Q&A With Tom Frederick, Candidate for Saline Board of Education

 10/08/2018 - 23:33

Tom Frederick 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 incumbent Scott Hummel.

Here's our Q&A With Tom Frederick

Family: Wife - Cynthia and Children - Anastasia (16), Elijah (14), Zoe (12), Sophia (9), Veronica (7), Karis (5), Helen (6 months)

 

Career/Education:  

  • Bachelors of Science in Mathematics (U of M)
  • Masters of Science in Physics Education (EMU)
  • Advanced Graduate Certificate in Quality Management (EMU)

 

  • Middle School Math and Science Teacher for 2 years (Bedford)
  • High School Math and Science Teacher for 23 years (Saline)
  • Continuous Improvement Specialist for 2 years (Michigan Medicine)
  • High School Cross Country Coach for 15 years (Saline)
  • Coordinator of Youth Ministries for 7 years (St. Andrew Catholic Church in Saline)

 

Relevant Experience (other related boards or government experience):  

I was a member of the Saline Education Association (SEA) Governing Board for six years and I am currently a trustee on the board of a not for profit pediatric health care provider in Ypsilanti, Mercy Christian Health (MCH).  See below for more info.

 

I was the science department chair for 12 of my 23 years as a teacher.  In that role I was responsible for managing the department budget, bringing a diverse set of people to consensus on key departmental policies.  I brought common final exams to the Science Department and I was a model for innovation and application of technology use in the science curriculum.

 

I sat on a High School Safe Schools Committee for two years with the goal of understanding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion with a special focus on understanding and reducing causes of bullying.

 

For my complete education and employment history please see my Linked In profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomassfrederick/

And my School Board Candidate Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/tom.frederick.98434

 

What's your motivation for running?

With four children in the district and three on the way, I want to ensure that the high standards of academic excellence, mutual respect, and accessibility for all students set over the years are maintained, and even improved upon.  As a long time community member who has been blessed with many opportunities to teach, mentor, and coach the wonderful students in Saline, I want to give back as a public servant to the community.

 

What do you think your service would provide the board, schools and district citizens?

As a classroom teacher at various grade levels over 25 years, I provide an insight into the daily workings and needs of students and teachers that other candidates may not have.  As a continuous improvement specialist at Michigan Medicine I am keenly aware of tools and methods used to build a culture of quality.  I have seen the benefits of continuous improvement in diverse fields from manufacturing to healthcare.  Since I have been a student of continuous improvement, I have always believed that the next frontier for quality management is our school systems.  Indeed, I made a presentation to the Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan for training teachers in quality management and continuous improvement.  The outline for that presentation later became an appendix of a new book entitled, The Excellent Education System (Daniel Bloom).  I hope to have an opportunity to apply these concepts and practices to bring Saline from a top 10 school in the state to being the best!

 

What are Saline Area Schools best strengths to build on? What areas most need improvement?

The Saline schools have many strengths.  We have great teachers and coaches who are committed to excellence in all they do.  We have world class facilities that many other districts can only dream of.  We have committed and passionate students and families.  With all of these great resources we stand on the shoulders of excellence.  But these strengths alone will not bring success without vision, careful planning, and financial resources.

I see two challenges that are opportunities for improvement. 

  1. The first is finances.  With state funding shrinking and costs increasing, we can no longer rely only on tax payers to fund the schools.  We can never use teachers as funding sources for the school budget.  So what is left?  The Saline School leadership has to have a plan for alternative sources of funding.  I like to think outside the box and I have ideas for the board to consider.
     
  2. The second challenge we face is accessibility.  We need to ask if our great academic and athletic programs are accessible to all.  In academics, we are moving quickly to technology-based education.  I see the benefit of this but wonder if some students with fewer technology resources are being left behind.  Have we carefully thought out and planned out these technology infusions?  Academically, I have seen a divide between the top 25% of students and the bottom 25%.  It is easy to help the top students to be successful.  They are often driven, self-motivated, and supported at home.  All that needs to be done for them is to provide the resources and environment for learning and they excel.  But what about those who are less fortunate?  How do Saline Schools make academic success available to those students who face challenges?

 

Describe the ways you've stayed apprised of issues in education and Saline Area Schools.

As a teacher of 25 years, I lived “school issues” every day.  I have taken master’s degree courses in issues from Motivating Today’s Learners to Becoming a High Performing Teacher.  Since my retirement from teaching, I have kept in contact with school issues in the context of my children who are currently in the district.

 

When you serve on the board, who do you see yourself representing and working for?

As a board trustee I will serve the stakeholders of the Saline Area Schools:  students and parents, teachers and support staff, members of the community, and future employers and places of higher education.

 

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?

I see this as an accessibility issue and one that demands to be adequately planned for.  I am guardedly optimistic about technology as a vehicle to provide education.  But I have reservations regarding how much of education should be self-guided and technology driven.  As an example, my own children have experienced difficulty accessing and interacting with online textbooks for several years.  They have said to me in frustration, “Why can’t I just have a textbook to read?!?”  If we are going to cross the threshold into 100% technology-based education, then we need to make sure our resources are accessible to all.  This school year, one of my children is in the Summit Learning program at the Middle School.  I am grateful for the work put into this program by teachers and staff, and for the opportunity my child has to participate.  But after having taught in a traditional classroom format with many applications of technology, I am taking a “wait and see” approach.  I am optimistic thus far.

 

What are your thoughts on the way the district teaches students life skills and provides opportunities for students who might thrive in vocational programs?

