Brian Woodruff is one of six candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking one of the two seats on the Saline Board of Education. The terms are six years long. The other candidates are Susan Estep, Jennifer Steben, Richard Conn, Thomas Frederick and incumbent Scott Hummel.
Here's our Q&A with Brian Woodruff.
- Wife, Amy, Married 19 years, former Woodland Meadows teacher.
- Children: Grace grade 11, Ella grade 8, Nathan grade 5
- B.S. Biology University of Michigan
- M.D. Michigan State University
- Pediatric Residency – University of Wisconsin
- Pediatric Neurology Residency – University of Michigan
- Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Special Qualification in Child Neurology
- Currently a full-time practicing pediatric neurologist.
Relevant past experience (other related boards or government experience):
- Past Trustee Pittsfield Township Parks and Recreation
- St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church – Past member Finance Committee
- St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Medical Executive Committee – Past member
- Past Trustee Foundation Saline Area Schools
What's your motivation for running?
- Continue a tradition of excellence in our schools
- Promote a culture of continuous improvement
- Recruit and retain outstanding teachers
- Be a voice for all students and families including those that feel marginalized
What do you think your service would provide the board, schools and district citizens?
- A physician on the board that is an expert in learning and development
- A passionate voice for all families and students including those that feel marginalized
- A board member with an understanding of budgeting and finance
What are Saline Area Schools best strengths to build on? What areas most need improvement?
- SAS strengths include
- Academic performance of student
- Dedicated teachers
- Forward focused education
- Award winning vocational programs
- SAS areas that need improvement include
- Increase teacher pay and benefits
- Increase teacher diversity
- Improve support for our students and families that struggle with economic, medical, mental health, personal, developmental and learning challenges.
Describe the ways you've stayed apprised of issues in education and Saline Area Schools.
- Attending school board meetings
- Meeting with school administrators and teachers
- Meeting with parents and students
When you serve on the board, who do you see yourself representing and working for?
I will serve the citizens of our community but my focus will be on the students in our district.
What's your opinion of the district's move away from the traditional classroom, and how would you assess requests to fundamentally change the way Saline students learn in school?
I strongly support the district’s move away from the traditional classroom. I will assess requests to change the way students learn by thoroughly reviewing available research in that area.
What are your thoughts on the way the district teaches students life skills and provides opportunities for students who might thrive in vocational programs?
I feel that the district has an outstanding vocation program due to our collaboration with the South & West Washtenaw Consortium. We should continue to support the current programs and look for new opportunities.
What's your position on teacher pay and benefits - given that the district's purse strings are controlled by the state?
My goal is the recruit and retain the best teachers in the State of Michigan. Generating increased revenue to pay teachers more is in the hands of the legislature. It is my hope that the state will increase the per-pupil state grant to allow the district increase teacher pay and benefits. We should continue to look for reasonable cost savings to redirect money into the classroom.
Under what, if any, conditions would you consider privatizing support staff?
Our support staff are very important to the district and I would not be in support of privatizing at this time. The district would have to be an a very stressful situation to consider this change.
How important is diversity in staff and administration?
We need to hire more teachers that are not from Saline, that do not look like everyone else, and that may be part of an underrepresented group. This change would help to educate students about diversity, equity and inclusion.
Does the district do enough to protect students from bullying? If not, what would you like to see done.
Overall, I feel the district is sensitive to the need to protect students from bullying, but it can do more. I would support new and continued district wide educational opportunities for students and staff related to cultural, race, gender, religion and LGBTQA.
Regarding pay to play, should the schools spend more or less to subsidize student athletics and extracurricular activities?
I would not support any increase in budgetary support for athletics within the school district. We should continue to look at how money is distributed within these areas to make sure it is making the biggest impact for all students.
How do you see online/digital learning opportunities fitting into Saline Area Schools?
I support the currently provided online and digital learning opportunities within Saline Area Schools and would like to see further additions. These could include AP courses, vocational learning opportunities and college credit classes.
A big part of the board's responsibility is budgeting and policy making. Describe your experience and/or skills in these fields?
I have been involved in budgeting at the corporate level (IHA Finance Committee), government level (Pittsfield Township Parks and Recreation Trustee) and at the non-profit level (St. Andrews Finance Committee). I feel this has given me the financial experience I need to contribute to the board.
The move to an early start of the school year prompted discussion about year-round school. What are your thoughts on year-round school?This is a complicated topic without an easy solution.
- Education data shows that for many children, shorter school breaks increase retention and learning
- More frequent breaks create opportunities for teachers and students to rest and recharge
- Having many breaks each year creates child care challenges for working families
- Difficulty coordinating extracurriculars, vocational training (SWWC) and sports with school districts in a traditional calendar.
- Lack of summer work opportunities for students
- Likely increased utility costs
- Likely increased support staff costs
A lot of the most contentious issues the district has seen recently are offshoots of the so-called "culture war," whether it's Planned Parenthood's involvement with sex education curriculum, or including LGBTQ students in the district's bullying policy. How will your religious beliefs, or lack there of, inform and influence your policy making?
My decisions will be made based on facts and data and not on assumptions, faith or opinions.