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.