Saline Board of Education: Millage Renewal, Improvement Report, Mougdal Showcased and More


The Saline Board of Education met Tuesday. Below is an account of the meeting. Read the agenda here. The video of the meeting is also embedded below.


Superintendent Steve Laatsch opened the meeting by asking people to vote in the May 2 election. On the ballot, the district is proposing to renew its non-homestead operating millage. Laatsch reiterated a message that’s become familiar from school officials. 

“It’s not a bond. It’s part of the normal funding for day-to-day operations in Michigan school districts. If you only own one home, you would not pay this millage. It would help SAS continue to generate over $8.5 million annually for the general operating budget.” Laatsch said. “We’d like everyone to vote in the upcoming May 2 election.”

Read more about the proposal here.

My Future Fund

Sara Saylor, the Children’s Savings Account Coordinator with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, spoke to the board about My Future Fund.

It’s a program designed to give students in Washtenaw County public schools a jumpstart on saving and planning for college and training costs. It’s structured as a savings fund. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has funded the program with $2.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief and nearly $3.8 million from the county’s general fund. The Washtenaw Intermediate School District is operating the program, one of 17 children’s savings account programs in Michigan.

Saylor said all eligible elementary school students would automatically receive a My Future Fund Account with a $25 starting deposit. The fund is held by the Michigan Education Savings Program and managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc. Families who log in to the My Future Fund portal will be able to see the value of their shares.

Students who attend private schools or who are homeschooled are not eligible for the program.

Students from low-income families can receive an extra $475 in their account if a parent/guardian completes paperwork with My Future Fund and are deemed eligible.

Families and individuals cannot make deposits in the account.

Tentatively, all Saline Area Schools students in first and fifth grade will be enrolled this year. This district must approve a memorandum of understanding with My Future Fund by May of this year to participate.

Saylor estimated that in the next four years in Saline, 2,700 students would receive worth $225,000.

Student Showcase

Student Neil Mougdal was showcased during the meeting. Mougdal received national recognition when he won the 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search - which some say is the nation’s most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Mougdal won first place and $250,000 for creating a computer model that can rapidly and reliably predict the structure of RNA molecules using only easily accessible data. He believes this will make it easier to diagnose and treat certain diseases.

Mougdal described the contest to the board.

Mougdal presented and then defended his study to a panel of judges.

“That was a fairly stressful process but also something that I thought was formative. It developed scientific thought in a very nice way. It was a growth experience for me to go through a process like that and something you’ll see more in academia, which is something I hope to pursue,” Mougdal told the board.

Mougdal thanked his parents for playing an important role in his education and encouraging him to explore science.

He also thanked Saline High School and its teachers and administrators for allowing him to grow in science. He tanked Counsellor Bryan Bruckmann for helping him with his schedule and making it possible for him to compete in the contest.

“Saline High School has done so much for me and I cannot thank Saline enough,” Mougdal said.

Teaching and Learning Update

Kara Davis, Beth Russow and Caroline Stout presented on the district’s goal for continuous improvement. Davis is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning. Russow is the district’s secondary Multi-Tiered Systems of Support coordinator. Sout is the support coordinator for the district’s MTSS program.

At each school in the district, goals combine academics and social-emotional wellness. Russo and Stout hand-sorted data from PowerSchool to monitor progress towards supporting all students.

They were able to see which students might benefit from interventions and support, such as the Homework Hive or tutoring. The Homework Hive is an afterschool program at the high school and middle school focused on improving the rate of work completion and building executive function skills. It’s staffed by certified teachers. 16 of the 27 middle school students invited to the Homework Hive are actively participating two or three times a week. At the high school, 40 students were invited and 13 are enrolled. Of the 17 middle school and high school students offered tutoring services, 10 are currently enrolled. The tutoring program will continue in the summer.

Stout said the district is examining data for warning signs as it tries to keep students on track. She said that attendance problems are a warning sign for engagement issues - often leading to behavior problems and even dropping out.

2022 data clearly shows attendance issues ramping up in senior year - especially in the spring.

Stout said the attendance problem was pretty alarming. Work has already begun at the high school level this year to work on practices around absences.

“The goal here is to use this as our baseline. To continue to build partnerships with families and connect with students and help them feel like school is a place they want to be, and that when they are not here they are missed,” Stout said.

The academic indicators don’t include 12th-grade data, but still seem much more consistent despite some slippage in the spring trimester.

“We are seeing this trend that even if students are not coming, we are still having grades that are OK,” Stout said. “That begs a lot of questions, right?”

