SALINE BOARD OF EDUCATION ELECTION 2022: Meet Kristin Hoffman-Peavler
Kristin Hoffman-Peavler is running for the Saline Area Schools Board of Education. She is one of five candidates running for two four-year seats on the board, along with Laurie Saims, Tim Austin, Sharene Rumohr and incumbent Michael McVey. In the other school board race, Lauren Gold faces Amy Sontag.
Below are Hoffman-Peavler's answers to our questions.
Saline resident since 2009
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Pediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant
Bachelor of Arts, Vocal Performance
Substitute teacher in SAS, including long-term position in music
6 years nonprofit board experience, including 3 years as president
Longtime SAS volunteer: classroom and PTA (13 years), Chair of Woodland Meadows Book Fair (7 years), Co-chair Sex Ed Advisory Board (6 years)
Why are you running & why should voters choose you?
I’m running for Saline school board because I believe in free, fair, and equitable public education for all. As a long-time school volunteer and substitute teacher, I have built great relationships with stakeholders at every school personnel level, from students to administrators, over more than a decade in Saline. Having those trusted relationships already in place will enhance my ability to serve our community on the board. I know that my skill set in communication and mediation and my breadth of firsthand experience in our schools would be an asset to the team, and that my commitment to care-filled, people-centered forward thinking is unmatched.
A good leader asks their team members “what do you need in order to be successful?” This is a profound thing: to ask, to listen, and then to act. As a board member, I want to know who you are and what your students need; I want you to know who I am and what I believe, and how I believe we can get there. There is no public system that touches all of us like public education; we all feel invested in the people and process. Together, we can advocate for those in our care, toward an equitable future of excellence in education. My motto is EVERY STUDENT, EVERY DAY, because it is, and has always been, my mission to keep all kids healthy, happy, and safe.
Projections show a continued decline in student population in the district. How should the district address this issue?
Part of the reason our school population is declining is a known decrease in birth rate; our state has been having fewer babies! One positive is that the SAS student population has decreased at a slower rate than other districts. Other reasons for declining enrollment have to do, in part, with the many choices families have for schooling, including private/parochial, charter, and homeschool. Our goal in SAS should be to make sure that, in a sea of educational choices, we should be known as a strong, solid, welcoming district for our students and their caregivers.
What are your top priorities and why?
I listen first, then act.
My grandpa always said, “trust is like a brick wall; it’s easy to knock down and takes a long time to rebuild.” My first priority is to gain that trust and never give you a reason to knock it down. We may not always agree with each other, but actively listening is the first step in building trust with one another. We need to see each other as people first, to lead with kindness, and to assume the best in each other. I want our community and our school staff to know that I will continue to always ask questions and seek out input from stakeholders to inform my decision-making.
Moving forward, I want to continue the work of evaluating that our district policies and actions are reflective of the mission our district has set forth, and explain clearly to all stakeholders the bridge between policy and action. I envision a district of continued excellence: in speaking and listening; best practices in 21st-century teaching and learning; robust resources for the socio-academic and mental health needs of our kids; and clear expectations of behavior for the health and safety of all students. Let’s welcome a diverse culture of curiosity and discovery and work together toward a brighter future for our kids.
Were you satisfied with the way in which the district handled the pandemic? What changes would you have wanted to see?
I believe that most school districts, including ours, did the best they could with the information they had at the time, during an unprecedented world event. SAS utilized medical expert opinion and created a matrix for decision-making based on clear and consistent data through the Washtenaw County Health Dept and the CDC. This experience created a toolbox of pandemic knowledge – what worked and what didn’t – that administration can draw from in the future.
There is no doubt that academics took a hit during the pandemic. So what do students need now?
- Routine. Kids feel safer when they know what to expect. After years of upheaval, they may need extra support to reacclimate to school routines.
- Connection. Forming strong bonds with peers and school staff creates space to learn to communicate and advocate for self and others.
- Collaboration. Today, we are creating brave spaces for kids to practice independent learning and curiosity. Their days aren’t like ours were, sitting in desk rows memorizing facts; there are now collaborative table spaces and flexibility so kids can move around and create discovery zones for learning.
- Best practices. Our curriculum must reflect best educational practices in order to best serve our students and teachers.
- Smaller class size. Smaller classes equal higher student achievement.
Do you support the Saline Area Schools bond proposal? Why or why not?
I do support the bond. State funding cannot cover all of the amenities and programs that we are accustomed to in SAS. It is important that as a community, we help provide SAS the necessary resources to properly maintain both our facilities and the innovative, forward thinking district programming for our students. I appreciate that the district was mindful in forming a plan that means a lower tax for the community than we are currently paying. By asking for what feels like a continuation of the current millage, I believe it will save taxpayers from a bigger, more distressing “ask” in the future.
When making budget decisions, it is important that our district mission remains at the center of the conversation. As a school board member, it will be my duty to assess local budgetary decision-making and advocate with persistence for more funding at the state level.
Public schools have always played a role in socializing our children. At the same time the debates over societal norms have never been more ardent. In these times, how should the district weigh its societal role against the rights of the parents who don't want some ideas instilled?
