Six candidates are vying for two seats on the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 2 General Election.
The four-year terms of Board President David Peer and Board Secretary Victor Hogan are expiring and they both are running for reelection, along with four others who are seeking election to their seats.
Each person running for election to the school board filled out an Independentcandidate questionnaire. The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order with the information and comments they provided.
Sherry Frazier, a former member of the school board, is running for a seat this election. She is a retired educator.
Frazier, 62, has lived in the school district for 27 years. She and her husband Wayne live in Van Buren Township. They have three children, Andrew, William, and Su.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and her master’s degree at the University of Michigan, and Educational Specialist Degree from Wayne State University.
Frazier was elected to two, four-year terms on the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education and served 1986-94. She also served 1992-94 on the Wayne Oakland Library Federation Board, presently called “The Library Network.”
Frazier enjoys her family, grandchildren, and staying current. She is a member of the National and Michigan Association of Realtors, Wayne Oakland Realty Association, Michigan Association of Media Educations, Michigan Education Association, and American Library Association.
Frazier explains why she is running for office:
“It would be easy for me to pass up running for office again. But I know I need to get out of my comfort zone, and risk an attempt. I have three children who are successful graduates of Belleville and two grandchildren, elementary and high school, who are attending VBPS. Mediocrity is not acceptable; striving for excellence is what we must achieve.
“The state of Michigan has cited VBPS as a low-achieving school district because of our continuing low test scores. We have not done a good job of communicating and breaking down what our test scores really mean.
“$ is not the only answer, we get more per child than some neighboring schools that have better test scores. We don’t communicate or break down the test scores so that the community understands the difference.
“While we have many challenges facing us, a poor economy, not enough $ from Lansing, we can’t let that get us down. A recession can restore resourcefulness.
“We need our community, parents, students, and staff to commit to challenge ourselves. We have many opportunities, a new high school being built; new technology resources that will be available for students and staff, and a community that supports its school system. We need to look at addressing class size, use of para pros to support teachers, mentoring, tutoring, hiring process, and employee morale.
“I have been an educator and active realtor for over 30 years, so I know first-hand how important a school district’s test scores and reputation are. It cannot be business as usual; having a 60% graduation rate is not acceptable. We must train our students for some kind of continuing education, community college, 4-year degree, technical or vocational training.
“Statistics show that a graduating senior cannot survive on a minimum wage salary. We need to drive this fact home with students. Education is the only way to get ahead in today’s economy and it is the only hope for a democracy to remain strong.
“We need to find a school district that is succeeding and adopt their success. Let’s take charge of our future and live up to our full potential as a school district. Let’s once again be a model of attempting to overcome obstacles by developing positive habit patterns designed for success, integrating a winner’s mindset for our students.
“We have to pull together now more than ever to make every $ and effort count. VBPS needs to move in a new direction, place all our efforts on academic achievement and raising our test scores. We must give our students every opportunity to succeed,” Frazier said.
As to her goals once elected, Frazier listed:
* Improve academic achievement and test scores. Better breakdown of what our test scores really mean;
* Address class size, split classes, establishing more mentoring and tutoring opportunities for students and staff;
* Implement a technology plan and vision for the school district. Increase student and staff access to technology and training;
* Improve graduation rate. Implement more technical and vocational partnering with other school districts and community colleges; and
* Using VBPS website to increase communication and survey the community concerns.
Victor Hogan, of Hull Road, Van Buren Township, has been on the school board for many years and currently serves as board secretary.
Hogan, 65, has lived in the school district all his life. He is married to Linda (BHS Class of 1966) and they have two sons, Christopher (BHS 1990) and Adam (BHS 2002).
Hogan is a cancer researcher at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University. For the last 20 years he has functioned as a cancer research and the projects manager for the Metastasis Research Group at the Cancer Institute. As projects manager, he oversees budgets, supervises a cancer research laboratory and its scientific personnel, and coordinates the efforts towards the accomplishment of five ongoing projects.
Hogan earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Michigan in 1967, his master of science degree from Eastern Michigan University, 1975, in cellular and molecular biology, as well as taking additional post-degree course work at Wayne State University in 1970 and EMU, 1985-86, which includes courses in secondary education.
