Four Marion School Board seats are up for grabs

November 2, 2018

By John Raffel

It’ a crowded field in the race for four Marion Board of Education seats in next Tuesday’s election.

There are eight candidates for the four spots:

Monica Cox, Tammy Ladd, Chris McCrimmon, Ryan A. Raymond. Cindy Truxton, Courtney Wilson, Keith G. Calkins and Angela M. Carpenter.

Cox, McCrimmon, Raymond and Wilson are incumbents.

The Marion Press in last week’s issue and through other means invited the candidates to provide information and thoughts to the community on the school board. Three have responded: Cox, Raymond and Calkins.

Monica Cox

Cox has served on the school board for the past 10 years and has lived in Marion for the last 18 years with her family.
“I feel that it is important that we have a school board members who have a vested interest in the education of our children,” he said. “ Having two students who attend Marion I can see the direct impact that decisions the board makes have on our students. Marion Public Schools is the heart and soul of our community. Our school represent the best we have to offer from the excellent staff, our outstanding students, and the updated facilities that our recent bond has improved. We also have wonderful parents and volunteers that support our district.

“I am level 2 certified with the Michigan Association of School Boards and if re-elected I hope to further my education with the MASB so that I am better able to serve Marion Public Schools. School board members are elected to represent the entire community. As a board member I feel that I make every decision based on factual information, our board policies and governing laws, and what is best for the students and for our schools. While we have faced challenges in the past, I believe that we have risen to each obstacle and have created positive change. I feel that Marion is a great school and has a lot to offer our students.”

If re-elected, Cox said her top objectives would be:

‘Focus on improving our students’ educational opportunities and options. One new program that the board is looking into is Michigan Virtual. This is a very exciting program in the opportunities it will give our student and community. This program offers support to those students who need extra tools to succeed. It also provides additional class options to our students. One additional benefit is that it offers a credit recovery program and also a diploma to those individuals who would like to complete their high school education.

“I would like to see the district increase our fund balance. Every year we have to borrow from the state to make payroll until we receive our state aid payment. I would like to see our fund balance increase so that we do not have to borrow. While the rates may be low, it is still costing the district money that would be better spent in the classroom.

“Continue to improve the perception of our school. Marion is such a great school but it seems like sometime members of our community are our worst enemies. My hope would be that to rather spread rumors they will reach out to the district to find out facts. With so many wonderful things going on in Marion Schools we need to work together to promote the positive. In doing this I feel that families will see all the great things happening in Marion and want to bring their children to our district.

“Developed a long-term plan for our facilities. We know the projected lifespan of equipment and material. We need to have a plan in place for when these items are going to need to be updated or replace. This would help guide our budget knowing what will be needed and when.”
Cox said she would promise to continue being a voice for students-parents-and community, to support district staff, and to preserve and improve the quality of the school system.

“If chosen to continue to serve the community of Marion,” she said, “I promise that I will as I always have, make every decision with a focus on all students’ education. We must make sure that every student who embarks on life’s journey is prepared to meet the challenges in life that they will face. We know that to be successful in life, it is not how much you know, it is to know what to do with the knowledge you have.

“The board must focus on support enriching our students’ educational experience. Our students deserve a board that is looking out for their best interests, without personal agendas. I can assure you my only agenda, as a parent, is to continue to look out for and support all the students, parents, and staff of Marion Public Schools.

Ryan Raymond

Raymond has been a life long resident of Marion along with his Wife, and both of their parents and grandparents as well.
“I have volunteered most of my adult life after graduating from Marion Public Schools to work with children in most of the sporting atmosphere, by being a volunteer coach for the Marion Little League, youth soccer, middle school volleyball, middle school basketball, middle school track,” he said. “For the last several years, I have volunteered my time around the calendar for today’s youth. You can see me every Sunday at the Marion Athletic Center working with kids and also counseling many to try to make a positive impact in their lives.”

For the last seven years he has been employed at Pollington Machine Tool in Marion.

“This has given me the great experience of working in Marion,” Raymond said. “In this format I have had the experience of being part of a continually expanding company. Thus far, it has been an unbelievably fun and very beneficial experience. The staff has been great to work with, and all of our success solely revolves around a team effort.”

Raymond has been on the board four years.

“It has been an incredible experience,” he said. “I have learned a lot about policies, and processes alike. I really feel like this last year I have started to come in to having a stronger seat on the board which comes from experience. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am my own man and knows I will debate my thoughts, and will also admit when I am wrong, and will also apologize accordingly. I look forward to being able to serve the school and the community for the next several years.”

Keith G. Calkins

Calkins,was raised on a farm east of Tustin. Since fall 2011 he has taught physics, chemistry, computer science, and freshmen seminar at Ferris State University.

“Let’s be clear, I don’t want to be on the board, but see it as my civic duty,” Calkins said. “I was appalled by (former) superintendent Mort (Meier’s) failure to secure Title 1 funding and other recent negative news about the district. I have been involved with education my entire career, teaching my first class in 1978. I have 27 years of direct public education experience in many forms. I have been in management and on boards in various roles since I was 25.”

Calkins offer some for helping the school district meet its budget

“Budgets are delicate items,” he said. “The populance needs to feel their money is being spent well. Buying local always makes the money circulate more, thus benefitting all involved. Quality can be better if things like food and pothole repair are gotten from locals who have some skin in the game. When a low bid is accepted from someone from out-of-town, they may be tempted to cut corners on quality. The flip side to that argument is the old boys’ network which can come into play. Thus transparency and a delicate balance between these is necessary.

“School budgets are sometimes used politically, for example, cutting sports and busing to get voter millage approval.
Privatization of bus drivers, food service and janitorial are common tactics. Substitute teacher privatization is widespread throughout the state. Specific to Marion we could look at food service efficiencies. Food could be prepared at the high school and brought across town, instead of modernizing the elementary school kitchen. I’m told the second story of the elementary school is not in use but is still being heated. This may be an on-going waste which could be solved with some upfront investment. Reed City recently announced the cost savings they realized though the leasing of their entire bus fleet. I hear 120 district students go elsewhere through school of choice. Perhaps that could be reversed through quality offerings and/or slowly by restarting the 3-year-old Pre-K.”

Calkins is confident in the district’s future.

“The new superintendent (Chris Arrington) seems to be a big step in the right direction,” he said.

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