Hall-Rayford wins Eastpointe school board seat as write-in candidate

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 18, 2020




EASTPOINTE — Macomb County election officials have counted the write-in votes and the final member of the Eastpointe Community Schools Board of Education has been selected: Mary Hall-Rayford.

Four spots were open for election or reelection this year, although only three members of the school board decided to run again and there were no other candidates named on the ballot. Hall-Rayford decided to run as a write-in candidate in what she said was a last-minute decision.

“I’m pretty excited about this,” she said. “It was a last-minute decision because prior to my completing the paperwork, I was working for the district, so I couldn’t run. After I left, I decided this was a good time to continue serving the community on the school board.”

Hall-Rayford defeated fellow write-in candidates Nicholas Frontera and Margaret Smith. Hall-Rayford received 83 votes. Vote totals for Frontera and Smith were not available.

The other three candidates elected to the board were Jon Gruenberg, Robert Roscoe and Edward Williams, all of whom were incumbents. They and Hall-Rayford were elected for four-year terms. The terms will begin Jan. 1.

Gruenberg, who also is the board president, said that he is glad to see Hall-Rayford join them on the board and that she is already a regular fixture at school board meetings.

“I wasn’t expecting her to be our selectee,” he said. “She is a very common sight at meetings and it was nice to see someone as involved as her on the board.”

He went on to say that, despite trying times, the school board is working hard to keep the district moving forward.

“From what I know of Ms. Rayford, she will fit in with the board,” said Gruenberg. “We are coming out of a deficit, we just got out of state takeover of the district, we have numerous challenges, but we have a good superintendent and good board members, and we are moving forward. We just need to get past the virus.”

Hall-Rayford said that there are many challenges the board has to confront right now to help ensure students in Eastpointe can get a good education.

“Right now, I just want to ensure the district remains a viable school district. There’s been so many issues with revenue sources, and I know that if the district fails, the city will fail,” she said. “We probably need to find some new funding sources. Hopefully with the new incoming administration in Washington, we will get back to a place where education is a priority.”

Looming over everything else right now is the COVID-19 pandemic. Hall-Rayford said that how it will affect students and how to keep the district safe is what the board has to deal with before everything else.

“COVID is obviously the biggest challenge right now,” Hall-Rayford said. “It’s hindering to some degree the ability to provide students with the ability to learn, because not every child has access to the internet or devices that they can use to keep up with the work. We have to make sure none of our students are left behind.”

As for personal goals while serving on the board, she said she wants to serve the school district, which she previously worked for.

“I’ve been involved in the community as a voice for residents, and I hope to continue to be a voice for them,” Hall-Rayford said. “I heard every resident, especially those with children, and I want to maintain communication with them. I want to serve the public.”

“First, second and third priority is the virus — navigating our way through this until we can get back to normal,” added Gruenberg. “We also have to ensure we are spending the sinking fund money voters approved last year well. Lastly, we need to assure we are bringing projects using those funds to fruition.”

Hall-Rayford also remarked that she was very honored to be selected by voters and that she is looking forward to working with other members of the board to improve the district.

“I have received a couple of phone calls (from school board members) that have been very welcoming,” she said. “I look forward to working with people who view this as a team effort and I look forward to being part of that team.”