His hobbies include gardening and tennis.
Hogan said he is running for office because, “Having lived in the township my whole life, the Van Buren Township community has been and is a very important part of my life. Since I intend to continue to live here, an important factor in the future is the quality of life we will experience.
“In my opinion, there is nothing that influences the quality of life in any community to a greater extent than the educational system. When you think of communities that have access to good libraries, museums, art, parks, recreational facilities, high-paying jobs, a variety of great businesses, etc., you realize that what they have in common is a great educational system. I want to help create such a system here, and indirectly improve the quality of life in our community.”
Hogan said, concerning his goals, “In my opinion, the most important goal in improving the educational system here is to increase student achievement. All of our schools are now Title I schools, which means that we have a very large student population that come from economically disadvantaged homes and in our district about half of the children entering the ninth grade were not in our district as kindergarteners.
“As a result, we have a student populations coming from a number of other districts, often coming to us unprepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. One important way to address the issue of student achievement can be summed up in two words: early intervention.
“My goal would be to ensure that students are continually assessed for the instruction they have missed and intervene quickly to ensure that no child gets so far behind in the demanding requirements of successful learning that they just throw up their hands and give up.
“This is not an easy task. It requires that we dedicate our efforts and precious resources to that goal. It is not easy, but it is the responsibility and duty of public schools to educate all of the children in the district, not to the best of our ability, but to the best of their abilities, whether they have been with us for 13 years or one day,” Hogan said.
Michael Miazga, 42, of Van Buren Township is running for his first elective office. He has been a resident of the school district for nine years.
He is married to Beth Miazga and they live on East Huron River Drive. He is a manager of a small, home-based business.
Miazga earned his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Ashford University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Ashford.
He presently is chairman of the Van Buren Township Public Safety Committee, an appointed, volunteer position.
Miazga is co-chairman of the local chapter of the Michigan Community Child Watch Program, treasurer of Masonic Temple of Belleville, a member of Friends of the Fred C. Fischer Library, and a Romulus Flyers football coach. He enjoys golf and all sporting games.
In explaining why he is running for office, Miazga said: “Living here the last nine years, I have noticed significant declines in the way our school system is managed. The taxpayers have decided a new high school is to be built, but without new leadership this school district will continue to graduate students without a solid education.
“The school district has lost many students, their safety has been compromised, and our budget is in the red. Without new leadership, our school district will continue on this downward spiral and the results will be evident with families leaving this area forever.”
As to his goals once elected, Miazga said: “My goals when elected are to increase scores of all our students K-12, provide our students with the education needed for success in this ever-changing work environment. Establish a safe environment for all our children, focusing on ways to deter drug and weapons from being brought to any of our schools. Create a truancy policy that works, making sure that all students are attending their classes or have proper clearance, if absent. And work to fix the budget so the money the school district receives is spent on important and needed tools for children to obtain a solid education while balancing the budget.”
He is seeking election with a running mate, Scott Russell.
Ralph A. Nodwell
Ralph A. Nodwell, of Riggs Road, Van Buren Township, is a 13-year veteran of the school board. His term was up for reelection in 2009, but he missed the filing deadline because he was out of state. He ran a write-in campaign, but lost to candidate Kevin English.
This year, Nodwell filed early for the election.
In June 1996, Nodwell first ran for the school board, but lost. He was appointed to the seat in November of that year after Sharry Budd resigned from the board to take political office in Van Buren Township.
Nodwell then won a four-year seat in 1997 and then was reelected again in 2001 and 2005.
Nodwell, 76, has lived in the school district since 1979. He has an associate’s degree in mechanical technology (engineering) and is retired.
He is married to Arleen and they have three daughters, Joan, Coreen and Sharleen.
He teaches small engine repair at Wayne County Community College and Washtenaw Community College and has served on the Van Buren Township Parks and Recreation Committee.
While he was a school board member he attended many school board educational seminars at the state level (Michigan Association of School Boards) and acquired board member certifications. He served on the MASB By-laws and Resolution committee and the Wayne RESA Executive Committee.
He was presented with the MASB’s President’s Award in 2007 and many awards over the years for community service from the Chamber of Commerce, Council for the Arts, Optimist International, and statewide organizations.
