Saline Board of Education 6-Year Seat: Q&A With Paul Hynek and Aramide Boatswain

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Paul Hynek and Aramide Boatswain are running for the single six-year seat on the Saline Board of Education. Hynek is the incumbent.

Here are their answers to questions posed by The Saline Post.

Biography

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Paul Hynek

Family: Married to Gina (33 years). Four Graduates of Saline Area Schools: Sarah (2008), Christopher (2010), Danielle (2014), Josh (2016).

Career/Education: 40 years in Information Technology. Employed by Centene Corporation  

BA from University of Michigan – Dearborn. 

Michigan Association of School Boards. Certified Board Member Awar. Award of Merit.

Relevant experience (other related boards or government experience):

Saline Area Schools

Board of Education (07/2006 to 12/2010, 01/2013 to present)Board President (2015,2016,2019)Board Vice President (2017,2018,2020) Board Secretary (2007,2008,2009,2014) Policy Committee Chair (2007,2008,2009,2010,2018) Finance Committee Chair (2014) SAS Long Range Planning Committee (2004) Saline Field Hockey Club - Board Director at Large (2011 to 2013)

Community

Saline Picnic in the Park (Summerfest) - Secretary (2003 to present) Saline Area Youth Baseball and Softball - Active Member (1998 to 2011) City of Saline Sesquicentennial Committee (2015-2016) St. Andrew Church – active member 26 years

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M. Aramide Boatswain

Family: Married mother of three children attending Saline Area Schools (1 at Heritage and 2 at Saline Middle School)

Career/Education: 20 years as a Marketing Communications Strategist. Bachelors in Computer Science with a Minor in Math and PhysicsMBA - Focus on Organizational Communication and Development

Relevant experience (other related boards or government experience):

Pleasant Ridge PTA (2-term President)Heritage School (Year Book Coordinator, Kids Against Hunger)Saline Middle School (Treasurer)Saline Arts and Culture Committee (Major projects -Art Around Saline)Saline Sesquicentennial (Vice-Chair)Saline Code Review Task ForceSaline Economic Development Council, Tax Increment Finance AuthorityWhat's your motivation for running?

Hynek

I believe I can continue to collaboratively encourage and add to the discussion around making developmentally sound and appropriate academic decisions for all students. The current tenor of the discussion, around public education, has become quite divisive and less than productive. We need to listen to each other and develop an authentic understanding of our unique perspectives. Each and every one should be respectfully listened to and in turn they should respectfully listen. In addition to rote scores, we need to think about how our students face challenges, how they treat themselves and each other, their passions and skills they are developing.

Living in the Saline community for 26 years and my twelve years of experience on the Saline Area Schools Board of Education provide me with a unique experience of where we’ve been and where we need to go. I have been elected to all officer positions on the Board multiple times by my peers and chaired the two primary committees (Policy and Finance) at least once. My technology education makes me skilled in looking at data and root cause analysis. I am a great listener, respect diverse opinions, and have a track record of collaboration. I will continue to be a non-agenda, non-partisan Board member who can bring focus back to education and the equally important social-emotional needs of our students and staff. I have and I am more than willing to make this time commitment. The vision and direction start with the board and I hope to continue making that a positive experience for everyone.

Boatswain

I am running for the Saline Area Schools (SAS) Board of Trustees because I am passionate about SAS excelling in all areas that contribute to the development of the whole child - most importantly, inclusion. I strongly believe every child should feel welcomed, valued, accepted and supported in being fully immersed and included in the educational experience within their buildings.

I believe ALL students – regardless of race, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, socio-economic class, and ability – should feel welcome and safe to be their authentic selves. I support the rights of our LGBTQIA+ students and commit to ensuring those rights are upheld. Strong policies will enforce our actions.

I have seen that SAS staff recognize the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of students in their buildings and should be afforded further opportunity to build on their strengths to support and create continuous opportunities for ALL students to evolve

I will collaborate with Board members and the community to meet the needs of our students and families while taking into account the challenges we face socially and economically.

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

Hynek

In this current pandemic environment, first and foremost, our collective goal is to keep all staff and students safe and healthy. We need to focus on support of our staff and their ability to perform their job duties and the ability of our students to learn in a very different paradigm. We need to educate with a passion that identifies diverse perspectives as well as lived experiences, balanced by “the basics”. The arts, athletics and extra-curricular activities are equally important. All of our individual students are unique and each of their achievements are also unique. We offer programs such as Young Adult, Alternative High School, Career and Tech Ed, pre-K and others because of this uniqueness. Every student achieves differently. It can’t just be about test scores. The collective goal is to have students be "well-rounded" and able to meet the challenges of a post K-12 global society.

