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Grand Ledge Public Schools Board Member 6 -Year Term {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Grand Ledge school board

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    Jay Bennett

  • Denise DuFort

  • Candidate picture

    William Fleener

  • Matthew T. Pierson

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    Sara Clark Pierson

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Biographical Information

Why are you running for school board? Please mention any experience or background that makes you particularly qualified to serve.

What are the three biggest issues facing your district and how do you propose to address them? Which issue is your top priority?

If budget cuts become necessary during your term, what would you be willing to sacrifice?

If necessary to meet budget constraints, would you support closing a school building?

Are you satisfied with the academic achievement in your district? Why or why not?

Are you satisfied with the facilities in your district? Why or why not?

Are you satisfied with the performance of your superintendent? Why or why not?

Are you current in all tax, alimony and child support obligations? If not, please explain.

Home address 12405 Madonna Dr
Hometown Delta Township
Education BA Education MA Special Education
Family I have been married to my wonderful wife Angie for 21 years and we have two children, Melissa and Colton.
Professional Experience I have over 20 years experience in the K-12 education field including time as a middle and high school special education teacher, online educator and professional development provider.
Political Experience I am finishing up my first term as a member of the Grand Ledge School Board where I have served as President, Vice-President and Secretary.
I am running for re-election to the school board to continue the work that I started and to help take Grand Ledge from a good district to a great district. I believe that changes in curriculum and educational philosophy along with key changes in personnel over the past five years have put Grand Ledge on the precipice of becoming a premier academic district in the region and state. I am confident that my background as an educator and advocate combined with my previous board experience place me in a unique position to help transform our district into one that benefits all of our students and that will continue to make our community proud.
Academic test scores, financing, infrastructure. I am not a fan of high stakes testing but I am instead an advocate for the appropriate assessment of our students to help our district identify the necessary instructional and curricular changes that need to be made to ensure that all students are successful. I will also continue my work with our state school board association to lobby our state legislature to use the recently completed school adequacy study as a starting point for an overdue overhaul of statewide school financing. Aging buildings and infrastructure are an ongoing concern and I will make sure that our current sinking fund and any future bond proposals address these issues.
If budget sacrifices become necessary then our duty as a board and administrative team will be to make appropriate cuts that do not adversely affect the educational opportunities that we are obligated to provide to our students. Any cuts would be difficult as we have been an efficient and fiscally mindful district during my service on the board and I see no "low hanging fruit" from which to make "easy" budget reductions or cuts.
As I stated earlier, we would have to make the appropriate cuts where they would not adversely affect the education of our students. It is fortunate that our current student population projections are towards growth so I do not foresee the need to close a building in the near future. I served on a committee as a parent representative during the last major building closures and if it were deemed necessary and prudent during my next term to close a building then I would look to my fellow board and administrative team and we would have to determine the most appropriate action. If it was decided that the closing of a building was necessary then I would support it as an appropriate action.
I am not. I think that as a district we need to continue to pursue continued academic growth. I believe that the changes that have occurred over my term in both curriculum and personnel have helped and will continue to help our district make positive gains in academic achievement and I expect that our district will continue towards an upward trend in the areas of academic growth and achievement.
I am for the most part. As with any district with older buildings we do have our challenges. I think that our sinking fund and a possible future bond request will help address these needs. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the praise and respect I have for the men and women of our maintenance and custodial crews that go above and beyond to help ensure that our buildings and grounds are clean, tidy and ready to serve our student populations.
Absolutely. I think that Dr. Metcalf has put together a strong administrative team that makes sure that were are hiring the best employees, using the most appropriate curriculum and the latest technology while also remaining a fiscally sound district. During his tenure we have seen the addition of an incredibly popular and growing preschool program, a growing population of students, prudent fiscal policies and important work toward moving our district forward in our academics, arts, and athletics.
I am current in all of my tax obligations. I have no obligations toward alimony or child support.
Hometown Grand Ledge
Education Bachelor's from Oakland University, Elementary Education Master's from Michigan State University, Language & Literacy K-12
Family Spouse, Dean Adult children, Nicole and Scott
Professional Experience Worked in public and charter schools as parent volunteer, teaching assistant, librarian, classroom teacher, and reading specialist over 30 years
Political Experience This is my first experience running for elected position.
As a life long learner and educator I feel I have a unique perspective to offer as a member of the GLPS board. I have had many opportunities to work and observe in a variety of school settings within the state of Michigan and beyond as both a parent and educator. My recent retirement allows me the flexibility of time and resources to devote to this position. I believe in community service. My passion for high quality public education and my educational background and experience will bring a strong and positive energy to the board. I am trustworthy, reliable, and committed.
I believe the three most critical issues currently facing the GLPS district are the need to pass a new bond proposal, reviewing teacher/parent concerns (class sizes, teaching assistants, retention of high quality teachers, planning time), and continuing to demonstrate academic growth for every individual student.

