Hunter Van Valkenburgh writes:
1. My Background
I am a self-employed attorney in Ann Arbor, specializing in family and probate law. Prior to law school, I taught Social Studies at Southfield High School from 1996-1999. I've also been a licensed builder and mechanic. My wife Aina Bernier teaches 7-8 grade Science at Ann Arbor Open, and she has been doing that since 2000. We have twin 15 year old sophomores at Community and Pioneer high schools.
This is my second attempt at getting on the Board. In 2014, I was fifth out of ten candidates for four positions. Many of the same issues on which I ran still bedevil the district, and I hope to make a positive change on the Board.
2. When I Serve on the Board of Education
My first priority is to focus our resources to the greatest extent possible on increasing instructional time for students and their teachers. Many studies have shown that this is the single greatest factor linked to high achievement. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention will make a bigger difference in closing the achievement gap than anything else we can do.
Related to the above, I want to review the current regime of diagnostic standardized tests that are imposed on our students. The data from these tests may have some limited utility, but the cost in dollars and instructional time is significant, and there is no relationship between test taking and achievement. You don’t help a cow grow by weighing it repeatedly.
I want to develop a more collaborative model for working with our employees to solve the challenges facing the district. The district’s approach has been a top-down imposition of conditions on employees, and attempts to work collaboratively such as the custodians’ offer to form a workers’ cooperative have been rebuffed. If there has to be sacrifice to balance the district’s budget, those making the most should sacrifice first.
3. The Educate Ann Arbor Platform
The Educate Ann Arbor platform aligns perfectly with my own values and opinions about many aspects of running public schools. I endorse it without reservation.