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Candidates file to run for school board

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 28, 2020

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GROSSE POINTES — Several local residents filed by the July 21 deadline to run for a seat on the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education.

The general election is Nov. 3 and will include several races, including for U.S. president. School board elections are not on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot.

A total of five seats are open.

Fifteen candidates filed for the four four-year terms that begin Jan. 1, 2021. They are: Jennifer Goossen, Lisa Papas, Kathleen Abke, Ahmed Ismail, Christopher D’Angelo, Keersten Colleen, Lauren Nowicki, Cynthia Pangborn, David Brumbaug, Jams Joseph, Cynthia Douglas, George Bailey, Sherry Betcher, Colleen Worden and Shareef Simaika. Abke and Pangborn currently serve on the board; Abke is vice president, and Pangborn is a trustee.

Three candidates filed for the one partial term that runs Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2022. They are: John Steininger, Theresa Vogler and current board member Joseph Herd. On Jan. 17, Herd was appointed to the school board to fill a vacancy created when then-Board of Education President Brian Summerfield resigned Jan. 2. The appointee fills the vacancy until the next regular school election, which in this case is Nov. 3, 2020.

Neither current Board Secretary Christopher Profeta nor current Board Treasurer Judy Gafa filed to run for re-election.

For Profeta, first elected in 2016, not running again was “a very hard and personal decision.”

“My wife and I talked it through and prayed about it a lot, and it just became clear to me that, right now, I need to be more available to my family,” Profeta said in an email. “There have been a number of times, over the last three years especially, when they’ve needed more of me than I’ve been able to give. It wouldn’t be fair to them right now, or to the community, to spread myself too thin.

“I’ve been honored and blessed to be able to serve the community that helped raise me,” he said. “I have enjoyed trying to help bridge gaps, find common ground and build consensus to solve the problems we’ve faced. It has been a tough four years with the budget crisis I walked into in 2017, the bond, losing 200 students in one year, reconfiguration and now COVID-19.”

Profeta said he always tried to find areas where, even though the school board may disagree on issues, “our values overlap and we can find solutions to these problems.”

“I’ve tried to encourage people to seek compromises on issues while still staying true to their values. I believe a good compromise is when both sides are equally unhappy. No one is ever going to have things all their way, and I have tried to use my position to bring people together,” Profeta continued. “Going forward, I hope voters will look for candidates who will continue to do the same. We need to move forward, not backwards, and we need to go there together as a community, not divided. But we will need strong leaders to help us do that. For personal reasons, I can’t be one of the people offering that vision, but I look forward to supporting any of the candidates who are offering that.”

Gafa was first elected to the school board in 2008 and was re-elected in the last two elections, thus serving three four-year terms.

“In the past six years, the board has made a lot of difficult decisions. I’m proud of my service. I’m happy with my service,” Gafa said. “It’s time for new, younger voices. I feel like it is the right time for me to step off. It’s time for some new people.

“My kids are in college,” she added. “We’ve really had a great experience going through Grosse Pointe Schools.”

When looking back at the board’s accomplishments, Gafa is proud of the fact that, in recent years, the district was able to build the district’s fund equity.

“We were down to 2% and it’s back up to 15%,” Gafa said.

Another proud moment is, “We finally got some diversity on the board with the appointment of Mr. Herd,” Gafa said.

Under Gafa’s board tenure, the district moved away from in-person school registration to electronic. Before, students and parents had to wait at least three hours in line to receive their schedules for the new school year. The online process has made it much easier for students to obtain their schedules without waiting in line.

“I think I will miss it,” Gafa said of serving on the board. Graduation season was always one of her favorite times of the year. In addition, she always enjoyed those times when students shared what they learned in class, including singing songs to the board, presenting robots they made, reading stories and even playing their ukuleles.

“It was interacting with the children that made it so pleasant,” Gafa said, adding, “I’ve gotten to know many good people through this.”

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