Harper Woods school board candidates weigh in prior to election

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 17, 2016

File photo by Alex Tekip

HARPER WOODS — On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Harper Woods residents will head to the polls to vote on a variety of issues. Among them is the race for the Harper Woods Public Schools Board of Education.

Six candidates are running for three four-year terms on the board. The candidates spoke with C & G Newspapers.

Ginny Foster comes into the race with a master’s degree in science and business management. She has two children in the district and said she is driven by a passion to improve the district.

“It’s important for me to be in a position to effect change for the better for my children and other people’s kids,” said Foster. “We need to focus on the needs of the children, and I want to be involved in the community and make a positive difference.”

Tabithia Mahone has served on the board for four years and comes from a computer programming background. She has two children attending Harper Woods Schools.

“I wanted to be a voice for parents and students,” said Mahone. “They needed representation, and I wanted to address some things I didn’t like, as well as work with parents, students and the community as a whole. We need more parent involvement in the district. That’s a challenge no matter where you go. We also want to keep kids in school and improve grades, but I think starting more hands-on activities to engage parents is the biggest issue right now.”

Jill Quarker is another incumbent who is just finishing her first four-year term. She comes from a business background and has two children attending the district.

“I originally wanted to serve on the board because I am a civics nerd and I really love politics,” laughed Quarker. “I want to continue because we are now in a period of improvement and transition, and I want to see this district through that process. I think the most pressing issue in the district right now is attracting and keeping qualified teachers. If we can’t hold on to the talent we have working in our classrooms right now, it will ultimately be a waste and will hurt students.”

LaVern Rutledge is a Harper Woods resident who retired from U.S. Tank Command in Warren. She first decided to run for the board after attending several school board meetings.

“I have been doing research and attending school board meetings, and I was approached by a member of the City Council who suggested I run, and it seemed like a good way to help my community. Harper Woods is becoming more diverse, and I want to keep pushing students and ensuring they have the chances to succeed no matter what challenges they have to face.”

Tianna Spencer is fairly new to the Harper Woods area, but has one child in the district and another who will begin attending school in the city next year. She is a food inspector for the state and said she wants to ensure that the district has the improvements necessary to not only help her children, but all students in the district.

“I have a vested interest because of my children, and I want to improve the district to make sure it’s a place where all kids can get a good education. I want to see improvements in technology, and I would like to see more field trips to complement classroom instruction, but I think the biggest issue facing the district now is ensuring enrollment remains steady or increases. In conjunction with this, I also would like to see more community outreach, particularly among pre-kindergarten programs in the area.”

Regina Williams has been a math teacher for Detroit Public Schools for 21 years. She has served on the Harper Woods school board for four years and is the current vice president of the board. She has no children attending school in the district, but she said she has a passion for education.

“I think I make good decisions for the kids of Harper Woods, and I would like to continue what I think has been good work,” said Williams. “I want to work to improve academics, and I want to set a strong curriculum to do that. I also want to improve the district’s technology capabilities. We’re on a good path in terms of technology; we just need to keep working at it.”

 

Partial term available
Three other candidates are running for one partial two-year term. They too shared some of their thoughts prior to the election.

George Jackson has a background in economics and a daughter who graduated from the district. Jackson said he was inspired to run by a desire to be proactive in the community.

“A lot of people talk about the issues affecting the community and do nothing. I wanted to take this opportunity to take action,” said Jackson. “I have looked at state aptitude tests, and they need to be improved. The district needs to work on communication and facility maintenance, but the biggest thing we need to do now is use the resources we have to improve grades. I had some brilliant professors in school who had no idea how to teach their subject. This can be the same in lower grades as well. I want to provide more tutoring and assistance programs for students and maybe use older students as tutors for younger students. We also could offer classes to parents to involve them more in their kids’ educations.”

Pertrine Rambus has two children attending Harper Woods Schools and said she is eager to get more involved in the district and the way it cares for its students.

“I believe the issues of enrollment and staffing are very important to the district,” said Rambus. “I do not have any former experience as a trustee or board member of a school district. However, I am currently employed as a kindergarten paraprofessional and have worked in the Harper Woods school district for the past three years.”

Tenisha Yancey is a prosecuting attorney for Wayne County and helps write legislation in the county. She has no kids in the district but has worked in the juvenile court system, something that she said pushed her to take an active role in the district.

“I see a lot of kids on the criminal or abuse and neglect side of things, so I wanted to also work more with the success stories as well,” said Yancey. “I think the biggest issue in the district right now is maintaining a strong curriculum and retaining experienced and talented teachers. I want to ensure teachers aren’t measured solely on test scores. I want to make sure teachers get more support to aid them in the classroom.”