Nodwell said he wants to complete many projects he was working on during his last position on the board to “bring a positive outlook for the Van Buren Public Schools.”
His goals, once elected, include supporting VB teachers, supporting local educational representatives and organizations, representing the teachers and administrative staff.
“I want to see the new high school full of educated students rated highest in the state,” Nodwell said.
During his years of community service, Nodwell raised $21,000 to purchase a Fire Safety House as an educational tool for the tri-community fire departments.
He also served as Santa Claus at the Festival of Trees to benefit Children’s Hospital for more than 10 years and served as Strawberry Festival president.
David Peer, 56, of Ypsilanti Township is president of the school board and he is seeking re-election to the board. He currently is completing his fifth, four-year, elected term on the school board.
He has lived in the school district for 32 years and is retired from Ford Motor Company. He attended Washtenaw Community College.
Peer is married to Sandra and they have two children, Samantha and Alexander.
He enjoys spending time with his granddaughter and doing woodworking.
Peer explains why he is running:
“This year we started the construction of the new Belleville High School, and we asked our architects to design a building with flexible learning spaces that could accommodate a multitude of different program designs.
“We also asked the district and high school administration to begin designing instructional programs that allow students to learn in ways that are meaningful, that teach students to think critically, and that give them the skills and tools to apply their knowledge to today’s societal pressures, job market and future educational endeavors.
“At Belleville High School the culture is already evolving. Mr. Van Tassel and his staff have acknowledged that they must change the current model of teaching and learning, and are now actively exploring ways they can implement that change.
“Our curriculum department is taking a new approach as they develop and align our curriculum to meet state standards. The entire teaching staff has been meeting in grade level and content area groups to identify the essentials that students need to master before moving on to the next grade.
“They are developing and implementing district-wide common assessments and grading policies, so that each classroom, grade and school will be using the same standards to measure student learning.
“Starting this school year, all teachers are required to meet with their building principals on a quarterly basis to discuss the progress of each individual student, and to then develop a plan to address the needs of those not making progress.
“The building principals will then meet with our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and together will use that information to identify and implement district level strategies to provide additional support to students and teachers.
“This is a continuous process, so if we do not produce the expected results, we will use those same resources to try something else.
“The school board has begun requiring quarterly reports that show the percentage of students receiving a grade of C or better in each subject area. At the end of the first quarter of this school year, we will receive a summary of the meetings our Director of Curriculum and Instruction has had with building principals. This summary will include very specific details about student results, and most importantly, what we plan to do to improve those results.
“We have started a hard and extremely focused run down the road to improving student learning. I ask that you vote for me for school board on Nov. 2, as I would like the opportunity to ensure that we continue down that road. I believe we can and will become a school district on the list of most-improved schools, and that we absolutely will be a school district whose graduates can face life’s challenges with competence, confidence and success.”
Peer said his only goal is: “Improve student achievement.”
Scott K. Russell, 42, of Chaney Street in Van Buren Township is running for his first elective office.
He is a nine-year resident of the school district. He and his wife Mendie C. Russell have two children who both attend the Van Buren Public Schools.
Russell earned a bachelor of science degree from Michigan State University and works as a Market Research Professional for J.D. Power & Associates.
He serves as co-chairman of the local chapter of the Michigan Community Child Watch Program, is a board member of the Legacy Scholarship Fund and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church. He enjoys recreational sports.
In explaining why he seeking office, Russell said, “I am running for school board because our leaders have failed us. They have failed our children, they have failed our community, and they have failed in their obligation to provide a quality education.
“Belleville High School is ranked in the 19th percentile across the state below 81% of all other high schools. 71% of our students have failed math proficiency on the Michigan Merit Exam. 49% of our students failed reading proficiency on the Michigan Merit Exam. Our leaders keep making excuses about why our schools are failing. Isn’t it time we demanded better?”
As to his goals, once elected, Russell said: “When I’m elected, I’ll fight to restore safety, quality education, and fiscal responsibility to our school district.
“I’ll work to hire back our laid-off teachers and paraprofessionals. I’ll make our children’s education a top priority and I won’t make excuses for failure. Our children deserve the best. Our children deserve New Leadership.”
Russell invites people to visit: www.newleadershipforbelleville.com