With rising costs of higher education, and many students coming out college with costly degrees and jobs that don’t allow them to pay off the debt—or no job at all, I am committed to being mindful of alternative paths to success such as vocational classes.  My own children have participated in and had great experiences in vocational classes taught at the High School.

 

What's your position on teacher pay and benefits - given that the district's purse strings are controlled by the state.

As a former teacher I am grateful to the pay and benefits provided by the district, and ultimately the citizens of Saline.  There have been great years, and difficult years financially for teachers.  I have been shocked by the high level of defections from teachers in recent years, to other schools or other professions.  For better or for worse, I am a living example of this.  As a single wage earner of a growing—and large—family, I was unable to remain in the teaching profession and still provide for the needs of my family.  Saline Schools have historically been known for its excellent teachers (the Liz Moores, Bob Marceros, and Dr. Hassbergers, to name a few).  I am convinced that if the district wants to court, and keep, the best of the best they need to provide wages and benefits that are commensurate with that desire.  I can also say that as a board trustee I will not use teachers as a “funding source” for the district.

 

Under what, if any, conditions would you consider privatizing support staff?

I believe that two pillars of organizational excellence are respect for people and continuous improvement.  With this in mind, I do not believe privatization is the way to go for Saline Schools.  I would rather see training to develop current staff and improvement efforts to make inefficient processes better.

 

How important is diversity in staff and administration?

I believe that diversity should match that of the community.  When I began teaching in Saline in the early 1990’s it was a rural, mostly Caucasian, and of European descent demographic.  Over the past several decades this has blossomed into a richer and more diverse people.  The growth in cultural diversity will only make her a stronger community.  I believe that the diversity of the staff and administrations should not be manufactured, rather commensurate with that of the community they serve.

 

Does the district do enough to protect students from bullying? If not, what would you like to see done.
I have been a vocal advocate before the board and within the Saline school for decades for fair treatment for all students.  The current board policy regarding bullying is robust.  It states, in part, “It is the policy of the District to provide a safe and nurturing educational environment for all of its students.  This policy protects all students from bullying/aggressive behavior regardless of the subject matter or motivation for such impermissible behavior.”  I firmly believe that any extant bullying behavior in our schools is not a result of insufficient Board Policy, rather, a result of failure to apply the current policy in all situations and for all students.

 

Regarding pay to play, should the schools spend more or less to subsidize student athletics and extracurricular activities?

I have personally participated in and watched my children participate in sports and extra curriculars at Saline Area Schools and these have led to growth in self-esteem, confidence, and ability to relate to diverse people.  I see this as being just as important as academics when it comes to forming responsible, well-rounded, future citizens.  But pay to play and fees may lead to accessibility concerns.  As a personal example, this fall, pay-to-play cost over $1,200 for my family.  That did not include any uniforms or equipment!  I am grateful that we have the means, but I wonder if other families who are less fortunate have the same access as my children.

 

How do you see online/digital learning opportunities fitting into Saline Area Schools?

I am optimistic but guarded about digital/online learning (see my answers above).  As a teacher of twenty-five years I have used technology in the classroom and I have seen its benefits and downside.  When new initiatives are tried they must first be piloted and mistake-proofed before practicing them in our classrooms.  Teachers, students, and parents must be provided with adequate training to be successful in their use.  I also believe that technology, especially in the area of distance learning can be a source of revenue for the Saline Schools and should be investigated.

 

A big part of the board's responsibility is budgeting and policy making. Describe your experience and/or skills in these fields?

As a member of the Saline Education Association (SEA) Governing Board for six years and I am currently a trustee on the board of a not for profit pediatric health care provider in Ypsilanti, Mercy Christian Health (MCH).  In both roles I have helped to write or amend board policy and employee policy, budgeting, dealing with opportunities for growth, visioning and strategizing, and listening to and resolving stakeholder concerns.  I have been an advocate for teachers in my role as Grievance Chair for the SEA.  I am an advocate for providing health care to the underprivileged in my role on the board of MCH.  As a department chair, coordinator of youth ministry, and coach I have been responsible for planning and managing budgets of varying sizes.

 

The move to an early start of the school year prompted discussion about year-round school. What are your thoughts on year-round school?

I have always been open to educational innovation.  Year-round school offers benefits and challenges that are worth investigating.  A decision like this must include all stakeholders in the School System:  students and parents, teachers and support staff, and community members.

 

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 thereof, inform and influence your policy making?

I think “culture war” is a poor way to state this issue and one that polarizes instead of enables communication and fostering mutual understanding.  I also disagree that one’s alleged “religious beliefs, or lack thereof” are pertinent to this discussion.  We live in a diverse and pluralistic society with many and varied religious and secular beliefs.  Since people who come from different backgrounds often have different values, one could sensibly wonder if any group or organization can realistically adopt a set of common values. I believe the answer to this is “Yes, we can.” For me it comes down to the fact that all people have human dignity based on the fact that they are human, apart from race, creed, gender or any other factor.  Even in the most diverse settings, people all want to be treated with honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. All people have the right to listen and to be heard—our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness demand this.  I will listen to anyone who will respectfully and responsibly speak, and I will stand against any who shout down or ostracize any other group.  I am no fan of groups of people yelling at others, “You are wrong because you don’t think or act or look like I do!” I will do all in my ability to give all stakeholders of Saline Area Schools a voice in the public forum and access to a safe and mutually respectful learning environment.

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at tran@thesalinepost.com or call him at 734-272-6294.

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