I know there has been regular discussion about all of these areas at recent board meetings and there is currently a Bond Committee that has been meeting. I would like to become involved with the Bond Committee and encourage a strong community involvement component. Additionally,continuing to encourage and seek out new ideas and alternatives for staff support and student growth.
This is a very difficult and complex question...I would have to have access to more in depth district information before making such a decision. I do however strongly support the arts and physical education instruction at all levels. I also know early intervention for struggling learners is imperative for a high quality district.
No. Our current buildings are at or close to capacity with some still using outside portable classrooms.
Yes, however I know we can do better! Specifically, support of our at risk learners needs to be improved. We have many advanced placement classes at the high school level; our strongest students are able to gain admittance to many top colleges and universities. I would also like to see more vocational education opportunities.
No, there are some critical heating/ cooling issues in some of our buildings. I do believe that overall our buildings are safe and well maintained. This would hopefully be addressed in future bond proposal.
I believe Dr. Metcalf has done an adequate job overall but question his connection to the community. I feel he has not given enough weight to community input regarding the last two failed bond attempts. I also feel there is room for improving the respect between Dr. Metcalf and the teaching staff within the GLPS buildings.
Yes.
Hometown Muskegon Mi
Education BS WMU JD WMU-Cooley Law School
Family Wife Yvonne Children Eryn and Trey
Professional Experience I have been an advocate for Children in education setting for over 20 years
Political Experience I have not held any other political office
I believe the current board has handled many situation very badly. The failed bonds, the teacher contract negotiations, and others, have shown this board ill equipped to move out school district forward. Which ever side you are on on these issues, i don't know anyone who thinks that the board handled these well. We can do better for out kids, out schools, and our community.
The biggest issue for schools is perpetually funding. Grand Ledge receives significantly less money per pupil than other districts in the region. A priority would be increasing that. In addition, the board must find a way to propose a bond that is palatable to the community. The past bonds contained some very necessary items related to safety and access to schools that must be funded.
Grand Ledge has reduced costs in many ways recently. A recent increase in pupil funding should help to maintain current level of services for the foreseeable future. If it should truly be necessary to further reduce services, i would try and be as open as possible about the options and seek input from community members on what to prioritize. In the past, there have been a lot of questions about decisions to increase certain budget items while reducing others. This has also been done in ways that were not transparent. The community is willing to accept the realities of funding if the process is fair and open.
Closing buildings has a troubled history in Grand Ledge we have recently open buildings that were previously closed and or sold. School closing decisions should be made based on student numbers and look to the future to determine what the numbers are likely to be. Closing and reopening schools may be more expensive than keeping them open during a short term lull in enrollment.
In general, Grand Ledge is doing a good job with educating students but we can always do better.
In general the schools and other facilities in the district are satisfactory, but the past bond proposals have pointed some deficiencies such as safety and building access issues. We are all concerned about safety in schools particularly given incidents over the last several years. Funding for this must be found. In addition, there are still some classes in the district that are too large.
Overall, I believe he has done some things very well but there have been significant questions about his level of pay at a time when we were claiming financial hardship in teacher contract negotiations. The optics of this have not been well received by the community and more transparency and open communications may have helped this.
Yes
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Hometown Grand Ledge
Education Grand Ledge graduate BA Economics U of Michigan, Ann Arbor JD Northeastern University, Boston
Family 3 Children graduated from Grand Ledge 10 brothers and sisters Clark Family has been here for over 180 years
Professional Experience Tax Attorney/CPA with Michigan Treasury Assistant to Chief Deputy for Detroit pre-bankruptcy hearing Income tax taxpayer advocate 13 years bank board of directors College Instructor for accounting Notre Dame/Baltimore CPA Instructor Lansing Community College
