Saline will get a new education board

The next meeting of the Saline Area School Board will include the swearing in of David Hayward as the new trustee. A medical data analyst
by profession, Dr. Hayward will replace Dennis Valenti, who resigned
at the January 11 meeting. Hayward will complete the remaining ten months of the term Valenti has now left.

The following conversation was conducted over the phone and has been edited for clarity and length.

Sun Time News
: Now that you have been accepted by the Board of Education, how do you feel?

: It’s humiliating, really. It’s great to have the opportunity to serve the community. I’ve done a lot of advocacy work over the past two or three years. It’s great to work across the table.

TSTN: You have been a frequent face at Board of Education meetings for some time. Could you briefly describe what your board advocacy has been and how it has shaped the type of director you would like to be?

Hayward: I have been involved in several different issues. The first problem I faced was even before the racial problems that arose several years ago. There were anti-transgender comments that had been raised that I came across. I went to support him when it happened. I did not speak at this meeting, but I came to lend my support. I became more involved after the racial incidents that erupted afterwards.

The first time I got involved in direct advocacy with the board was on the issue of seclusion and restraint, which impacts the special needs community. It had to do with the shockingly high use of these methods of isolation and restraint against most autistic children; especially in our elementary schools. I worked with parents of children with special needs to raise this issue in front of the board and dug up some of the data from our school system, [compared to] data from comparable school systems across the state to show that they really abuse these techniques.

After that, I became heavily involved, due to my own story and my family’s story, in advocating for the passage of the new transgender and non-binary inclusion policy that was just passed in October . It’s something we worked on both behind the scenes and in front of the stages for over a year before it came to fruition. It really shaped the questions I’m interested in. But I’m not just interested in advancing these kinds of activities.

TSTN: Are you satisfied with the explanation that has been given by the administration of why seclusion and restraint are used so frequently in schools?

Hayward: I think there is room for more dialogue on this issue. This is something I hope to see picked up over the next ten months. It is certainly something that I intend to discuss with the administrators in my new role.

TSTN: You mentioned recurring problems of racism in schools in the Saline region. What would be your approach to bringing about systematic change to this problem?

Hayward: I think this is clearly a major problem that we still face as a society. This is by no means a problem unique to Saline, but it is one that we can tackle locally in the schools.

I think [this is] something that needs to be addressed both at the district level and from building to building. I have to learn the new hat that I wear as a board member rather than an advocate, so I don’t want to go overboard in saying what the board should or shouldn’t do. I think as individuals what we should do is seek more cooperation between schools, students and families; both at the beginning and throughout the careers of students in schools in the Saline area to try to educate everyone in the community about these issues to try to stop these things. There is an educational part and there is also a behavior modification part that needs to continue. This is something that must be done in cooperation between schools and families.

TSTN: You have already said that you are in favor of trans politics. Are you happy with the trans policy as it is currently written or do you think it needs changes?

Hayward: I am very proud of trans politics. I participated in the development of this policy. I’m happy with the policy as it is. There is always more we can do of course, but there is nothing I would point out 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 see this as something I go into with an agenda. But I think we should have the same goals.

First, there are these issues of racism that we need to think very deeply about how we are going to tackle them.

Fiscal responsibility is something we need to talk about in the medium and long term. We may be in a pretty good place right now, but we need to think about where our registrations will go and what the implications will be for our budgets in the future.

Obviously, the thing that must [be on] everyone thinks these days [is] finding the right balance as we continue to navigate the Covid pandemic between safety and the right learning environment for children.

TSTN: Are you happy with how the school district has handled Covid so far?

Hayward: I am very pleased with what the administration has done regarding our Covid protocols. I think that’s a great strength that we had. I think 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 prioritizing maintaining in-person learning arrangements, which is a big strong point.

TSTN: You also stated in your job application that you are a data scientist with something like 106 peer-reviewed pieces. Could you talk about your training as a scientist. How would you apply data and data analytics to decision making?

Hayward: I have a background in quantitative statistics. I have a doctorate in social psychology, but I focused on the statistical side of things. I did a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. I’ve worked in healthcare during my professional career, doing statistical science, so that’s where I feel most comfortable. I would definitely consider myself very data driven and data driven.

In terms of bringing this to the Board, the first thing I would go to in making a decision would be to look 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’s the issue of seclusion and restraint, or advocating for the transgender population, I’ll often go into the Ministry of Education database just to find out how our district compares to other districts. Just in terms of what our population looks like, looking at different modalities, modalities of discipline. How to stack? Where are the best and worst neighborhoods located? 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 different from Saline in terms of size and demographics. A town called Lebanon, a suburb of Cincinnati.

I hadn’t heard the word “non-binary gender” at the time. Everyone knew I was different, and I knew I was different. School was not a good place for me, or for children like me.

My big modification for getting involved in advocacy in schools now is to be the voice that I wish was there for me when I was growing up. This is especially important to me now, now that one of my former children has gone non-binary.

We moved here in 2014, shortly after I got married to my partner. [I] ended up coming to work at the university in 2011. It was there that I met and married my partner. I intend to stay here as long as possible.

Image credit: David Hayward

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