Today we begin our Saline Area Schools Board of Education election coverage with biographies and a simple question: Why do you want to serve on school board?
There are four candidates running for two open six-year terms on the boards. Smita Nagpal, Diane Friese, Karen Delhey and Paul Hynek will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. Though none are incumbents, all are familiar faces to school board.
The candidates have paired off to run as teams, with Nagpal and Friese running as one team and Delhey and Hynek running as the other. Voters, however, are free to choose any two they wish.
See the candidates side-to-side when the Saline High School student group Students Reinvesting In a Valuable Education (STRIVE) hosts a candidates forum at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 25 at Saline Middle School.
Here are the biographies as submitted by the candidates.
Family: Lived in Saline for past 8 years, 4 children ( 1 bio and 3 step), 2 dogs (Willow and Belle), son Aaron Mukerjee is a 2012 graduate of Saline High School. My husband and I are currently “empty nesters.”
Employment/Education: Licensed Psychologist and Co-owner of Still Waters Counseling, LLC, Saline. Ph.D. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Toledo (graduated 1999), specialized in Marriage and Family Counseling, minored in Educational Psychology.
Government Experience: None in government. Co-manage practice, Still Waters Counseling, LLC (established 2000), with my husband. The practice has 2 secretarial staff, 7 therapists, and 1 psychiatrist.
Involvement in School Organizations: Involved as a parent with Freshman and JV baseball teams and many summer ball teams from the Saline area, volunteered in classrooms at Saline Area schools & chaperoned field trips, 4 years as a member of Saline Alive (Saline Area Schools Community Mental Health Committee), 8 years providing psychotherapy services for Saline Area students– collaborating with administrators, counselors, teachers and parents, provide/organize free presentations to the community on children’s mental health topics, implemented CARES funded Saline High School Student Needs Assessment (2010).
Other organizations: Saline Area Chamber of Commerce, American Counseling Association
Diane L. Friese
Family: My husband David and I have lived in Saline for 33 years and have been property owners for 36 years. We are both retired public educators. Our son, Michael, graduated from Saline Area Schools in 2002, recently received his Juris Doctorate degree, and is a practicing Ann Arbor attorney. Terra, our beloved, yet wilily Airedale terrier, is also an important family member.
Employment/Education Retired from a 30 year teaching career. During my tenure as a teacher I, taught in Ann Arbor, Manchester, Milan, retiring from Wayne Westland Community Schools. As a public educator, I taught pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, school middle, and high school. For most of my career I was a special education teacher consultant. I have also run two small businesses, Decorating Den and Screen Door Publishing. One of the books, recently published by Screen Door, is currently be used in Saline Area Schools, to introduce young children to vowel sounds. I earned a master’s degree in the education of children with learning disabilities. My undergraduate area of focus was teaching children with emotional disturbances. Both were earned through Eastern Michigan University.
Government Experience: Employed as a public school teacher for 30 years.
Involvement in School Organizations: As a parent of a Saline school student, I was involved with basketball, soccer, track, and cross country students. When my son was in fourth grade I tutored a small special interest science group, sponsored by the University of Michigan supported by Mrs. Dujac, his fourth grade teacher. As a small business owner I also sponsored little league baseball and soccer teams. As a co-author and illustrator, I have given presentations, in an attempt to support written language, reading and phonetics skills in young children. I have also assisted in seminars for high school age students to help ready them for the ACT.
Other organizations: Member of the Saline Main Street Organization, the 212 Cake Eaters, and the Saline Area Senior Center
Family: Bradley, Sophomore at Saline High School and Kyle, 6th Grade at Saline Middle School
Employment/Education: Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships with the Guild of Artists and Artisans, a non-profit artist membership organization that produces 5 fine art fairs a year, including the nationally acclaimed Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair.
Government Experience: NA
Involvement in School Organizations: Foundation for Saline Area Schools – Vice President/Trustee, Heritage PTO, Pleasant Ridge PTA – Fundraising Chair.
Other organizations: SafeHouse Marketing Committee, Junior League of Ann Arbor Community Advisory Board, SAYB&S Board.
Family: Married to Gina Hynek, Two Saline High School Students: Danielle (2014) and Joshua (2016). Two Saline graduates: Sarah (2008) and Christopher (2010)
Employment/Education: Working as a contracted Technology Consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. BA, University of Michigan-Dearborn (1991)
Government Experience: Trustee, Saline Area Schools Board of Education (June 2006 to December 2010), Board Secretary (2007 – 2009), Policy Committee (2007 – 2010)
Involvement in School Organizations: Saline Area Schools - Long Range Planning Committee (2004), Saline Field Hockey Club - Board Director at Large (2011 to present),Volunteer – Foundation for Saline Area Schools, PTO’s, Various building activities.
Other organizations: Saline Picnic in the Park (Summerfest) - Committee Secretary (2003 to present), St. Andrew Church (active member) - Religious Education Leader (2003 to present) and other activitie. Volunteer – Saline Main Street, Saline Baseball, Team Saline (Bond Proposals)
Why do you want to serve on school board?
I am a psychologist and small business owner, and have lived in the Saline community for 8 years. My son is a recent graduate of Saline High School and received a great education here. I feel strongly about giving back to the school district that has given so much to me. I would like to see families who continue to send their children to Saline Schools experience the same excellent public education that my family did. In the recent past there has been much discussion about the financial aspects of our school district, and while some of these discussions were much needed, it is time to bring focus back to other important issues such as maintaining the quality of education and providing a supportive climate for our students and staff. As a small business owner of a service-oriented business, I can speak to the balance between financial sustainability and providing a quality service, while attending to staff morale.
Also, the tone of the dialogue about public education has become adversarial in recent times, reflected in our own school board interactions. As someone trained in listening, and as a believer in the value of listening to diverse opinions, I would like to promote a more collaborative and respectful dialogue about the important issues facing our school district.
Diane L. Friese
Being a long time resident and aware of the community’s historically strong support for public education I would be proud to represent the district stake holders on the board of education.
As a community member, with experience in the areas of education and child development, I believe I am able to encourage and add to the discussion around making developmentally sound and appropriate academic decisions. As a teacher consultant, I was responsible for conducting building based meetings organized to develop sound educational programs for students with non traditional learning styles. In this service I have developed skills in conducting meetings which result in respectful productive problem solving.
The current tenor of the discussion, around public education, has become quite divisive and less than productive. I hope to aid in turning the discussion in a more positive direction.
Giving back to the community has always been very important to me. I have been active on several boards, PTA’s and most recently the Foundation for Saline Area Schools. I consider us very lucky to live in the district we do and that my kid’s are receiving the quality of education that they are. Since I have made the decision to run, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible students and learn about some wonderful organizations that I may have never known about if I hadn’t been involved with this. At the end of the day, that is what it is about to me. Not the politics, not the agendas, not the drama. It is about the students in this community and the desire to continue the tradition of excellence that Saline Schools are known for.
My motivation for seeking this office is simple – we, as a community of stakeholders, need to invest in Saline Area Schools to ensure that every student is fully prepared for the next stage of their life, whether from grade to grade or after graduation. The district has made many positive strides recently under difficult financial circumstances, but there is still much work to be done to maintain and improve our reputation as an excellent school district. In the short run, focus has to be shifted to our students and the educational process, but, there are certain financial realities that will not go away, and these still have a great bearing on the outcomes of our student’s education. We need to receive maximum value for every dollar invested. I believe that my background as a former school board trustee and my relevant work experience will help move the district forward.