Voters in the Saline Area Schools district will elect three trustees to the Board of Education in the Nov. 8 election.
Scott Hummel is the only candidate seeking the two-year term on the board. Michael McVey and incumbents Dennis Valenti and Alan Brilliant are running for two six-year seats on the board.
In this article we feature Alan Brilliant.
Why are you running for election?
I have always believed in giving back to the community and with young children in the Saline Area Schools, I have a vested interest in our district continuing to excel. Serving on the Board of Education over of the past year, I have learned that although our district’s financials have been improving, Saline still faces many long-term financial challenges. Running for the school board will allow me to continue working and advocating for fiscal responsibility and high quality education for all children in our community.
Why should Saline voters elect you?
For me it comes down to 4 things: character, leadership experience, approach, and communication. I feel I bring positives in all 4 of these areas. From a young age, two principles were instilled in me: do what you love and money is only a means to an end, so give back and make this a better world. These principles are a part of my core and the reason I am all in at 110% of whatever I take on. This is applicable in the business world, the non-profits I serve on the boards for and of course in my family life. My experience is very diverse as I have been an employee of others, a business owner and served on well-established non-profit boards in addition to smaller start-up non-profit boards. I understand what it is to work with others and respect each person’s perspective and approach. My experience has taught me that making difficult decisions is part of life and I am comfortable making them. My background in financial services prepares me nicely for evaluating balance sheets, district policies and procedures, and most of all the economics of the school district. My ability to lead shines through and my belief in servant leadership has been well received. I truly believe in being present. To serve means to be present not just show up only when required. In the year I have served on the School Board, I have made it a priority to do this by touring our district, to attending school events, checking in on construction work and even communicating via social media.
Describe your approach to solving problems and making decisions as a leader in a group setting?
I start by clarifying the issues at hand and determine urgency. From there, I look to gather all relevant facts and seek to understand others position on the matters. I then would research or think through possible options, solutions and outcomes. Next, consider and compare benefits and drawbacks of each option while engaging others in the discussion or analysis to select the best option. Lastly, communicate with others involved and/or affected.
With the bond issue passed, new flexibility with Sinking Fund money and more revenue from the Special Ed millage, Saline Area Schools finds itself in a fairly strong financial position. How should additional revenue be used?
The reality of the additional revenue is that some of it has already been committed. I believe that it has been used thus far in great ways. Additional teachers in most of the schools have been hired and as a result class sizes have been reduced. This has been a great thing. It addition to hiring, I believe part of the revenue needs to be dedicated to a capital fund that can safeguard for the future. The Special Ed millage was increased this year, however, we could see a reduction as early as next year if voters do not renew the original millage. In addition, the state could change the foundation allowance, which could dramatically affect the districts budgets. I also believe a portion of the revenues should be utilized to increase our capacity in the social and emotional health area of our district. I believe this is currently underserved and is an important issue moving forward.
What’s your view on online learning in the district and how it should be employed?
Online learning is a great addition to any school district. This is true for several reasons such as, self-paced learning, individualized attention and curriculum, and increased focus for students who feel daily pressure of social situations. I do not feel that online learning should completely replacing existing curriculum for a student.
Should the district move to a new calendar (year-round school, for example)?
This decision is not something our district should rush into. While year-round school has shown many benefits there are drawbacks to be considered. I do believe this is an area worth exploring in more detail for our district over the coming year or two. I also look forward to seeing and determining the pros and cons of this endeavor.
Are you in favor of creating more Next Gen Classrooms? If so, how should the district demonstrate they are worth the investment? If not, why not?
Yes. I truly believe that distinction is beginning to blur between all classrooms. If we look at the core of Next Gen, we see alternative learning spaces, more collaboration, greater use of technology and more. In personally visiting classroom throughout the district, I am seeing this in classrooms that are not officially labeled Next Gen. In my opinion, this is a good educational shift. The goal is to produce thoughtful, creative, happy and productive kids - who then do well on tests. But I believe that we need better learners, not better test takers for the long run.
Given the disparities in how the state funds school districts, how can Saline compete with other top school districts to attract and retain talented young teachers?
- Provide leadership and growth opportunities for teachers
- Cultivate collaboration in schools
- Solicit teacher feedback and use it in decision making
- Maintain district buildings and infrastructure