Boatswain

One of the district’s great strengths is that we offer opportunities for feedback from parents and actively adjust strategies, and plans to address and support parent concerns within the guidelines provided by the state. Most recently, the attention to inclusivity, and addressing our concerns around distance learning has been impressive and supportive to families.

Saline Area Schools (SAS) has been a consistently high-performing school district, ranking 6th in the state of Michigan (Source: 2020 Niche Best School Districts). While we have had many successes, I am committed to the continued success of SAS, through accelerating areas of strength while providing additional supports in the areas in need of improvement. This includes targeting resources to SAS students with the greatest needs and our marginalized populations, closing opportunity gaps, and ensuring ALL students feel safe, supported, and welcome.

Improvement in communication with our community stakeholders - particularly our staff and teachers will also support alignment on the district’s strategic support in support of our students.

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

Hynek

The Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and other local and national organizations send information to all Board members to read and highlight current trends and events. They also advocate and inform on legislative actions. I get feeds from non-school related local news sources as well. I also like to research a topic and find articles on different points of view from all kinds of sources. Our retainer with legal counsel also provides periodic updates to the Board for review. I have occasionally reached out to administrators, staff members or a community member for some “real life” viewpoint and learn from their expertise on a particular subject.

Boatswain

Building administration particularly our principals and Asst. Superintendent Laatsch offers important and timely updates on our curriculum and district initiatives. As a member of the District Parent Council through the PTA, I have stayed apprised of the issues in education in Saline through active service. Active participation in the district’s conversions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives has also allowed me insight into the continued support of our marginalized students. In 2019, I co-founded Saline Parents Against Racism, responding to the ongoing issues of racism in the district, and was invited to the Saline Area Schools Diversity Equity and Inclusion Leadership Coalition in 2020.

The School Board meetings also offer regular updates on district decisions and all things important to curriculum, administrative changes, and updates.

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

Hynek

The primary question all Board members should always ask is “What is best for students?”. Sometimes, arriving at that answer we need to consider the voices of the many stakeholders who support the educational outcomes of our students. Different issues (like budget) would cause me to focus on balancing the needs of staff and taxpayers. Representation of all stakeholders is important, and there is a chain of command and processes in place that should always be followed.

Boatswain

I see myself as a representative for students and families living within the boundaries of Saline Area Schools. While Board trustees are elected by the parents and members of the community, the trustees represent the stakeholder interests in service to our students. It is important that our students’ voices are represented in our policies, framework, and initiatives.

It's been the practice of Saline Area Schools teachers are paid well, relative to the rest of the state. What do you think of that?

Hynek

I think it is great. I wish we could pay all staff more. It is a tough job working in public education and the dedication our employees show is remarkable. We are all in this together. Teacher shortage is a large issue. The number of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs in Michigan is dropping and has devastating consequences for the state’s teacher pipeline. If that’s not bad enough, many Michigan teachers are leaving the profession within five years. We need to find ways to bump up starting salaries. Concerns about employee shortages in other areas, para-pro’s, bus drivers and custodians are also taking a toll on the operations of school districts.

Boatswain

Saline also has a good percentage of teachers that have been with the district for over 10 years. This length of tenure creates an average compensation that probably reflects a higher amount of compensation for our district. It is a great reflection of the investment our teachers have made in the continued success of our district, and I believe teachers should be well compensated for the work they do to educate children. Teachers are our greatest resources and having a strong compensation plan, and continuous professional learning opportunities support Saline Area Schools in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.

Tell us what you think of the district’s Return to Learn plan. What concerns do you have? What do you like about the plan?

Hynek

As a living document (we are on version 4) with continual changes to how districts must operate, I think it was well thought out with input from all stakeholder groups. I know tremendous amount of administrative and staff time was spent creating the plan and putting it into operation. The options given to both staff and students were appropriate, despite each family having unique circumstances. My concerns as we move closer to 100% in-person for those who choose that option is how cognizant we are of staff and student health, safety and emotional areas. We can’t let our guard down.

Boatswain

I appreciate that the district’s plan gave parents options to choose from. Every family has a unique circumstance, and this plan gave us the option to engage their children in virtual or hybrid learning. With the spring semester, making an attempt towards to some sense of normalcy is to be applauded.

In terms of concerns, as parents, we have been very vocal about what we would like to see. Unfortunately, we don’t hear a lot about concerns from our staff and teachers are. Communication is key as we handle the transition from hybrid to a full-time in-person learning environment, I am concerned about how our staff is managing stress levels in handling the plan. Based on conversations, there is a misalignment between expectations across all stakeholders within the district. I see this as an area that SAS leadership will need to actively review and ensure that all stakeholders are fully aware of the plans and challenges as we move forward.

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

Hynek

I am not in favor of privatization. Historical information indicates there are typically short term gains, but long term benefits just don’t seem to be there.