Political Experience Eaton RESA board member (removed the RESA Superintendent and sole vote to not pay severance pay ) 10 years Clinton Co Commissioner 24 years Community Mental Health Board State wide chair of Public Health Board
I care about kids and the future of public education. We have to do better in math and reading literacy. As a CPA/ lawyer, I quickly grasp budgets, financial data and I know how to be an advocate. Last year GLPS sent me to serve on the Eaton RESA board. Within 10 weeks I had removed the ERESA superintendent for mismanagement. As a result, ERESA has increased services to GLPS for emotionally impaired children, increased career & technical education and provided additional math and reading specialists. ERESA also paid GLPS $500,000 for special education needs. At Michigan Treasury, I served as a taxpayer advocate and as the special assistant to the Chief Deputy Treasurer on Detroit.
1) Math test scores for 1st through 8th grade are mostly at or below the state level. I refocused the Eaton RESA budget to provide Grand Ledge with more math specialists. I require principals to update the board on proficiency every marking period. I ask every principal if he or she knows the names of the kids who failed and what is the plan for those kids. 2) Reading literacy is not as low as math, but it is still not what our kids deserve from us. I have arranged for more reading specialist for 1st thru 3rd grade. 3) The suffering of emotionally impaired children disrupts their education and sometimes other kids too. I got Eaton RESA to provide GL with $500,000 plus more services.
Budget cuts have been the norm for all Michigan public schools for more than a decade. With State mandates, there are few programs that can be cut entirely. The sacrifice comes as a thousand small cuts that gradually burden the whole. GL is a very lean school system after years of underfunding by the State. Administrative costs are among the lowest in Michigan. Budgets are balanced by various means such as lengthening the school day and reducing the number of days to save on busing costs, utility costs and non-teaching services. Each program is shaved by having fewer people perform the same services. It is not a long term solution but there is no fluff to cut.
I have. Grand Ledge held a community meeting about 7 years ago and 1,000 people attended. We announced the closing of Holbrook and Greenwood and the redesign of Neff as an all kindergarten school. Beagle would become an elementary school; Hayes would become the only middle school with just 7th and 8th grades. We received remarkable support and with a year to prepare, we avoided all but one layoff out of approximately 50 planned layoffs. The remaining 49 took the time to find new jobs or return to college. Giving staff and the community time to prepare were key elements to such a tough decision. Holbrook is now our very successful (and self-supporting) early childhood center.
No, I am not absolutely not satisfied. Our kids should score higher in math and reading in grades 1-8. As a group, they often score below or just at the State average. Grand Ledge can and should do better. I am very focused on budgeting resources for these young students and on making sure that principals in every school know the names of their kids, know which ones are lagging in math and reading and I demand that they have a plan for each of those struggling kids.
Grand Ledge has some great facilities and some that are barely adequate. But with more than 5,000 kids using them daily, the wear and tear mounts up quickly. Maintaining more than a million square feet of floors and roofs and keeping classroom equipment and furniture in shape is a never ending job. It requires planning for additional millage way in advance of the date when items have to replaced. Computer technology and bandwidth are expensive but necessary for our kids. The State requires testing to be done on computers and financial data from the business office to be reported electronically. These mandates come with a huge cost that requires continuous investment and planning.
I am satisfied with Dr. Brian Metcalf's performance over the last five years but he knows of my concerns about math and reading scores. I am pleased with his background in the three major areas of school management: finance, human resources and curriculum. I believe he is focused to provide our kids with the help they must have. In addition, Dr. Metcalf spent countless hours supporting me as I worked to remove Eaton RESA's superintendent who had created financial chaos for Eaton RESA and reduced services to GLPS in math, reading and services to our young emotionally impaired children. Dr. Metcalf's determination to get our kids more help was instrumental and unwavering.
I am current on all taxes. Alimony and child support are not applicable.

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