Former state legislator sworn in on school board

By: Jeremy Selweski | C&G Newspapers | Published July 23, 2013

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education appointed a new trustee last week to fill the seat of a former board member.

Ken DeBeaussaert, a 59-year-old Clinton Township resident and former Michigan legislator, was sworn in July 15 during the board’s annual organizational meeting. DeBeaussaert was selected to complete the term of former board Treasurer Julie Fitzgerald, who resigned June 17.

At the meeting, the board also named its 2013-14 officers. Former President George Sobah was appointed the new treasurer, while former Vice President Denise Aquino was appointed the new president, former Trustee Andrew Patzert was appointed the new vice president, and Secretary Tammy Reynolds remained in her position. Meanwhile, DeBeaussaert, Frank Bednard and Beth Pyden were all named trustees.

DeBeaussaert’s appointment will continue until the November 2014 general election, when district voters will elect a new trustee to serve a six-year term. He has already indicated that he does not intend to seek election next year.

Although he held public office for nearly two decades, this marks the first time that DeBeaussaert has served as a school board member. He stated that he was happy to step up to the plate to help out his home district.

“I’ve always admired the work that school board members do because it’s really the definition of public service,” DeBeaussaert said. “They volunteer their time, put in long hours and do a whole lot of work, but they don’t necessarily get a lot of attention or recognition from the public. But I believe it’s a very important job to make sure that future generations of students have opportunities that are the same — or better — as what we had.”

DeBeaussaert added that as a school board member, he hopes to work with the Michigan Department of Education and other state officials in order to help more Chippewa Valley students achieve college-ready benchmarks.

“It’s always important to set high standards and goals for your school district,” he said. “You want to make sure that those standards are appropriate and challenging enough to help prepare your students for the future.”

DeBeaussaert currently serves as a director on the Alliance for the Great Lakes board of directors. He is also the vice president of the Chippewa Valley Educational Foundation and an active member of several other community organizations, including the Comprehensive Youth Services Advisory Board, the Macomb County Water Resources Advisory Council and the Clinton River Watershed Council.

From 2003 to 2010, DeBeaussaert worked as director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, representing Michigan and the governor in local, state, national and international organizations on issues regarding water quality and preservation, as well as the promotion of the Great Lakes and their resources.

Prior to that, he served in the Michigan Legislature for 18 years after being elected to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He was also appointed to several committees during his time in Lansing, including those for education, natural resources and appropriations.

Fitzgerald — the wife of former Clinton Township Clerk George Fitzgerald — first joined the school board in December 2008, when she was appointed to fill a vacant seat, and was later elected to her position in May 2009. She also served as chair of the board’s finance subcommittee and as a member of its operations subcommittee. In addition, Fitzgerald was an active member of the Kids Count and Together for Children committees. Her official letter of resignation stated that she was leaving because she and her family were moving outside the district.

The board was required to fill the vacancy within 30 days of Fitzgerald’s resignation, or no later than July 17. They received applications from four candidates and interviewed them all at a special meeting held June 20. According to Sobah, DeBeaussaert’s extensive résumé immediately separated him from the pack.

“He’s got such a vast array of experience, and that really stood out to us,” Sobah said. “I have a lot of respect for Ken and all that he’s done in his career. He already has a good working knowledge of education and he’s a very quick learner, so I’m confident that he’ll get up to speed in no time.”

Sobah added that over the last few years, he has enjoyed working with DeBeaussaert on the Chippewa Valley Educational Foundation, a volunteer organization that provides minigrants for classroom projects across the district.

“He’s very sharp and very articulate, not to mention a really collaborative person who works well with other people,” he said. “I think he will be a perfect fit and a great asset to our board.”

While DeBeaussaert’s stint on the board will likely be over by November 2014, he is looking forward to helping the district grow and improve over the next 16 months.

“It’s an honor that the board considered me for this position, so I hope that I can live up to the trust and confidence that they’ve placed in me,” DeBeaussaert said. “I feel like this time is going to go by really fast.”