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Wednesday, October 27,2010

Four local school board races

by Andy Balaskovitz
Dansville

Three candidates are running for two seats on the Dansville School Board.


One is incumbent and board President Mike Kapp, who is finishing his first term. Kapp, 51, holds degrees in public policy and economics from Michigan State University.


Kapp said the biggest issue facing Dansville schools is how a shrinking district budget will be able to maintain aging infrastructure, which Kapp called Dansville’s “unique challenge.”


Richard Martinez, 57, took criminal justice classes at the University of Detroit Mercy before taking up a job in the automotive industry full time. After being laid off recently, Martinez is a substitute bus driver for regional school districts. This is his first time running for an elected position.


His biggest fear for the district is that it gets merged with nearby districts as a cost-saving measure, he said.


Mark Slabaugh, 53, is the third candidate. Slabaugh, who has a bachelor’s degree in energy management from Eastern Michigan University, is an energy engineer at Johnson Controls, a high-tech manufacturing company that invented the first electric thermostat.


This is Slabaugh’s first time running for an elected position, and he agrees with Kapp that infrastructure improvements should be a high priority for the district.


East Lansing


Two seats are opening up on the East Lansing School Board, and three candidates are running for them.


Board treasurer Donna Rich-Kaplowitz has served for more than four years. She holds a Ph.D. in Latin American studies from John Hopkins University and works for the Residential College for Arts and Humanities at MSU.


She said the three main challenges facing the district are the shrinking budget because of less state funding, achievement gaps in learning and aging infrastructure at its elementary schools.


Attorney James Smith, 40, has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Cooley Law School. This is his first time running for an elected position.


Smith thinks the budget is the biggest issue before the board, and any efforts to resolve shortages that come from less state aid should seek “input from the entire community,” he said, especially if there is a need for consolidating buildings or cutting programs.


Jay Todd, an administrative law examiner for the state, is the third candidate. This is his first time running for an elected position.


He said the board will have to continue making “good, solid decisions” when it comes to budget constraints on the district.


Okemos


Two candidates face each other for a two-year partial term on the Okemos School Board. One is incumbent Deb Baughman, who has served on the board off and on since 1999. To solve the budget crisis, Baughman said the district has generated revenue by providing food and bus mechanic services to nearby districts and raising athletics fees and has cut costs by reducing staff.


Baughman’s opponent is Damian Fisher, president of Michigan Indian Legal Services, a Traverse City-based nonprofit that offers legal advice to low-income Native Americans. A private practice attorney, he earned his law degree from Cooley.


Waverly


Four candidates, including two incumbents, are running for two seats on the Waverly School Board.


Calvin Jones was appointed in 2001 to fill out a term before being elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He is the public relations director for the Lansing Board of Water and Light.


Jones said “money is always the issue” schools are facing, and Waverly is no different. However, he said there should be continued improvement on increasing graduation rates and establishing “parity in our student curriculum.”


The second incumbent is board Secretary Mary Ann Martin, who also is seeking her third term. Martin, who has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Michigan, is a certified lactation consultant.


Decreased state funding is the district’s biggest challenge, she said. The Legislature will need to figure out long-term fixes for it, she said, but for now it’s important everyone understands the district can’t run on structural deficits. The arts are one area Martin vows she will never support cutting, she said.


Former Waverly High School principal David Percival is also one of the candidates. Percival, who taught for 43 years before retiring in 2009, is running for office for the first time. “Anybody would be a fool to say the budget is not a concern,” he said. “How do we best disperse the money so kids do well?”


The fourth candidate is 19-year-old MSU prelaw student Trevor Pollo, who graduated from Waverly last year. Pollo is also a manager at Jersey Giant Subs and an intern for state Rep. Hugh Crawford.


Pollo believes creating a balanced budget is the biggest problem before the district. He said he will “stand firm” for saving arts, sports and reading programs “until there is absolutely nothing left to cut.”

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