‘We are extremely thankful for the passion and leadership’

January is School Board Recognition Month

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published January 11, 2019

WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS/CENTER LINE — They spend countless hours reading educational documents, cheer on student-athletes at sporting events, and attend as many school functions as possible.

They are the members of your local school boards, and this month is the ideal time to thank them for their dedication to public service, as January is School Board Recognition Month. School Board Recognition Month is observed annually as a way to salute the work that school board members do and to also celebrate public education.

School board members are state officers who carry out the state’s educational obligations at the local level. They set policy, study financial and curriculum reports, study proposals, research best practices, attend regular school board meetings and more.

Throughout January, students and educators in Warren Consolidated Schools and the Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke and Warren Woods public school districts will honor their school boards.

CLPS Superintendent Eve Kaltz said she feels “very, very blessed” to be able to work alongside the district’s board.

“They know how to speak to each other. They’re respectful. They’re just a really good board that is dedicated to this community and our students,” Kaltz said. “They are very focused on the success of the students. I am so pleased this school board has the mindset of ‘how does this benefit students, and what opportunities do all students have in order to achieve success?’”

Members on the Center Line school board have a combined 66 years of service: Gary Gasowski, 33 years; Shelley Harenski, two years; Henry Newnan, eight years; Karen Pietrzyk, 10 years; Gary Shimer, two years; Darrell Vickers, 11 years; and Wendy Watters, two months. The board was scheduled to elect its officers at a Jan. 14 meeting, after press time.

“We’re really trying to work on the financial end. That is something that is unknown a little bit. You’re not sure what your per pupil funding would be,” Pietrzyk said.

The method of conscious discipline in the classroom and school safety also are top priorities for Center Line.

“Sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions as long as you remember to keep the kids first. That’s what makes the big difference,” Pietrzyk said. “I kind of enjoy everything about being on the board. I like to help keep students first.”

As School Board Recognition Month unfolded, a dinner was planned Jan. 14 to acknowledge the Fitzgerald Public Schools Board of Education. Treasurer Judy Furgal has the distinction of being the board member with the longest tenure since being elected in July 2004. President Julia Yokel has served since February 2017; Vice President Anne Covert since July 2018; Secretary Randy Meisner since October 2012; Trustee Lori Eseman-Dreyer since July 2011; and Trustee Terry Wisniewski since April 2014. Trustee Kimberly Lee was appointed this month.

In Van Dyke Public Schools, Eleanor Bates has served since 2005; Diane Boehm since 1994; Richard Carloni since 2000; David Cowlbeck since 1994; Charlene Johnson-El since 2015; and Mark Kedzior from 1993 to 2010 and again since last year. Steve Nielson, who had served since 1995, recently stepped down to spend more time with family. The Board of Education was slated to appoint a new member at the Jan. 14 meeting.

This month, Lincoln Middle School will invite a board member to lunch and to visit with students. Lincoln High School will host a brunch for Kedzior, who will meet with a group of students. A date also has been set up for him to meet with the school’s culinary program and Principal’s Leadership Committee.

Johnson-El will visit the Success Academy students Jan. 22. Students will share information about the program and have lunch with her. The elementary staff and students usually host a breakfast or lunch for School Board Recognition Month.

The Warren Woods Public Schools community will formally honor the board at its Jan. 28 Board of Education meeting. According to Superintendent Stacey Denewith-Fici, school personnel from each building usually send over tokens of appreciation that in the past have included artwork, crafts, videos and cookies.

“In Warren Woods, we are blessed to have an incredibly strong and supportive Board of Education. People don’t often realize how important the board’s stability and support is to our district,” Denewith-Fici stated in an email. “Their job is to establish a vision for our education program, design a structure to achieve that vision, and advocate for continuous improvement in student achievement. The job of a school board member is tough, the hours (are) long, and the thanks are few and far between; these individuals volunteer their time like it is a full-time job. We are extremely thankful for the passion and leadership of our board.”

Trustee Gerald Barkey has served the longest with 23 and a half years of service, followed by President Jere Green with 23 years and Secretary Kay Walsh with 22 and a half years. Treasurer Michael Schulte has served for 10 years; Trustee Michael Fitzpatrick, six years; and Trustee Paul Zannetti, nine and a half years. The board’s newest member is Trustee Scott Hiller, elected in November 2018.

WCS officials are scheduled to honor the district’s Board of Education Jan. 16. Superintendent Robert Livernois is expected to read a resolution, and the board members will receive a certificate and a few small tokens of appreciation.

“The steadfast devotion of our Board of Education continues to serve our students and families very well,” Livernois said. “The level of commitment by our board members is extraordinary, and our entire community is better because of it.”

Here is a recap of each WCS board member and year elected: Susan Trombley, 2012; Megan Papasian-Broadwell, 2011; Susan Kattula, 2005; Brian White,  2005; Susan Jozwik, 2010-2014 and again in 2016; Leah Berdy, appointed October 2017 and elected November 2018; and Carl Weckerle, appointed May 2017 and elected November 2018.