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 Dennis Valenti.
Why are you running for election?
Having served on the Board of Education for nearly a year and a half, I look forward to being able to continue to promote educational excellence and fiscal responsibility, just as I have during my first year and a half on the board. I believe I have the a strong grasp of the issues that our current Board is confronted with and I have the ability to address those issues.
Why should Saline voters elect you?
As an alumni of Saline Area Schools and having previously served as a trustee of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools for 10 years, I believe I have a deep understanding of and a commitment to our community. The skill sets developed as a practicing attorney for over 25 years provides me with the ability to listen, issue spot and relate with people to solve complex problems. My MBA and BBA in finance together with 10 years of working as a financial officer provide me the ability to crunch the numbers required in dealing with K-12 school finance. My years spent as a college finance instructor have provided me with the ability to relate well to our K-12 faculty.
Describe your approach to solving problems and making decisions as a leader in a group setting?
I prefer to ask many probative questions about issues to draw out the facts that are leading us to the perceived problem. Analysis of the answers and the data to support those answers usually allow the group to see a logical approach to the problem.
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?
We are very grateful to the voters of our district for passing the recent millages. The vast majority of those funds can only be used for capital expenditures and are not available for the most significant part of our operating budget. While our district’s finances have improved due to these millages, achieving a degree of financial stability in an unstable funding environment is key to avoiding significant cuts during an economic downturn. Having lived in Michigan nearly my entire life, I know the cyclical nature of our economy and its impact on our K-12 school funding. We must approach our budgeting to avoid such cuts during our next economic downturn. At the same time we must keep our classroom funding at levels required to do all the things we ask our great educators to do. This requires that our administration must find cost efficiencies outside the classroom.
What’s your view on online learning in the district and how it should be employed?
The Saline Area School District is very fortunate to have some of the best performing students in the state by many measures. This is due in no small part to our phenomenal educators. I encourage our educators to continue to introduce innovative teaching and classroom techniques that allow our students to thrive. Online learning is another innovative technique, that when used appropriately has the ability to provide greater educational access to students. Online learning has been used at the college level for years by top ranked colleges and universities. We must carefully prepare our educators and students to properly utilize this medium.
Should the district move to a new calendar (year-round school, for example)?
We need to research and explore this topic with greater detail before we make dramatic changes. I am in favor of looking at the pros and cons of this topic.
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?
Based on the feedback from our teachers and students to date, I am in favor of creating more Next Gen Classrooms. We need to continue to survey the impact of this teaching environment on our students. So far, it appears that students and faculty have found these Classrooms to greatly enhance the educational environment. Recently, the CEO of Menlo Innovations, Richard Sheridan, toured our Next Gen Classrooms and gave a very strong endorsement to this form of learning.
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?
The disparities in state funding of school districts must be solved at the legislative level. We must provide a nurturing environment for all of our teachers that allows them to grow within their profession while acknowledging the fantastic job that they do. At Saline we must continue to find creative ways to achieve economic efficiencies throughout our budget. The elimination of redundancies and improved purchasing power through consortiums will allow us to keep more dollars in our classrooms.