Incumbent Scott Hummel is one of six candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking one of the two seats on the Saline Board of Education. The terms are six years long. The other candidates are Susan Estep, Brian Woodruff, Jennifer Steben, Richard and Tom Frederick.
Here's our Q&A with Scott Hummel
Wife – Molly
Kids – Harper & Hayley (10 year old twins) – 5th Grade @ Heritage
Bachelors of Arts in Education
Masters of Science in Physical Education – Pedagogy
I am an educator for the Dearborn Public Schools, where I have spent the last 22 years. I have experience in high school, elementary, administration and student services. I have also served two years on the Saline Area Schools Board of Education.
Relevant experience (other related boards or government experience):
Serving as a trustee on the Saline Area Schools Board of Education for the past two years and my 22 years of teaching experience provides me with the best background for a seat on the Board of Education. I understand all aspects of school districts and how they operate as well as how to collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure we are making the appropriate decisions moving forward.
Aside from my work experience, I have also served as the Treasurer of the Dearborn Federation of Teachers for 6 years where I managed the budget and worked to develop policies with administration. I also currently serve as the President of the York Place Homeowners Association..
What's your motivation for running?
I believe I possess a unique skill set that will allow me to continue Saline Area School’s path of excellence well into the future. I have literally spent my entire life in/around public education. My mother taught in a local community college, I attended public schools, went to public universities and have worked for a public school district for the past 22 years and I now serve as a trustee on the Saline Area Schools Board of Education. I want to continue my service on the Board of Education to give back to this community, build relationships and work to ensure that staff and administration have what they need to provide the best possible education for our students. My main motivation however is simple: to work as hard as possible for each and every one of our 5,250 students, every day. I will advocate for them and do all I can to ensure they grow into amazing adults, amazing leaders and most importantly amazing people.
What do you think your service would provide the board, schools and district citizens?
I believe that my service on the board speaks for itself. I have been diligent in my support for all stakeholders and work hard to ensure that everyone has a voice. I feel that I have been an asset to the Board of Education and the Saline Area Schools and look forward to continuing my service for the next six years. I believe that I am a positive influence for our district and I try to model positive behaviors at all times. As a lifelong learner, I am continuously learning and improving my skills as a board member by taking certification classes through the MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards).
If elected, I would continue what I started two years ago: setting a positive tone for the entire district and community, providing everyone with a voice, working collaboratively with the board, communicating with all stakeholders, ensuring fiscal responsibility and working every day to be an advocate for our students.
What are Saline Area Schools best strengths to build on? What areas most need improvement?
I believe the Saline Area Schools strengths are numerous. We have the best staff and students anywhere in the world. They work hard every day to achieve excellence and that is celebrated throughout the district. Our academic programs are second to none as well as our extra-curricular programs. Our CTE programs are some of the best in the region and continue to grow. I believe that we allow our staff and students to take risks and accept failure as a possible result. It are these failures that provide the opportunity for growth. Understanding something doesn’t work and finding a new solution is how we can all grow and learn. I also think our fiscal responsibility is a positive. We spend money on things that directly impact our students, with little to no wasteful spending. Our schools and facilities are excellent and we are constantly working to improve the quality and safety of all buildings.
I believe our greatest area of need is to ensure that we don’t lose the “middle 50”. We have programs in place for the top 20% and the bottom 30%, but we often lose sight of those students in the middle. We need to be sure that we focus on all students, not just the upper and lower levels. I also believe we need to continue working on social awareness and ensuring all students have a voice and understand that everyone needs to be valued and heard. The district is working diligently on this issue and I believe we need to continue addressing this into the future.
Describe the ways you've stayed apprised of issues in education and Saline Area Schools.
Being an educator for the past 22 years and serving on the Board of Education for the past two years, I am keenly aware of issues in education. I believe that I have the most unique background and skill set to understand the issues facing our students and schools today and have been working for my entire adult life to ensure that we always put our students first. As members of the Board, we must model lifelong learning. This not only allows us to understand issues at hand, but also what may be coming in the future. As I have stated before, the easiest way to understand what is happening in our schools is to build relationships and communicate with each other. Our community is truly one large family and when we communicate and collaborate, we can ensure that we are aware of issues and be proactive in finding ways to resolve them as quickly as possible.
When you serve on the board, who do you see yourself representing and working for?
Serving on the board is an honor and something that I am blessed to be able to do for the Saline community. I believe that the Board of Education is a team designed to set the course for our district and ensure that we are providing the best educational experience for all stakeholders. As a board member, I believe that we serve the students, and support the staff and community. The students are the focus of every decision we make, so we are here to serve their needs. I have worked hard to ensure that all 5,250 students are being provided the best possible education and programs. The Saline Area Schools staff provide the education and learning opportunities, thus we need to support them in their efforts and ensure that they have everything they need in order to carry out their objectives. The community as a whole benefits from excellent schools. By serving our students and supporting our staff, we can provide the best education experience to each and every student.