The foundation for all education starts in the home. When our children go to school, we entrust them to the schools to continue their formal education. At this point, we become teammates with teachers to share in their education. Michigan law states that parents have the right to be involved in and direct the education of their own children; it is incumbent on our school district to provide a strong, solid socio-academic foundation for every kid to learn and grow.
Public schools are more than a curriculum. They are a microcosm of our society at large. We are alike and different in many ways all at once. Our schools need to allow space for students to practice communication and collaboration, so that they are prepared to be engaged leaders and active members within their chosen professions and communities. While that practice looks and feels different depending on age and developmental level, it all leads toward students who are prepared to listen deeply, think carefully, advocate loudly, and stand up for what they believe.
What ideas do you have about school security?
As a mom, the idea that I might send my child to school and not have them come home at the end of the day is the stuff of nightmares. I am pleased that SAS continually seeks to update and improve school security technology in their buildings and training for staff. By continually reevaluating and practicing safety protocols, staff and students will remain well-prepared for any emergency. I have experienced all manner of safety drills in our schools, both as a volunteer and as a substitute teacher; our staff are knowledgeable and efficient in carrying out practice drills in our schools. As a district parent, I would like the district to communicate more clearly the school-family communication plan in the event of a school emergency. How will we get information and how will we be reunited with our children? Sharing that plan with caregivers, in the handbook and online, will bring comfort and a sense of shared readiness with all adults.
What should the district to defend children against discriminatory attitudes they face over race, sexual orientation, religion or other traits?
Everyone who enters Saline Area Schools has the right to safely be themselves. It is the job of adults to create and model ways to learn how to advocate for ourselves and others. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including:
- Communication. When we talk with and listen to each other, we learn more about people who may or may not be like us.
- Collaboration. Learning how to work with others is a necessary lifelong skill.
- Education. Our children deserve brave spaces to learn and ask questions without reservation, and see curiosity and lifelong learning as a key to personal fulfillment.
When these things break down, then our plan becomes discipline in the form of education: clear communication, fair consequences, and restorative practices. The goal is that, by setting early clear expectations and follow-through, our students can learn and practice self-discipline to engage in appropriate behaviors and choices within the framework of both school and extracurricular activities, preventing more serious scenarios with larger consequences.
Saline High School students are scoring lower on college prep tests, a trend that started pre-COVID. What do you make of this trend?
College prep tests like the SAT and ACT are designed to assess “college readiness” in a standardized way across all national school districts. Since the tests were redesigned in 2016, SAS does not have sufficient data to identify a trend that does not include the pandemic time frame. We use other standardized tests (e.g. NWEA, MSTEP) to try to quantify and track achievement in specific content areas, which show a return of scores in our district back toward pre-pandemic levels.
My goal is kid success, not test success. I am more interested in whole child learning: what gains students have made as individual learners and as part of a whole. We know and see, as parents and community education observers, that kids learn and grow at their own pace. We cannot and should not define student academic success solely on standardized test scores, which are merely one piece of the whole-child assessment data.
The length of board meetings has become an issue for administrators and engaged public meetings who want to stay abreast of happenings. How should board members conduct themselves in a way that manages business while respecting the time of already-stretched district administrators and employees?
Our community’s time is important. It is the responsibility of the board to come to the table prepared, and be concise and straightforward in their communication, in order to use meeting time as effectively as possible. I would like to discover a way for the board to enhance dialogue with the community in a way that is lawful and more mutually satisfactory to all parties. If our community can have broader dialogue, I believe it could decrease meeting lengths.
Are you happy with the direction of Saline Area Schools? Please explain your answer.
This is a broad question! As a mom, I’m happy that my kids love to go to school every day and look forward to spending time with their peers and teachers. As a friend, I am distressed for those whose children do not feel the same way. As a substitute teacher, I have seen firsthand the academic expertise our teachers share with our kids. SAS has thoughtful, well-trained professional teachers that are committed to student safety and achievement. We have more work to do to ensure that students are healthy, happy, and safe in a welcoming, diverse, and future-focused school environment. We can do that by sharing ideas and working together to be the district that is known not only for strong academic programming, but also for its commitment to teamwork between our schools and community.
For years Saline was recognized as a destination district for families with students with special needs because of the district's commitment to inclusivity. In recent years parents have raised concerns about the practice of seclusion and restraint. Are you satisfied with the district's actions in this area? Do we need reform? Please tell us your thoughts.
Saline Area Schools remains a destination for families of children with special needs. Our district prides itself on inclusive learning spaces and classrooms and the services and educational opportunities available to students. Our district has fantastic special education staff that provides these services, and who partner daily with parents to provide high-level individualized education.
I believe that when class sizes rise and staffing becomes thinned, a survival mode scenario begins, in order to keep all parties, both students and staff, healthy and safe. Our district needs to ensure that our buildings are not only well-staffed, but well-trained to anticipate and meet students’ needs before they reach a tipping point of resorting to seclusion or restraint, which is traumatic for both students and staff.