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4 seek 2 GH school board seats

Krystle Wagner • Oct 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Two seats with six-year terms on the Grand Haven school board are up for election on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Four residents are running for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Education for Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Those individuals are Incumbent Christine Baker, Amy Masko, Stephen Rockman and incumbent Chris Streng.

Although Kevin Moore withdrew from the race, his name will still appear on the ballot.

In order to help voters get to know the candidates, the Tribune asked them to fill out a questionnaire. Below are their responses, in alphabetical order.

Christine Baker

Occupation: Retired educator

Previous elected offices held: Grand Haven Area Public Schools Board of Education, 2012 to present

In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? Prior to my election to the school board in 2012, I worked as an administrator in the district for 10 years from 1977-87. During the years my children were enrolled, I volunteered as a parent with the PTA and Sports and Music Boosters over a span of 20 years. For the last years of my education career, I worked as an early childhood consultant at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District. In that position I interfaced with GHAPS district early childhood staff and administration providing regional support to improve quality and availability of services to families with young children. Since being on the school board, I have been actively involved in all aspects of school operation from a policy, fiscal and program standpoint. Currently, I am the district board representative to the Grand Haven Schools Foundation, a resource to the district that has an early childhood strategic focus.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board? The GHAPS Board is strong, and continuity is important as we move forward with our strategic plan and improving student outcomes. My election would maintain continuity of leadership. I have worked hard to learn to be an effective board member through classes offered by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), and currently am a MASB Certified Board Member. To accomplish our goals, strong advocacy for public education in our community and with other elected officials is critical to improving statewide education funding and policy. I believe I provide that strong advocacy and wish to continue to positively influence the direction of education in our local community and state, and foster public support for the district. As a retired educator and parent of three GHHS graduates, I have much to offer the district with my time, perspective and expertise. My grandson is enrolled in the school district, so my personal interest and commitment is current and real-time.

What do you see as top challenges facing Grand Haven Area Public Schools, and how would you address the challenges? Grand Haven has many strengths in the areas of strategic visioning, teacher quality, administrative leadership, involved parents and a strong school board. However, the district has challenges around equity in educational outcomes, diversity and stabilizing finances. Improvements in these areas are being made, but higher stakes assessment, changing demographics and relatively stagnant state school aid are barriers we face. As a board program committee member, I have participated in decisions to improve the professional development of staff; alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment; using data to inform instruction; and adopt efforts to raise awareness about diversity. Through careful attention to budget, we have stabilized fund equity and introduced program options that attract students to our district. Our 10-year bond and a potentially successful enhancement millage will further shore up finances until public education is fully funded at recommended levels.

If elected, what would you like to accomplish?

My priorities include: fiscal stability, equity and excellence in student outcomes, culture of inclusiveness, professional development support, college and career readiness, expansion of early childhood programs, public school advocacy and community partnerships.

Amy Masko

Occupation: Professor of English education

Previous elected offices held: No public office, but I was elected president of the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (a professional organization) in 2013 by the association membership.

In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? I have provided long-term pro-bono professional development in Writing Pedagogy for Ferry Elementary School (for five years). I have also been a volunteer in many teachers’ classrooms over the years, served on district-level committees about diversity and was a coach for Destination Imagination for several years.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board? I have a Ph.D. in education and work in the preparation of new teachers at Grand Valley. One of my concerns in education is that the research is often kept separate from practice. Professors work with current research, but there is a theory-practice gap in public schools. I’d like to help bridge that gap for Grand Haven by serving on the school board, and bringing current research and educational theories to decision making.

What do you see as top challenges facing Grand Haven Area Public Schools, and how would you address the challenges? Grand Haven is a very strong school district with dedicated, hard-working and creative teachers. The achievement data continually demonstrates Grand Haven’s excellence. However, there is an achievement gap in Grand Haven schools that mimics the socioeconomic gap in the community. I would like to see our district work on closing that gap and bringing all students up to the level of excellence that is possible in this community.

If elected, what would you like to accomplish? I really would like to bridge that theory-practice gap that I mentioned. Here is a simple example: Accelerated Reader is a really common computerized reading program that is in a lot of classrooms across the country, Grand Haven included. However, the research is mainly critical of the program. The problem is that the marketing materials suggest that it is “proven effective,” which is based on the company’s own data, which is potentially biased. My knowledge about the current research in the field and my background in education could save the district money by putting resources into curriculum that is simply better.

Stephen Rockman

Occupation: Pharmacist, businessman, licensed attorney and father of a Grand Haven High School student in special education.

Previous elected offices held: Republican precinct delegate

In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? I have been involved as a parent with a student at Grand Haven High School, as an IEP advocate for our autistic son, speaking to the Board of Education and parents on issues of public importance, and reviewing and analyzing science textbooks recently purchased by the district.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board? To be an advocate for parents, students, special needs and school security.