Boatswain

Not until we have exhausted efforts with our MEAC/SEA/ESP body. They have been a critical part of our strategic plan for years. I would consider privatizing support staff positions only if all efforts to attract candidates have been exhausted. If there are particular critical roles that we had been unable to fill using traditional means, I might consider supporting the privatization of those roles. This would take a careful evaluation, and I would not make the decision without having the data that supports it.

How important is diversity in district staff and administration?

Hynek

Diversity is important. The different perspectives that diversity brings is important. The thing about diversity is it can’t be forced. It should grow organically and with purpose. We can certainly help it by making sure our policies and practices support it. Direction and vision are the lifeblood of any organization. Our ability to manage the processes necessary to achieve our vision is critical. There are times we need to go slow in order to go fast.

Boatswain

Diversity has to be reflected at the top to be a part of our district culture. This reflects a true commitment to the intent and active efforts towards supporting the diversity of our student population.

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

Hynek

Athletics and extracurricular activities are important in many ways to student growth. The percentage of our students that participate in them is very high. In a scenario where we spend less (or eliminate as some suggest) we would probably lose enough students that would lower our state foundation allowance and exceed our expenditures. At the end of last year, the district started some preliminary work to change the model of how athletics, in particular, was funded and organized district wide. There are many models that deserve consideration and further study. Caregiver cost is an issue and please be aware that there are scholarships and aid available at many levels for student participation.

Boatswain

At the moment, the biggest concern right now is students that cannot afford to pay-to-play. While we want to respect the privacy of families that cannot afford to participate in pay-to-play or other extra-curricular activities, we need to figure out a way to engage students that do not have the ability to participate financially.

Extracurricular activities are a key part of the school culture, and right now the standards are not the same across all our extracurricular activities. There are best practices to consider, however, every case is different and requires review to ensure that opportunities a=exist across all socio-economic levels.

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

Hynek

Pre-Covid I was always a proponent of online/digital learning. Everyone learns differently and at their own pace and online works well for many. It must be monitored appropriately to be sure learning is accomplished. In the current Covid virtual environment, we are struggling somewhat with the newness of it, but are getting better each day with the tremendous involvement by district employees to make it work. I can see many of these virtual elements remaining with SAS in the future. In a post K-12 world, students will find that many companies and universities (if they chose that path) use online/digital learning extensively, so being familiar with it is a good thing.

Boatswain

It’s a path we have been on for the last 6 years. When we started on having next-generation classrooms, we committed to expanding our access to digital curriculum and opportunities. Covid-19 has played a key role in having us re-evaluate our progress and identifying the gaps we currently have as we move forward. Multi-generational plans need to be in place to address the gaps in our elementary schools relative to our middle school and high school students.

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

Hynek

The first policy manual I encountered on the board in 2006 was about 100 pages. Shortly after that we converted to a MASB policy system and then to Neola (MASB stopped offering policy services). I was heavily involved in both of these efforts as the Policy Chair or as a committee member. The policies typically are based on local, state and federal laws. They should be defensible.

I have been on the Finance committee several times and have Chaired that committee as well. Given uneven funding by all sources this is a highly challenging area. Over the years we have institutionalized best practices for accountability of money handling and developed some very good “what-if” tools that can lead to better budget decisions. The District has continuously been favorably reviewed by our auditors.

Boatswain

For budgets of $20M+ in my professional career, my highest priority is to ensure that revenue streams support expenses. There are opportunities to be more creative in generating income with our assets to offset our budget shortfalls, over the long term. Strategies will need to consider the needs of the SAS district – particularly students and staff. Saving costs does not always require cutting programs and educational opportunities for students. I would suggest a review of our overhead costs, taking advantage of possible utility savings, and grants to fund our programs. In benchmarking other similarly sized districts, a great percentage of their annual budget was saved by considering energy-efficient practices, nominal fees for use of assets to cover maintenance, and using grants to offset programs. These slight adjustments will offer resources to PPE, special education, education technology, social-emotional support, staff education, and more.

The district has historically had a low fund balance or rainy day fund, choosing instead to invest in teachers/classrooms. Do you support that approach? Why or why not?

Hynek

Funding schools adequately and equitably is necessary so that all students can have the resources they need to get a great public education. That’s not happening today. Data shows that more school funding can improve student achievement when spent on teachers/classrooms. Ideally, I’d like to maintain a fund balance that can allow the district to pay our bills without borrowing year after year. The cost of borrowing is significant and could be used elsewhere.

Boatswain

The fact is we are operating at a deficit, and I am committed to the hard work required to make us a fiscally healthy school district. I don’t support a low fund balance and reviewing our budget numbers, we appear to have continuously increased our expenses and show decreasing income year-over-year. While investment in the teachers/classrooms is not the best option over having a low fund balance or rainy day fund, we need to take a harder look at how to increase our income with our existing assets.

