October 4, 2020

Michael Ovsenik

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictSwartz Creek Community Schools
City:Swartz Creek

How long have you lived in your district?

11 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

The Swartz Creek community voted to pass a historic millage in 2018 – the first since 1970 – that inspired me to get involved. I helped put out yard signs and talked to community members about how important the Bond was. I wanted to participate more so I joined the Bond Oversight Committee.

I felt that the Board should have some representation of working parents – people with children who will be in school for a while. Our experience as a working family will inform every decision I make. The recent decision to restructure our elementary schools into upper and lower elementaries pushed me to run for school board – it felt like we weren’t heard at all.

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

Our district is a melting pot. We have people from diverse socio-economic, neurodiverse, religious, and racial backgrounds. For us, it means making sure every child in the district receives the education they need specifically for them. It means all students being aware of diversity and how to treat others.

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

We need to bring our school systems out of the 1950s. Online school is so hard for working families and single parents. School systems need to bring high-quality online systems up with solutions for children who can’t have parents at home to help them.

Volunteering in the school shouldn’t only be for stay at home parents – opportunities should be easier for all parents and grandparents. School parties and volunteering opportunities should be available earlier in the day and later in the day so working parents can figure it out. School events should take place after 5pm or on weekends so people can make it.

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

Parents should be involved as much as they can at the ground level – seeing what happens in their schools by volunteering or just coming in and talking to teachers and staff. Once they get that experience it is much easier to talk to people in leadership about what is going on.

Families should try to watch or at least listen to school board meetings, especially ones where important decisions are made. Send email or call local board members. It is very hard getting through to entrenched members but it can be done. If necessary, run for board – like I am.

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

Just myself

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

1. Our main goal for Swartz Creek Schools is to make sure parents and students have a voice in School Board decisions. As a working parent of two elementary students – my children will be in SCCS for the next 13 years – I understand what working families are going through. Too often in the past, board decisions have been made that ignored the will of the constituents – making life a lot harder (and sometimes more expensive) for parents and students in the district.

While the Administration staff are well-qualified and experienced, we need Board Members that will ask for data, trends, and examples. Every board vote should be backed up with data-driven decisions.

Board members should be prepared to explain why they make any decision. We understand that workgroup meetings happen, but most citizens do not have time to spend watching or attending daytime meetings while they are working. If elected, I would make sure to explain decisions where possible – either during the meeting or in a public blog / Facebook page. Transparency is important.

Along with transparency, parents and constituents expect two-way communication. Countless times I have heard from other parents that Board members ignored their email or other attempts for contact. If elected, I would maintain a commitment to responding to communication within 24 hours during regular business days. I will ask for comments on very important issues on Facebook and a blog. Social media is useful and should not be ignored.

2. The COVID19 pandemic has put our schools in an unprecedented situation. They are charged with the safety of children and staff when they are at school or extracurricular activities. With the Michigan legislature asking School Boards to review their plans every month, we need people on the Board who will ask questions and have current experience with children in our schools.

3. The Millage that was passed was a historic moment for Swartz Creek as a community. Voters chose to invest in our schools, staff, and students. I would work hard to make sure our Bond investment is well-spent and finished to ensure a great future for our students and staff.

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

1. Ensure funding per student is more equal across all schools in the state of Michigan

2. Create more funding for schools for wellness. My wife is a paraprofessional and it is very hard for them to manage students with special needs and students who just need a break.

3. Focus on reading. Reading is the most important skill a student can learn and helps with all other skills.

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 COVID19 pandemic has put our schools in an unprecedented situation. They are charged with the safety of children and staff when they are at school or extracurricular activities. With the Michigan legislature asking School Boards to review their plans every month, we need people on the Board who will ask questions and have current experience with children in our schools.

Our district must:

Keep parents informed
Keep staff informed
Maintain safe practices
Ask all children to wear a mask no matter what grade
Reduce the opportunity for transmission by canceling unnecessary activities

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

Our schools are old and every time I have been in to see my children at school (before the pandemic) I noticed things that were falling apart or broken. Our schools desperately need more in the facilities budget to bring us out of 1950s buildings and into the 20th century.

I would not prioritize as highly spending on extracurriculars or athletics. During this time when our budgets may be slashed we need to make sure the most important activities get funded.

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

Standardized tests should be administered to make sure students are making progress, but we should recognize they don’t work for a percentage of our students and should have other ways to measure. It should definitely not be the only way of measuring success.

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 feel we do well on reading and STEAM – I would focus a bit more on state, national, and world history in our social studies classes as students need to know where we came from and where we could go.

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

Mental and emotional health should be a top priority for our district, especially during this pandemic. There are too many students who slip through the cracks, even when we do our best. There just aren’t enough staff to spend time one-on-one with students. More funding to put more aides in the schools and more social workers could help.

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

Our students and staff should always feel safe in our schools. If there are issues then they need to be addressed with parents and the student. If a student needs more help so they stop acting out, we need to be able to provide it.

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

We should work to make it as easy as possible for parents and students to obtain a special education classification if necessary. Often times the parents or caretaker can’t attend meetings because of work, lack of transportation, or other issues. We need to work around those issues and meet people where they are if necessary.

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

We need to make it easier for parents in our district who are socioeconomically challenged. Oftentimes they can’t make it to meetings, can’t look over notes from school, or take calls from staff because they’re working or the phone number changed. We need to meet people where they are and make it easier.

Any other information you want to include or share?

Thank you! Please visit my website or Facebook page:

http://michaeloswartzcreek.wordpress.com/

http://www.facebook.com/Michael-Ovsenik-for-Swartz-Creek-School-Board-106818847771500