook a series of tremendously expensive bond-funded construction projects on buildings that may not be used in the same way or to the same extent in the future. We should delay any work like that, which does not keep us squarely on target for return-to-learn.

We also need to invest in our future by pursuing innovative programs and robust sources of funding that come with outside-the-box thinking.

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

We should look at all data as an opportunity to learn more about how we could do a better job delivering education. However, while we shouldn’t shy away from data, we also shouldn’t collect it without reason–as there has been a proliferation of school testing regimes implemented at different age/skill levels. Generally speaking, we will do more good by reducing the admin workload and student testing involved with our current reality.

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 dramatically grow our early education program and look to make us a leader in special ed. I would engage with teachers, students, and community members to identify educational needs compatible with the objectives of the district and find the resources needed to implement them.

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

Counseling and mental health needs are under-resourced everywhere in Michigan, not just GPPSS. At the elementary level, this can be backstopped (to an extent) by teachers and staff who have smaller cohorts than middle/high school, and can be more engaged with their students’ needs. A big concern in moving fifth grade to middle school was providing appropriate social/emotional support–but the current plan involves an advisory program that is not fully developed (and won’t include fifth grade), and adding a half-time counselor per building. This isn’t enough, and we need to work harder on this.

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day.

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

Traditional and restorative justice practices are available to use when appropriate. But because we have so many students in jeopardy, we need to train our teachers, staff, and administrators to assist on the front lines with recognizing and directing students in trouble to appropriate resources and off-ramp them from moving along the trajectory to academic and disciplinary issues.

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

Our special ed students have been without essential services and therapies since March, without any good reason or clear communications. We need instead to be a leader in special ed.

We have a diverse district and need to leverage the ideas and energy of our special ed parents to advance our program. We need to be more inclusive, responsive, and empowering.

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

We have to make every effort to equip our students, staff, and teachers to make our schools a safe harbor where everyone can engage in learning — and the thousand passing interactions that shape their day — with joy and the spirit of discovery. Learning empathy, and how to listen to and understand each other, takes deliberate action every day.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with MEJC.