Saline BOARD OF EDUCATION 2022: Meet Amy Sontag

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Amy Sontag is running for the Saline Board of Education. She's one of two candidates, along with Lauren Gold, running for the single seat that expires at the end of 2026. 

There are five other candidates running for two seats in a separate vote, including incumbent Michael McVey, Timothy Austin, Sharene Rumohr, Kristin Hoffman-Peavler and Laurie Saims.

Below is our Q&A with Amy Sontag.

AMY SONTAG

Biography

My name is Amy Sontag. My family and I moved to Saline in 2017. We chose Saline because of the academic excellence of the schools, the extensive athletic programs and the small hometown feel of the city. My husband and I have three amazing children who attend Saline Area Schools. I am a fitness coach at a local gym in Saline. I currently run the Scholastic Book Fair at Pleasant Ridge Elementary and popcorn Fridays at Heritage Elementary. I feel so grateful to volunteer and to be surrounded by the laughter and smiles of our children.

Why are you running & why should voters choose you?

I am passionate about our community. I feel that our children deserve the very best from all of us. Saline is an exceptional, diverse and caring district, and we have so much to offer. I am running for school board because I would like to see our children flourish academically, athletically and creatively. I would like to see all parties work together to give our students the best path toward achievement and to become adults that can give back to our community.

I believe that the current priorities do not reflect this goal. The last few years have been difficult on our students, teachers and parents. We need to get back to the basics of learning and provide a robust education. This can only happen when all parties become selfless and are aligned with each other. I believe we can do better. I would like to see Saline schools be a place where families want to be. Being someone that gives intently every day to others, I know I will work hard for our families, teachers, students and community. I want the voters to know that they can count on me to respectfully listen and be an honest leader for our district.

Projections show a continued decline in student population in the district. How should the district address this issue?

This is an alarming issue, especially as our city continues to grow and homes are being built all around us. The decline of student population needs to be addressed. Why have families left? Where have they gone? What needs to be done to get these students back? We need to survey these families and have an open dialogue to find these answers.

We also need to focus on student retention. How can we continue to keep the families that are enrolled? How can we retain our teachers and staff? This is one of my priorities I have for this district. Our family moved to Saline for the schools. I want to focus on making Saline Area Schools a place where families want their children enrolled.

What are your top priorities and why?

1) We need to come together as a community. This starts with leaders who can provide respectful leadership, while making hard choices to better serve all students and staff. We need hardworking leaders who have a neutral, non-biased and loving lens of focus toward academic excellence. I am willing to put the hard work in to prioritize our children and teachers.

2) I believe we need to focus more on academics. The last few years have been hard on all of us. However, right now is the time to do everything that we can to provide a rigorous and focused curriculum to our students. In order for this to happen, we need to give more support to our teachers. Our teachers are pulled in all directions. Being able to give them support where they need it, is essential.

Were you satisfied with the way in which the district handled the pandemic? What changes would you have wanted to see?

The pandemic completely turned our lives upside down. Initially, the school district did everything it could with the available information. However, as COVID continued, I feel the district could have done more to get our children back to in-person learning sooner. Neighboring schools opened before us while still taking the proper mitigation strategies. Understanding the social and emotional connection schools have on our kids, Saline Area Schools should have done whatever possible to get students back with their friends and teachers sooner. I hope we never see the day where this would happen again, but if we do, I would be optimistic that Saline would learn from this experience and take an upfront and direct approach to keep our children in school.

Do you support the Saline Area Schools bond proposal? Why or why not?

I do support the Saline Area Schools bond proposal. I will support any proposal that will give back to the community as long as the funding is spent responsibly. Technology is constantly changing. This bond will provide better Wifi infrastructure and device replacement. In our schools, our classrooms are not equitable. This bond will allow equal technology in all classrooms.

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?

Public school connects a child's home life to the outside world. It allows our children to experience each other in a kind and neutral environment, while giving them the tools to succeed in our community. Just because our society is causing our kids to grow up faster than previous generations, it does not mean that public schools should be the driving force behind that trend. We are the role models in our students' lives and it is our responsibility to pump the brakes when needed. We can adjust our path and provide an education with a consistent and non-bias focus. This is why parental involvement is so important. Administration, teachers and parents need to work together to use some or all tools needed to give each individual student the best academic opportunities.

What ideas do you have about school security?

I believe that our children are safe at school. I believe and trust that the staff and teachers have the best interest in all of our children. Are there things that we need to work on in Saline? Of course. We need to start thinking about school security as a community effort -- all hands and eyes on deck. Once we start to focus on what is best for all students and staff, we can come together to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our district. There needs to be expectations put in place. Our students, staff and administration need to be held accountable, and communication between all parties has to be honest and transparent.

What should the district to defend children against discriminatory attitudes they face over race, sexual orientation, religion or other traits?

Poor decisions need to have consequences. Our district places emphasis on a student-led community; however, our students need to understand that their choices will have consequences. This starts at home, flows over into school and finally into our community. When one branch of our tree does not hold itself accountable for its actions, the other branches will not either. All of us need to look within ourselves and make sure we are taking responsibility for how we act, what we say and how we treat each other. Our students look to us on how to model their behaviors.

Saline High School students are scoring lower on college prep tests, a trend that started pre-COVID. What do you make of this trend?

I honestly think this is a societal issue. We as parents, caregivers, and as a society are not expecting enough from ourselves, our children or each other. Our fast-paced world doesn't help with these expectations. Social media and the self-centered focus of our world has changed how we parent and interact with one another. Our district has an opportunity to make a difference. We are very lucky to live in a community that has plenty of resources and a genuine sense of success for all. This may be the perfect opportunity for the district to bring the focus back on academics and prepare our students for any academic hardships that they may encounter.

The length of board meetings has become an issue for administrators and engaged public citizens 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?

The trustee role is not about me, what I do professionally or how many certifications I have. My job is to represent our community and be the voice for the public. I believe that once we all look within and take the focus off of ourselves and on to others, we will be able to find solutions to our problems faster and more effectively. A school board meeting is not the place for a board member to share personal experiences or accolades. This takes precious time away from staff and community members. Board meetings should be kept brief, on task per the agenda, and devoid of the side chit-chat that is often seen in today’s meetings.

Are you happy with the direction of Saline Area Schools? Please explain your answer.

I would not be running for school board if I didn't think this district needed a change in direction. We need new leadership -- a fresh and non-biased perspective to shed new light in our district. Our students need more from us, the teachers need support and our families need to know they have an open and honest relationship with this district.

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.

Unfortunately, I am not well versed in this practice within the district. To my understanding, the special education department has experienced hardship in the past few years. I would be more than happy to speak with any special education families who have been affected by this in a negative or positive way. I would love to sit down with Mr. Musson to learn about the issues, especially the practice of seclusion and restraint, that affect our special education families. If reform is needed, I am willing to work with families and staff, especially the teachers and paraprofessionals who are most involved in special needs student’s care, to create practice guidelines that are appropriate and beneficial to every special needs student.

LINKS

Website : https://sontag4schoolboard.com/
Email : amy4salineschoolboard@gmail.com

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