What do you see as top challenges facing Grand Haven Area Public Schools, and how would you address the challenges? Too often I have observed, or have been informed of, instances where the school has become a venue for promoting divisive political discourse. I want to take the politics out of public education and keep the focus on preparing our students to be responsible and employed adults who can cope with the many uncomfortable challenges of life and who have a sound understanding of our country, its traditions and its values. This can be accomplished by creating school policies that give parents greater involvement in instructional material choices, such as the creation of a parent textbook purchase committee, and through policies that make the presentation of “controversial issues” and “student activism” during instructional time limited, balanced, factual and non-disruptive.

If elected, what would you like to accomplish? Parents are the primary educators of their children and know best what they want and need for their children. In addition to greater parent involvement in the curriculum, and taking the politics out of education, I want to focus on helping our special-needs students find meaningful employment and community living opportunities. The district currently offers to general education students the Marshall Plan for Talent and the Homegrown program. These opportunities help prepare students for job readiness in our own community. I want to do the same for special education. I think it is very important given the low employment rate of our special-needs students. I believe work is more than a check, I think it is also important for the dignity of all individuals. In addition, school security is critical. I will work with the Board of Education, the superintendent and local law enforcement to evaluate effective solutions that preserve our individual liberties and keep our children safe.

I will also make myself transparent, accountable and available. I will regularly publish a newsletter informing the community about the work I am doing on its behalf, encourage the community to attend and publicly comment at monthly school board meetings, regularly make myself available to personally meet with members of the community to discuss their issues of importance, and regularly visit our schools to share my observations with the community.

Chris Streng

Occupation: Operations manager for the JSJ Corp.

Previous elected offices held: Appointed to the GHAPS Board of Education in July 2017

In what ways are you/have you been involved in the district? I attended GHAPS from kindergarten (Mrs. Metzler’s class at Ferry Elementary) through graduating from Grand Haven Senior High. My wife, Kristi, and I are proud parents of seven children who attend GHAPS, from young fives at Mary A. White to two children at GHHS, our eldest in the early college program. I have volunteered to read to students through the Leadership Connect program and I have taken part in the Mary A. White Watch Dog Dad program as well as visiting classes in May to speak about Memorial Day. I have been the guest speaker at the GHACF annual Excellence In Education event. I attend numerous school/district events in support of my children and the district as a whole. Since being appointed to the school board, I have served as a trustee of the board for a year and a half. Outside of the school buildings, I have supported children in our district through coaching youth recreational and travel soccer for the past 12 years, United Way Community Investment panel leader, YMCA Board member, Rotary Youth Student Exchange committee member, Folds of Honor Michigan Board member (providing secondary and college scholarships to students in Michigan who are dependents of disabled/deceased veterans), and as the co-chair of the Reimagine Project (our community’s new ADA-compliant, all-inclusive play space) with my wife, Kristi. I am dedicated to our district through my actions.

Why are you running for a seat on the school board? I am a firm believer and supporter of public education. As a son of two educators, I have witnessed the positive impact teachers can make with their students. GHAPS provided me an outstanding educational foundation which provided me the opportunity to attend the United States Naval Academy, which led to me serving my country in the U.S. Navy for 11 years. I want to continue to serve on the Board of Education as an advocate for the children in our district and to ensure our teachers and staff have the tools necessary to provide the best possible education to our students. I will work diligently so that all children in our district have a voice and opportunities to achieve the goals they set.

What do you see as top challenges facing Grand Haven Community Schools, and how would you address the challenges? Funding of public education remains a top issue facing not only the GHAPS but districts statewide. I will continue to serve as a champion of public education, advocating for the children in our district to our elected state Legislature, to increase state funding of public education. Locally, I urge voters to approve the Ottawa Area Regional Enhancement Millage that will generate $226 per student in support of operational funding. As a school board member, I will build community understanding and support for public education through engaging the community, by attending district events and in dialog with community stakeholders. My vast involvement in our community service clubs, non-profit boards and community activities are collaborative avenues I will pursue to promote the needs of public education and to share the great successes of GHAPS. GHAPS provided me a great foundation in my lifelong learning; I am honored to give back to my community by serving on the Board of Education and I will continue to pursue the skills, knowledge and training to be an effective ambassador for the support of public education in our community.

If elected, what would you like to accomplish? Ensuring all children in our community have the ability to succeed is my overall goal. This goal is accomplished by aligning the GHAPS strategic plan and vision with student needs, while they are in our district and as they leave to further their education or enter the workforce.

I will work closely with the school board and Superintendent Ingall to ensure teachers and staff have the tools and training available to them, in order to provide early intervention in a child’s education. It is critical that our parents and district are able to access a child’s understanding and comprehension in learning early on. By partnering with local agencies, parents and the community, we will be able to ensure all children are ready for kindergarten and are meeting the standards needed so no child falls behind. As a leader in manufacturing, I am committed to exposing students to jobs and professions available in our community. The need of a technical skilled workforce is changing rapidly and we have the opportunity in our community to leverage partnerships with businesses to allow our children exposure to professions early on — we must continue to do this.

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