October 4, 2020

Thomas Hales

Pronouns:He/Him
School DistrictRockford School Dirstrict
City:Comstock

How long have you lived in your district?

17 years

Have you received any endorsements?

No

Are you an incumbent?

No

Why do you want to be a school board member?

Rockford has been very good to me and my family. I saw this as an opportunity to give back to my community. I have started and continue to run a successful business working with children in the special needs community. I also have a master’s degree in special education and have a history working within public schools. I feel like my background makes me uniquely qualified to serve on a school board.

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

Educational justice means equal access to education to all people. I believe strongly in public education for this very reason. I love that we live in a country where we priorities the education of everyone. I believe that I can help to ensure Rockford is the leader in best practices for working with the special needs community.

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

I believe the current board has done an incredible job responding to a very difficult situation. While I am personally excited to see my children receiving in-person instruction, I understand that this may not be the best option for every parent. I am up to date with recommendations that have been published by the CDC, the WHO, and The American Academy of Pediatrics. I would like to have seen the adoption of measures that would allow staff members to rotate classrooms instead of teachers at the secondary level, but I also recognize that this would have required many adjustments to student scheduling.

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

I believe that empowering individuals to make decisions is essential. Within the context of the current health crisis, I think allowing parents the decision to do online learning is admirable. I also think that allowing student’s more control over their educational decisions can have dramatic effects on their individual success. I have sat through countless IEP’s so I know the importance of flexibility and catering teaching to individuals.

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

N/A

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

1. Continue to ensure that Rockford attracts high quality teachers so we can be a leader within the Michigan public education system.

2. Help ensure that Rockford employs best practices especially as it relates to individuals with special needs.

3. Ensure that all students have unique avenues where success can be found, whether in music, art, or on a field. I want every student to find the reason they LOVE Rockford.

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

1. Funding for public schools should be increased and kept in the hands of public schools.

2. Allow greater control over curriculum at the local level.

3. Ensure that the IDEA act is being upheld.

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?

Once again, I think that the current board has done an excellent job of navigating a difficult situation. I do worry that the state may shut down schools if another spike in cases occurs this winter. I want to make sure that Rockford continues to comply with all health recommendations that come from the CDC, the WHO, and The American Academy of Pediatrics.

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

Any avenue that increases the quality and access to education that is being provided is my number one priority. Schools are institutions of learning above all else and are tasked with educating our future leaders and we can never lose sight of this noble purpose.

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

I believe standardized tests are an important tool for measuring progress of students. I think they are simultaneously overly applied and under utilized utilized. Every child should not be expected to be able to sit through every standardized test, but scores need to be used by trained staff to help identify areas that need additional focus in instruction.

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 love to see increased emphasis on practical skills for every adult (i.e., basic finance). I would also like to see an increased focus on teaching critical thinking skills. Growing up, I was involved in Odyssey of the Mind at Rockford, and some of the greatest skills that I learned were learned in that program. “Thinking outside of the box” is a difficult skill and I believe OM trained me to be great at it.

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

As someone who ones a behavioral health clinic, I cannot stress enough the importance of mental and emotional health. We are a community and we all need to support each other in this way.

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

I think discipline needs to be handled on a very individualized basis. I don’t believe there are any bad kids, there are just children that have not been taught how to respond to situations in their environment appropriately. I do not think justice should be retributive but reformative.

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

1. Ensure compliance with the IDEA act.
2. Ensure safe implementation of crisis response procedures to protect the safety of students and staff.
3. Implement best practices which are numerous, but I have special knowledge of with my master’s degree and professional experience.

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

All student’s need to have access to an education that is best suited for them. Equity to me means the gifted students are being challenged and not stifled, I love that college credit is offered through RHS. It also means ensuing that no student is left behind because they do not easily fit into traditional learning models.

Any other information you want to include or share?

I grew up in Rockford and graduated from RHS in 2004. My experiences there shaped me into the individual that I am today. I want to ensure that my children continue to have access to that same quality of education, and I am ready to carry the torch for them and my community.