What's your opinion of the district's move away from the traditional classroom, and how would you assess requests to fundamentally change the way Saline students learn in school?
Education is constantly changing and we need to ensure that we are meeting those new demands or our students will fall behind. Research and data show that students learn in a variety of ways and settings. By providing multiple learning platforms we can properly address each student’s learning style and craft learning plans that are specific to each student. Whether it’s the traditional classroom setting, an open-space area for collaboration, online courses, field experiences, CTE courses or any other type of program, we need to be sure that students have those options. We are also creating new classroom spaces that provide students the specific atmosphere they want/need to learn as well. Open concepts, high-top tables, stools, bean bags, couches, traditional desks, pedal seats, and other design ideas are all being used to provide our students with their preferred method of learning. Everyone is different and moving away from the traditional classroom setting is what we need to do in order to provide everyone their own personalized learning experience. The Board of Education and the Saline Area Schools are investing heavily in technology and learning space design to ensure we can meet the needs of our students. This all relates back to those that we serve, our students. We must provide them every possible opportunity to learn. If fundamental changes to learning programs and classrooms are what they need, then it’s imperative that we provide those changes.
What are your thoughts on the way the district teaches students life skills and provides opportunities for students who might thrive in vocational programs?
I believe our vocational programs are exceptional. We need to ensure we fully support those programs and work to grow them as we move forward. The CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs offered through the South and West Washtenaw Consortium provide our students the skills to go directly into the workforce upon completion. Programs such as Culinary Arts, Automotive Technology, Cosmetology, Building Trades, Health Sciences, Welding and more, provide new avenues for those students that don’t necessarily fit into the 4-year college program. These programs offer our students the best education, in high-demand fields. Our students within these CTE programs have won numerous State and National awards and are employed throughout the region. I absolutely want to help these programs grow and ensure that we are providing the programs that our students want and need.
What's your position on teacher pay and benefits - given that the district's purse strings are controlled by the state.
Teacher pay and benefits are vital to attracting the best and brightest staff. We must be willing to offer excellent pay and benefits to have the best teachers. Looking at our district, I believe we offer an excellent overall compensation package to our staff members and in return, we have the best staff anywhere. They are hard-working, dedicated, forward-thinking and willing to go “above and beyond” for our children. While staffing equals about 85% of our overall budget, it is essential that we continue to provide the highest level of salary and benefits without spending money on unnecessary staffing and overhead. We have been doing an excellent job in this area, as we rank near the top of the State of Michigan in the amount we spend on administration (which means we spend very little on administration and overhead staffing costs). Retention of quality staff and high-quality education hinges on our ability to provide the best possible working conditions and compensation packages to ensure we attract the best educators in the area.
Under what, if any, conditions would you consider privatizing support staff?
Privatizing support staff is not an option that I would consider unless there was some type of catastrophic circumstance. Support staff does exactly what their name suggests...they support every facet of our district. Privatization eliminates the community pride and level of support required to properly serve our students, staff and district. Para-educators, bus drivers, food service, grounds, maintenance, etc., all provide essential services that simply can’t be replaced by a private company. While we have a contracted company operating our food services department, the employees are Saline Area Schools employees and I believe that is the way it should stay. Our support staff employees know our students, staff, buildings, grounds and community and can provide the level of service that an outside agency simply can’t. For many, if not most of our children, every school days begins with support staff. Kids that ride buses or eat breakfast are having interactions with these support staff before they ever see their teacher or administrator.
How important is diversity in staff and administration?
While I believe diversity in staff and administration is important, I believe hiring and retaining the best possible staff is the most important factor in staffing. I am concerned with hiring the best support staff, teachers and administrators, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other qualifying factor. I do believe that we can work to attract a more diverse applicant pool by focusing on where and how we post our open positions, but as I stated before I believe it’s about hiring the best. Our students deserve the best education possible and it is our duty to ensure that we are providing them with the most elite educators to do that.
Does the district do enough to protect students from bullying? If not, what would you like to see done.
