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St. Clair Shores school board candidates look to make a difference

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 23, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With so many day-to-day decisions as to where and how students learn being made on a routine basis, members of local school boards have an arguably more hands-on impact on the lives of students now more than ever before.

Twelve local residents are running for reelection or election to seats on the school boards for South Lake Schools, Lakeview Public Schools and Lake Shore Public Schools Nov. 3. While not all of them face opposition, they all say they want a chance to positively impact the lives of local students.

“I love our Lake Shore school district. I still ... have children in the district,” said Elizabeth Munger, one of three candidates running unopposed for reelection to the Lake Shore Public Schools Board of Education. “I think we have a great administration and a great team of teachers, and I still want to work with them.”

Munger is running for her second six-year term. She said dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for school board members, who are doing the best that they can to keep students, staff and families safe while still providing the best education they can and budgeting for the added costs of operating in a pandemic.

“Our community was wonderful and passed our bond a few years back, which gave us a huge leg up. We already were one-to-one with technology, so our students had the opportunity to stay in touch with teachers,” she said.

Daniel Colling was appointed to the Lake Shore Board of Education in 2017 and ran for the remainder of the term in 2018. He is running, unopposed, for reelection to a full six-year term.

“Part of the reason why I feel like I should stay on the board is because we absolutely need stability, first and foremost,” he said. “I have a lot of unfinished business.”

Lake Shore had begun a strategic planning process that was halted due to the pandemic; Colling would like to finish that process and continue working toward making education in the district as equitable as possible.

“It’s really difficult because we were making such great progress in terms of project-based learning. The way our students were able to interact with their education in a different way ... we had, like, open seating and different ways for students to experience education and it was such a positive thing,” he said. “We’re obviously back to square one on that (but) ... we need to be able to provide the quality of education our students need and deserve.

“It’ll take up 100% of our focus until we’re out of the woods, which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.”

First elected in 2005, Sharon Bartl is also running unopposed for her seat on the Lake Shore Board of Education.

“I choose to continue serving because public education is the foundation of our society, and giving back to the community is important to me,” she said in an email interview.

She wants to be part of the ongoing growth and success of the district and said important issues facing education today include balancing COVID-19 readiness with the health and well-being of students and staff.

“Our students come to us with a variety of needs, and our schools are their safety nets,” she said. “It is imperative that we address the social and emotional needs of our students to enable them to focus on learning.”

Tight budgets will always be a problem in schools, she said; it is her goal to focus on what they can accomplish for students despite funding fluctuations and other obstacles.

Michael Bakotich and Amy Thomas-August are running for a partial term on the Lake Shore Board of Education that runs through 2022; they did not return calls for comment.

In Lakeview Public Schools, Daniel Dombrowski and Robbyn Martin are running, unopposed, for reelection to seats on the district’s Board of Education. Dombrowski did not return a call for comment, but Martin said she wanted to stay on the Board of Education to continue supporting Lakeview Public Schools and continuing its fiscal responsibility to the community.

“Keeping our money focused on education and continuing to be a successful district and using our bond monies that we’ve received to make sure that all the things that we have planned are completed,” are her goals, she said. “I will continue to listen to parents and teachers and students to make the decisions that the people of our district are relying on me to make.”

Four people are running for three seats in South Lake Schools, including incumbent Renard Morey-Greer. In addition, Jason Miller is running unopposed for the remainder of the term he was appointed to fill in April, through 2024. There is also one partial term remaining on the board for which no candidates filed.

“I really care about the community, and I think the schools in South Lake, in particular, are facing a lot of difficult issues and it’s really important that we run them as best as possible,” said Joseph Fresard, who is running for a seat on the Board of Education.

He said he was in favor of the restructuring of the elementary schools, which was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district is now housing the South Lake Digital Academy for virtual learning and preschool at Koepsell Elementary School, kindergarten through second grade at Avalon Elementary, and third through fifth grades at Elmwood Elementary.

“It’s kind of a bold move, but hopefully it works out well,” he said.

Also running for a seat on the board is Veronica Williams. She said she has been involved with the schools through parent-teacher organizations and wanted to expand that involvement.

She said it is important to keep children who live in South Lake’s boundaries in the district, and she’s “passionate about is getting some diversity in our leadership and our teaching ... working toward equity in education.”

Morey-Greer and the fourth candidate, Jamie Williams, did not return requests for comment on the story.

Miller was appointed to an open seat on the South Lake Board of Education in April and wanted to finish out the term he had begun. Since he has children in elementary and high school, he “wanted to contribute and be effective for the district.”

“At the moment, right now, the focus we have really is to get the kids back in seats, make sure that the buildings and facilities are safe. We’ve been taking personal oversight of that,” he said.

While it’s important that it is done safely, Miller said “the quality of education is much stronger when they’re in seats versus the online.”

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