Russow and Stout are running numbers on a massive spreadsheet and trying to predict course failure. If you can predict it, you may be able to prevent it.

“We’re saying, of all the students who failed ninth-grade biology, how could we have predicted that? How could we have prevented that,” Stout said.

Stout said educators need a tool to hone in on whether students at the middle and high school levels have the basic literacy and math skills they need to reach the course content and be successful, Stout said. A tool called aimswebplus could help them determine which students need academic intervention, Homework Hive, tutoring or other assistance. 20 staff members across a variety of disciplines were trained to use aimswebplus. They are working on piloting this with students and now considering how to use the data for screening. Another program called Illuminate integrates data from multiple sources to help educators look at data trends across large groups, small groups or at the individual level.

Stout outlined three goals for secondary MTSS. In the area of Academic Interventions, the district needs to continue to build capacity to support students within the school day. On attendance, the district must continue to work with families and school-based teams to increase communication. On behavior data, there needs to be more consistency of data collection.

At the K-5 level, there are some trends with literacy. From winter 22 to winter 23, the number of students at benchmark increased from 72 to 79 percent in first grade and 77 to 71 percent in third grade. Data was flat for second graders.

After focusing on K-3 foundational skills, the number of students at benchmark is rising - but still short of where Stout wants it to be. NWEA scores reflect the continued impact of the pandemic. There is disproportionality in assessment outcomes for students with minoritized and marginalized identities, according to Stout.

$1 Million for Barton Mallow

The board unanimously approved the payment of $1,046,000 to Barton Mallow for the company’s assistance with technology aspects of bond projects.

Barton Mallow has been working with the district in 2010. They will assist the district with technology projects associated with the approved bond proposal.

Laatsch said the district has developed trust with Barton Mallow over the years, which is why the district continues to use the firm.

Policy Changes

The board approved updates to Policy 8510 on Wellness, which deals with evaluating district wellness policies at least every three years and staying compliant with USDA regulations and the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The board updated Policy 8390 on animals in district policy to include language about the responsibility of animals housed in district buildings during school closings.

The board approved a new policy, 8390.1, on therapy dogs.

The board approved policies 3362.01 and 4362.01 on threatening staff members.

Examples of threatening behavior include: threats to cause bodily harm; stalking; bullying; threats to damage real or personal property at the workplace; unusual behavior that a reasonable person would consider threatening. Any student, parent, visitor, staff member, or agent of this Board who is found to have threatened a member of the staff will be subject to discipline or reported to the authorities.

Policy Committee Update

Trustee Jenny Miller provided an update on policy discussions. Miller said the district continues to work on the Controversial Issues policy and field public input. The next meeting is at 6:30, May 1, at the Liberty School board room. Miller invited the public to email policy committee members - herself or Trustees Susan Estep and Lauren Gold - or Superintendent Laatsch, with feedback.


Laatsch said the SWWC hosted a great job fair at the high school. He said there were 40-50 businesses at the event. Laatsch said he and other administrators will be at Saline Salutes Wednesday to recognize Kim Bryant and Paul Hynek.

Student Rep. Allison Doran said the high school art show is this weekend. The high school is hosting a blood drive May 8. The National Honor Society is doing a backpack drive and will be dropping off bags for people to fill in May. The drama club presents Speakin’ Easy April 28-30.

Trustee Tim Austin noted there were two medical emergencies at two schools Monday. Austin praised the work of the school nurses and staff who cared for the students.

Trustee Brad Gerbe noted May 2 was Teacher Appreciation Day. Gerbe said the May 2 millage renewal proposal is very important, $8.5 million impacts the classrooms, he said. “We absolutely have to renew this,” Gerbe said.

Trustee Jenny Miller invited people to the art show. Miller advised students getting ready for AP test season that they’ve already done the work and said students should get a good night’s sleep and eat well. She reminded students they are more than a test score. Miller invited anyone with questions about the millage proposal to reach out to any member of the board.

Vice President Jennifer Steben said she hoped to see “yes” votes at the polls. Steben thanked Laurie Dawson and Lindsay Guenther for the work they did organizing the Washington DC trip for middle schoolers.

Trustee Susan Estep asked people to vote “yes” on the millage renewal question. Estep said April is sexual assault awareness month. She said the Sex Education Advisory Board has decided to go forward with a program that teaches children how to recognize sexual abuse and how to report it to adults. SEAB came to the conclusion after a presentation from the Washtenaw Area Council for Children.

Trustee Lauren Gold highlighted that it was National Library Week.

Trustee Michael McVey said the Sex Education Advisory Board applications are available on the district’s website.

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