October 9, 2020

Thomas Faro

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

How long have you lived in your district?

3.5 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

My love for the Milan community and MAS is my motivation for running. Both of my children attend MAS and have been blessed with extraordinary teachers. I believe my professional background , and my active engagement in the community will serve as assets on the BOE. I will be an advocate for all students and for our amazing teachers and support staff. I will be open , accessible , and transparent about the path forward during these challenging times.

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

Equality and providing a safe and superior educational experience for all students. We must be continually mindful of our mission , which is to ‘prepare all students to realize the best version of themselves and by creating a supportive , caring , and inclusive educational community’. Not every student has an interest in going off to college. Some students may have an interest in trades , joining the military , or pursuing other interests that do not include a college education. MAS has a responsibility to prepare students , through a well-rounded learning environment , and for life after high school. In addition , time and attention must be spent on addressing the lack of diversity in the district. A concerted effort should be made at recruiting , and retaining , highly qualified , and diverse professionals. One way to do this is to review/consider how and where the district is recruiting.

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

COVID is proving to be extraordinarily stressful for teachers and students. I always knew MAS had outstanding , caring , and committed teachers and support staff. I also know that there is a greater appreciation for our teachers , and for face-to-face instruction , as a result of COVID. In the immediate future , I believe our teachers and students may need access to mental health professionals , to discuss and address the anxiety/stress they are experiencing. Their health and well-being need to be a priority.

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

MAS needs to engage in consistent strategic planning with active and significant community participation. The strategic planning recently conducted by MAS was very good. There was a good mix of stakeholders involved in the process. Goals and expectations were clearly defined and effectively communicated. If elected , I will solicit additional parent/community input and engagement. Also , our professional teachers and building administrators need to be engaged more frequently on their ideas and suggestions on curriculum improvement/development.

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

Self-funded

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

1. Assist MAS with its mission of ‘preparing students to realize the best version of themselves and by creating a supportive , caring , and inclusive educational community.’
2. Work with the balance of BOE on establishing policy and district goals.
3. Acquire distinct familiarity and knowledge of the district’s budget.

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

1. Standardized testing should not be the primary focus on evaluating student or teacher performance/achievement , especially this year.
2. I am worried about next year’s per-pupil funding from the state. Legislators need to work together to secure more funding for public education in Michigan.
3. Advocate for increasing access to mental health professionals/resources.

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 a very stressful time for teachers , students , administrators , and parents. MAS has done a very good job of securing PPE through CARES Act funding. The CARES Act funding helped MAS return most students to a hybrid learning model , which involves both in-person and virtual instruction. In order for MAS to return to face-to-face instruction on a daily basis , these decisions must be based on local health conditions and analysis of public health data. Careful planning and risk mitigation are imperative for the safety of our teachers , students , and support/admin staff.

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

I believe our top spending priorities should be teacher/student safety , instruction , curriculum , and staff development and technology. In terms of the MAS budget , conditions could necessitate a return to full virtual for all students and , thus , a need for additional technology/equipment. If we return to full face-to-face instruction , there will be more students in the buildings. If there are more students in the buildings , there will be a need for additional PPE , cleaning , sanitizing , etc. If there are more students attending school , there will be an increase in transportation costs , etc.

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

NWEA testing has already taken place. Due to COVID , and as a result of hybrid or all virtual learning models , I hoped there would be a waiver to the federal requirement to administer the M-STEP test this spring. Unfortunately , the U.S. Dept. of Education has relayed that waivers will not be granted. I feel time/resources could be better spent on catching our students up on the learning loss from the past several months.

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?

MAS is blessed with an excellent team of professional teachers and building administrators. I believe they need to be engaged more frequently on their ideas and suggestions on based curriculum improvement or curriculum development. In addition , the BOE needs to allocate sufficient resources for continued professional development and evidence-based learning experiences for all of our administrators , principals , teachers , and support staff.

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

As stated earlier , teachers and students are experiencing extraordinary stress at this time. It’s important that our teachers and students have access to mental health professionals , to discuss and address the anxiety/stress they are experiencing. MAS needs to be prepared to properly address these current and future challenges.

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

First , good policy is important to address the core issues related to disciplinary issues. In some cases , for non-physical/threatening situations , stipulations for a return to school , like counseling , are necessary and appropriate. Restorative justice is intended to assist students with expressing remorse for their actions and resolving conflicts with one another.

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

In my opinion , the best learning environment is face-to-face instruction , if local health data/conditions and all risk mitigation measures are in place to protect our students , teachers , and support staff. Until then , we need to look at alternative (outside of the box) strategies to address the unique needs of our special education population. IEPs need to be high quality and well-structured despite the current challenges. In addition , frequent engagement with parents and providing informal student assessments are important.

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

Equity in education means providing services , resources , programs , and support that is needed for all students to be successful.

Any other information you want to include or share?

My wife , Kelly , and I were active with the Symons Middle School PTO. I participated in the MAS strategic planning process and I am one of the representatives on the Return-To-School Task Force. I’ve served in leadership roles. I’ve coached youth soccer teams , served as a Club President (Farmington SC) , and as a League President (Western Suburban Soccer League). I was a member of US Youth Soccer’s Governance Task Force and served as Risk Management Committee Chairman for US Youth Soccer , in the recent past. Currently , I serve as President of Uptown Village (Milan) Homeowners Association.