Continuing in this manner with the expectation of reduced state funding is not a sustainable plan for our district. We simply have to be more creative about generating revenue. Investment in teachers and classrooms will drive enrollment, and we will need to look for other opportunities. It will be a slow build-up and should avoid a substantial bond ask in the coming years.

Some people will ask, why did it take national embarrassment for the school district to take racism seriously? What’s your answer to that?

Hynek

I think some parts of our community are still in denial about that. They were more concerned about national embarrassment than the underlying racism issue. It is a regional issue, with the schools taking a role in educating our students about racism, but the need for community action is absolutely required as well. This is a great community that has so many positives (things that the national news doesn’t come back to see because it doesn’t drive clicks). 

Boatswain

I don’t believe that the national embarrassment made the school district take racism seriously - I believe the voices of the students and parents coming out and speaking out about their experiences did that. Saline is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Just as it took the case of George Floyd to shake the nation awake to the racism that has been underneath the surface, it took parent and student voices at each of the community conversations to shine a light on the many ways in which racism is present in our own community. I believe we are in a time in history that is as significant as the Civil Rights movement - a major turning point. We can no longer turn a blind eye and pretend racism no longer exists. We must work together to ensure that we create schools that are safe spaces for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, etc.

Some people will ask, why should my elementary-aged school children be required to learn about transgender children in class? What’s your answer to that?

Hynek

Almost 6,000 individuals come together (physically and virtually) each school day within Saline Area Schools. As a School Board, district leaders, families, community members and students, we need to listen to each other and develop an authentic understanding of our unique perspectives. I don’t see a downside of age appropriate learning about each other. In my opinion, students handle this quite well.

The power of youth taking the lead, and the impact of our example upon their minds and future is essential. Students have the power to shape the future, but it is our duty to give them the tools in which to shape that future.

Boatswain

Because we have transgender children in our elementary schools as well. It is important that all our students across all grades understand, respect, and embrace all students within their grades including our transgender children. The intent is to make sure that our children feel welcome, valued, supported, and included. The district needs to take a stronger stand on inclusion without exception, and a clear plan supported by policies to embrace inclusion in our curriculum.

The world is changing. Saline’s changing. At the same time, we have traditional, conservative families. How does the district meet the needs of one element of the community without running roughshod over the other?

Hynek

I don’t believe we have ever run roughshod over one element of the community. Accommodations are asked for and worked out on a case by case basis more times than not for a thousand different reasons within SAS. As leaders in our community, our ability to have discussion, be transparent, establish clear expectations, exhibit patience and welcome feedback will determine our fate as a community of learners.

Boatswain

Encouraging dialogue across all sides of the community. It’s not a question of how liberal or conservative a family’s values are, but simply what in the best interest of all our students. At the end of the day, the world is changing and so are our children. Ignoring, and not supporting their acknowledgment of the world around them - or the world that they are going to be a part of, does not help our students in becoming active, aware members of the society we are sending them into. Listening to our students is also a key part of the conversation. If the conversation and plans stay focused on the students, we can all agree that we want what’s in the best interest of their success

Should Saline board members be required to take educational classes through the MASB? Why or why not?

Hynek

The MASB classes are a good resource for board members to learn about the topics that will govern their role during their term. Most initial classes are introductory in nature and typically contain additional reading material for a deeper dive. I believe these should be required. There are optional higher level classes that tackle specific topics. Personally, I find them a little “light” in nature, but a decent launching pad for further study. The salient question is are Board members learning from these classes and displaying that in action or merely checking the “completed” box.

Boatswain

Yes. Understanding guidance from the MASB allows Board members to make better policies and guidelines in alignment with the State of Michigan while supporting the needs of our district. I am supportive of continuous improvement and professional development anThe same should apply to Board members to continuously support decisions made about our district.

Should the Saline board of education have policies that prohibit board members from speaking on issues away from the board table?

Hynek

No. The Board President speaks for the Board and the Superintendent speaks for the District. That being said, all Board Members are free to express their personal views as long as they make it clear that those are their personal views. This is part of our Ethics policy. Practically speaking, people still might associate that view with the board member considering their role despite any preamble statement. It is a bit of a slippery slope with social media and the district guidelines should always be followed.

Boatswain

A policy is in place for having a spokesperson speak on behalf of the board. This is not unusual in any assembly of individuals or organizations. However a single board member’s opinion is theirs, and as an elected member of the board, each trustee speaks in a manner that reflects the opinion of their constituents or their beliefs. I don’t believe silencing members’ opinions on their personal stance is appropriate. It shows transparency on where they stand, and their voting records would show this as well.

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