By Travis Smola
Schoolcraft probably can’t go wrong with any of the five candidates running for two seats on the Board of Education, according to Sue Moore, moderator of the PTO-sponsored Meet the Candidates night.
Running for the spot he’s held for the last 34 years is Merritt “Skip” Fox. He’s joined by Jennifer Gottschalk, who has held a position on the board the past four months after being sworn in to fill the vacancy left by Matt DeVoe back in July. The two incumbents are running against Kurt Wagner, Jill VanDyken-Hunt and Bruce Vincent. Wagner and Vincent both interviewed for the vacancy position back in July.
Issues discussed included things like student safety, an issue each of the candidates took quite seriously. Each is pleased with the buzz-in system in place where visitors have to identify themselves before being allowed in the building after school starts. Gottschalk and VanDyken-Hunt both praised the new security system installed in the Eagle Zone.
Each offered ideas on how to improve upon safety issues such as security officers, a safety patrol and improving communication channels. Wagner liked what the district has been doing, but sees room for improvement.
There was a consensus among the candidates that managing the superintendent and communicating with the community were key duties. Ensuring policies are up to date and enforced were also important. VanDyken-Hunt noted the importance of the board using funds in an appropriate manner to keep facilities maintained.
The candidates also gave opinions on the possibility of being in the minority vote on an issue. While they all said they wanted to ensure their opinions and voice were heard, they also all wanted to make sure they could work with other members of the board to develop a consensus on hot-button issues.
Fox said he once found himself in the minority on the issue of whether to keep the soccer program. He said he’s happy to see its success now and was glad he was wrong. He noted that a board member just has to accept the majority opinion.
“There are seven members. If four or six vote for something, that’s the way it is,” Fox said. “You have to say you can live with it.”
The candidates would also like to get the community to attend more board meetings. In order to boost attendance, most would like to get more information to the public ahead of time. They would also like the public to feel like they have the opportunity to have their voices heard. Gottschalk noted being in the audience was very different than being behind the scenes in her short time on the board.
She also liked the night’s meeting was being broadcast on Facebook live.
“I think we can engage more people by doing things like that,” Gottschalk said, adding; “We have to give people a reason to come.”
All of the candidates cited vested interests in being on the board, whether it was having children and grandchildren in the system, or having teachers as close family or friends. Vincent said he knew over a dozen teachers and has walked to over 400 households in his campaign effort.
“You can see in my life and my career what I’m currently doing, I can get things done, Vincent said. “I know I can do this. I wouldn’t be running if I couldn’t.”