Saline To Get New Board Of Schooling Trustee
The next meeting of Saline Area School’s Board of Education will include the swearing in of David Hayward as its newest trustee. A medical data analyst
by profession, Dr. Hayward will replace Dennis Valenti, who resigned
at the January 11 meeting. Hayward will finish out the ten months remaining in the term Valenti has now vacated.
The following conversation was conducted by phone and has been edited for length and clarity.
Sun Times News: Now that you have been accepted by the Board of Education, how does it feel?
Hayward: It’s humbling, really. It’s great to have the opportunity to serve the community. I have been doing a lot of work in advocacy for the last two or three years. It is great to be working on the other side of the table.
TSTN: You have been a frequent face at the Board of Education meetings for a while. Could you briefly describe what your advocacy for Board has been and how it has shaped the type of Trustee you would like to be?
Hayward: I have been involved with several different issues. The first issue I got involved with was even before the racial issues that came up a number of years ago. There were some anti-transgender comments that had come up and I became aware of. I went to be supportive when that happened. I didn’t speak at that meeting, but I came there to be a supportive voice. I became more involved after the racial incidents that blew up after that.
The first time that I got involved with direct advocacy with the board was with the seclude and restraint issue, which impacts the special needs community. That had to do with the shockingly high use of these seclusion and restraint methods against mostly kids on the autism spectrum; especially in our elementary schools. I worked with some parents of special needs kids to bring that issue up in front of the board, and dug into some of the data of our school system, [compared to] data from comparable school systems throughout the state to show that they are really overusing those techniques.
After that I got heavily involved, because of my own story and my family’s story, with advocating for the adoption of the new transgender and non-binary inclusion policy that was just adopted in October. That was something that we worked on both behind and in front of the scenes for over a year before that came to fruition. That has really shaped the issues that I am interested in. But I’m not only interested in furthering those kind of activities.
TSTN: Are you satisfied by the explanation that was given by the administration of why seclusion and restraint is used so frequently in the schools?
Hayward: I do feel that there is room for more dialogue on that issue. That is something that I do hope to see taken up further during the next ten months. That is certainly something that I intend to speak with administrators about in my new capacity.
TSTN: You mentioned recurring issues of racism within Saline Area Schools. What would your approach be to bring systematic change to this problem?
Hayward: I think that that is clearly a major issue that we are still facing as a society. This is not an issue that is unique to Saline by any means, but it is one that we can tackle locally in the schools.
I think [this is] something that has to be dealt with both at the district level and at a building to building basis. I have to learn the new hat that I am wearing as a Board member rather than as an advocate, so I don’t want to go too far in saying what the Board should or shouldn’t be doing. I think as an individual is what we should be doing is looking for more cooperation between schools, students and families; both early on and throughout students careers in Saline Area Schools to try and educate everybody in the community about these issues to try and stop these things. There is an educational piece and there is also a behavioral modification piece that has to go on. It is something that has to go on in cooperation between schools and families.
TSTN: You already said that you are in favor of the trans policy. Are you satisfied with the trans policy as it is currently written, or do you think it needs modifications?
Hayward: I am very proud of the trans policy. I was part of helping to draft that policy. I am happy with the policy as it is. There is always more that we can do of course, but there is nothing I would point to in the current policy that needs to be changed.
TSTN: What are your three biggest goals and how would you go about achieving them?
Hayward: I don’t look at this as something that I am coming into with an agenda. But I do think that we should have the same goals.
Number one, there are these issues of racism that we need to think really deeply on how we are going to tackle.
Fiscal responsibility is something that we need to talk about in the medium to long term. We may be in a pretty good place right now, but we need to think about where our enrollment numbers are going and what the implications are going to be for our budgets in the future.
Obviously, the thing that has to [be on] everybody’s mind these days [is] finding the right balance as we continue to move through the Covid pandemic between safety and the right learning environment for kids.
TSTN: Are you happy with the way the school district has handled Covid so far?
Hayward: I am very pleased with what the administration has done as far as our Covid protocols have gone. I think that is a great area of strength that we have had. I think that Superintendent Laatsch has really done a great job of striking the right balance between creating a very safe environment for our students and staff, while also prioritizing maintaining in-person modalities of learning, which is a great area of strength.
TSTN: You also said in your application to your position how you are a data scientist with something like 106 peer reviewed pieces. Could you talk about your education as a scientist. How would you apply data and data analysis to decision making?
Hayward: My background is in quantitative statistics. My PhD is in social psychology, but my focus has been on the statistical side of things. I did a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. I have worked in the health side of things in my professional career, doing statistical science, so that is where I’m most comfortable. I would certainly think of myself as very data-focused and data-led.
In terms of bringing that to the Board, the first place I would go in making a decision is looking at A) the research that exists on the subject and B) the raw data, which often exists in an educational context.
Just in terms of advocacy, whether it has been looking at the seclude and restraint issue, or looking at advocacy for the transgender population, I often will go to the Department of Education data base just to lookup how our district compares to other districts. Just in terms of what our population looks like, looking at different modalities, discipline modalities. How do we stack up? How do the best and worst districts stack up? How can we do better?
TSTN: Can we talk about your background? Where did you grow up? How did you grow up? How did you come to live in Saline?
Hayward: I grew up in the Cincinnati area, in a town not too dissimilar to Saline in terms of size and demographics. A town called Lebanon, a suburb of Cincinnati.
I had not heard the word “gender non-binary” at that time. Everybody knew that I was different, and I knew that I was different. School wasn’t a great place for me, or children like me.
My big modification for getting involved in advocacy in schools now is to be the voice that I wish had been there for me when I was growing up. That is particularly important for me now, now that one of my old children has come out as non -binary now.
We moved here in 2014, shortly after I married my partner. [I] ended up coming to work at the university in 2011. This is where I met and married my partner. I plan to stay here for as long as possible.
Image Credit: David Hayward