I don’t believe any district will ever do enough to protect our students. I do however believe that we are certainly on the right track to providing all stakeholders with the skills and knowledge to help combat social issues like bullying. In elementary, we are providing our students with assemblies and teaching them that it’s okay to speak up and be bystanders and upstanders. In the secondary levels, we are working to provide education and information to students in an effort to have them voice concerns and report issues they may have or may have seen. Administration is providing professional development for all staff in an effort to help them be more aware of the signs of bullying. The district has a wellness committee that has been focusing on community involvement to help combat social issues. As a board, we have policies in place to regulate bullying-type behaviors. If/When an instance occurs, administration must be quick to act and follow these policies exactly. When students understand that we don’t have tolerance for any type of injustice, we can begin moving away from these types of actions. With all of that said, I believe the most important way to help our students and community avoid bullying is by simply communicating with each other. We need to talk and more importantly listen to what others are saying. When we build relationships, we begin to tear down walls. It’s these relationships that can create amazing, positive places for everyone.
Regarding pay to play, should the schools spend more or less to subsidize student athletics and extracurricular activities?
Student athletics and extracurricular activities are a huge part of the Saline Area Schools. Our extracurricular programs are excellent and we consistently win awards throughout the state and national level competitions. Our athletic program is literally the best in the state (2 years in a row). It’s important to remember that these programs are a major reason students are successful in school. Research and data show that students that participate in athletics and extracurricular activities have better attendance, better grades and generally have lower rates of discipline. This being the case, it’s critical that we continue to fund these programs and provide our students and community the programs we have come to know and expect. Cutting these programs doesn’t only hurt our students, but it hurts our community. It is important to note however, that I am referring to all programs: Athletics, Band, Chorus, Debate, Drama, DECA, Forensics, etc. With so many extracurricular opportunities for our students, we must always be aware of the number of students we are servicing within these programs and ensure funding for all.
How do you see online/digital learning opportunities fitting into Saline Area Schools?
This is just another chapter in the ongoing process of tailoring our education to our student’s needs. Online courses are now a fully-functioning practice at the high school and serve a necessary role within our student population. As I stated before, we must be willing to provide new and innovative ways for our students to learn. If our students need this option and/or if this type of learning will generate a more positive result for some of our students then we must move forward. We began the NextGen classrooms a few years ago and these are now “normal” classrooms for our district. We must constantly focus on the future and what needs our students have and fully support those needs. If moving to a more digital platform and/or online learning supports our students, then that’s the direction we must move (as another method of learning, paired with all other formats already in place).
A big part of the board's responsibility is budgeting and policy making. Describe your experience and/or skills in these fields?
I have extensive experience in educational finance. I served as treasurer of my teacher’s union for 6 years, where I created and managed the annual budget (approximately $650,000). I now work as the supervisor of physical education for the Dearborn Public Schools, where I oversee the PE department and am responsible for our annual budget. Within the Saline Area Schools, I am on the finance committee and we work collectively to ensure that we are fiscally responsible and supporting our students and staff to the best of our ability. We work hard to ensure that our $60,000,000+ budget covers all programs and is free of wasteful spending. It is this fiscal responsibility that helped save our taxpayers $2.5 million by refinancing our bonds.
As far as policy making, when I was on the union executive board, we worked with administration to help create new policies for the district that were efficient and fair. As a school board member, I am responsible for the policies that govern our schools. This is a task that I don’t take lightly. We need to always be aware of new trends and issues and be sure that we can create policies that govern those issues fairly and equitably.
The move to an early start of the school year prompted discussion about year-round school. What are your thoughts on year-round school?
As a parent, educator and school board member, I am a proponent of year-round schooling. My job is to provide my kids (and the 5,250 students within the Saline Area Schools) the ability to reach their maximum learning potential. The research and data support the positive educational effects of year-round schools. The “summer lag” is something that we work to overcome every fall when students come back to school. Year-round schools don’t have this lag and the students continue their learning throughout the year, without the large drop off in the summer. With that said, it becomes a logistical issue for everyone involved. I believe this is an issue that we need to discuss with all stakeholders: students, staff and community members. Everyone’s voice is critical in this decision-making process. Input and communication from all parties is essential to ensure we go in the direction that our community wants/needs.
A lot of the most contentious issues the district has seen recently are offshoots of the so-called “culture war,” whether it’s Planned Parenthood’s involvement with sex education curriculum, or including LGBTQ students in the district’s bullying policy. How will your religious beliefs, or lack there of, inform and influence your policy making?
Very simply put, my beliefs won’t affect this in any way. Serving the students and supporting the community is my role as a trustee on the Saline Area Schools Board. This being the case, it’s my job/duty to fully support every one of the 5,250 students enrolled in our district. While I may or may not agree with some issues and/or ideas, it’s the ability to look past those and see that we need to provide a safe, quality, educational experience for all children and staff. Supporting everyone and creating a positive atmosphere for all is my passion. The great thing about our board now is that we can all speak our mind, agree or disagree, and make a collective decision that’s in the best interest of our children. I look forward to continuing that into the future.