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Three candidates run for school board


October 11, 2012
A 2010 Grosse Pointe North High School graduate and two board veteran re-elects represent the three candidates running for two open seats in the November Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education election.In preparation, each candidate responded to questions regarding residency, Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal, data reports and other issues in Grosse Pointe.

The three candidates are: William Broman, Judy Gafa and Cindy Pangborn.

Name: William Karl Broman

Age: 20

Education: Currently pursuing a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at George Washington University, expected graduation in May 2014

Occupation: Student

Community involvement: Former Beaumont Hospital volunteer, youth sailing coach at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, frequent attendee of school board meetings, junior member of Crescent Sail Yacht Club and first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do at New Edge Martial Arts.

Name: Judy Gafa

Age: 51

Education: BSN from Madonna University

Occupation: Registered Nurse.

Community involvement: I am an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, a member of League of Women Voters and sit on the Board of MCLC. I also volunteer for many of my children’s activities and I am sponsoring the Flu Shot clinics for Services for Older Citizens. I also am a yearly sponsor of the Family Center’s Hollyfest.

Name: Cindy Pangborn

Age: 66

Education: I have an associate degree from Northwood University in liberal arts with a concentration in music and communication. I completed two years of education classes at Central Michigan University. As a Realtor for 14 years, I have invested in education classes to advance my career. Most recently, I earned my specialty in short sales and foreclosures of residential properties.

Occupation: Realtor with Real Estate One and affiliated with Johnstone and Johnstone and Max Broock Realty.

Community involvement: Other than 15 to 20 hours per week that I devote to my school board service, I volunteer at my grandchildren’s schools in the Grosse Pointe Public School System, helping beginning readers, as a field trip chaperone, volunteer for fundraisers and any other area where parents or teachers need my help.

Why are you interested in running/re-election:

Broman: There is a need for a fresh perspective, and an individual who is concerned about the future of Grosse Pointe and its schools. The initial field of candidates was limited to incumbents, giving the community no opportunity for change. Further, the board needs more active leaders, and individuals who will propose policies and improvements to the district. We do not need board members who remind us of Justice Clarence Thomas, sitting quietly behind the microphone at meetings offering little to the discussion. Recognizing the need for new ideas, fresh energy, and more active leaders, I decided to run.

Gafa: Having been part of the process that has hired new administration, I’d like to participate in their vision for the district. I want to maintain the district’s programs and small class sizes. My niece was just telling me that she has 35 students in most of her classes and it is too much. She is in 8th grade and attends school in Macomb County. I also would like to continue to work on closing the achievement gap while challenging all of our students.

Pangborn: I will continue to bring innovative ideas on retaining local control of our school system. Bringing in new sources of money, as I am trying to do with recovery of utility costs with the Utility Refund Corporation, and better financial return for technology recycling. I have a responsibility to the school system that educated me, my children and is now educating my grandchildren to help keep us a premier school system in Michigan.

What are some unique qualifications you bring/would bring to the board if elected:

Broman: As a recent alumni, I can offer a wealth of knowledge to the board and the community as to what is working and what is not working in terms of preparing students for after graduation.

Gafa: I have three children in the system. I remember what it is like to have a child just starting school and now have a child that is preparing to take the ACT and apply to college. I also work with seniors. I have the unique perspective of all the members of our district and community. I also bring experience from my last four years of serving on the board.

Pangborn: I am exceptionally organized and thorough in my analysis of issues related to our schools. My dedication to being out in the community every day, talking to our residents about our schools and their concerns, makes me uniquely qualified to making sure their voice is heard on the school board. I have spent the past 38 years involved in growing our excellent schools, including seven years and two terms as board trustee and 26 times a room mother at Kerby School. I have the rare opportunity to be a semi-retired senior and active participant in my grandchildren’s elementary schools.

Residency remains a serious issue. What more, if anything, needs to happen to ensure non-residents don’t attend Grosse Pointe schools? Do you think the situation is being handled appropriately:

Broman: The board needs to work with the municipalities to create a program that is effective, efficient, and fair. The municipalities need to be involved because the end result of good residency verification policy will be lower tax rates, higher property values, and a better school system. If this is still an issue in January, I will propose a set of policies that will include new standards for when and how often residency checks will be conducted, and impose criminal penalties for individuals who are sending their children to GPPSS illegally.

Gafa: I think the most important item to recognize is that students found in violation of the residency policy are removed from the system immediately. A new approach that administration is using is a random sample of verification throughout the district. This will give administration an idea of how pervasive the issue is. I think re-verifying students’ residency as they move from elementary school to middle school and then again as they move from the middle school to high school would be another useful tool in preventing ineligible students from attending our schools.

Pangborn: First, our existing policies need to be strictly enforced on a consistent basis. A Coaches Code of Conduct needs to be put in place so that no recruiting of non-resident athletes occurs. The school system has to welcome the involvement of groups like the Residents for Residency in our efforts and aggressively enforce the new notarized Affidavit of Residency. This affidavit sends a clear message to Lansing that we want local control of our schools. No, it hasn’t been handled appropriately for the past six years. In the last two months, steps have been taken towards rectifying this dilemma.

Along the same lines, Gov. Rick Snyder continues his push to expanded education choices for parents and students, his “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” proposal. What are your thoughts on this proposal and its potential impact on Grosse Pointe:

Broman: I support much of the proposal for the benefit of Michigan’s children. I think Gov. Snyder has done an excellent job leading Michigan down a path of prosperity. However, I do not think the school of choice portion of the proposal is beneficial to any district, and ultimately the students attending that district. Opening our district or any other district to outside residents through a state mandate is not the type of involvement the state should have in the operation of LOCAL school districts.

Gafa: I worked extensively with MCLC last year to prevent school of choice from being implemented. The incentive to move here and belong to the community and have an investment in the community would be lost. Eighty-five percent of the districts in Michigan participate in School of Choice; I do not see improved educational outcomes from this policy. Our residents have been very generous in passing school millages; that too would be lost with the implementation of this plan. I would also add that the majority of the community is opposed to such a plan

Pangborn: I believe that, if enacted, this proposal will not only hurt our schools, but the entire economic standing of our community.

Administration has recently placed an emphasis on marketing the district to current, potential and departing families. Do you feel this is important? As a board member, what is your role in marketing the district:

Broman: An emphasis on marketing the district is vitally important. Many families in the district choose to send their children to a private school. Unfortunately few truly understand how life changing a GPPSS education can be, and how often it prepares students better for college than our private school counterparts. Lest we forget that attending GPPSS costs far less than attending a private school.

As a board member I will ensure we are hiring the best marketing professionals we can afford, and assure we have beneficial programs in place that other schools in the area do not.

Gafa: I do feel this is important. If students are leaving our district to attend other schools it is important to know what those schools are offering that our district is not. I think this is a wonderful community, people move here for the schools and the community. Promoting both will attract families to move into the Pointes and maintain property values. I think our role is to be ambassadors for the district. It is important to promote the program offerings and accomplishments of our students.

Pangborn: Yes. As a Realtor dependant on sound marketing of the community, I believe the message about our unique walking-friendly, neighborhood schools needs to be promoted. Our actions need to be our strongest marketing tool. We need to be asking our residents in private and parochial schools what we can do to make our schools their choice. We need to be more attentive to those students who are already enrolled in our system; it is imperative that we deliver services like placement testing and IEP planning in a proactive fashion, being timely and thorough in our delivery of all student services. As a Board member, I am an ambassador of the school system. My presence in the community on a day-to-day basis is crucial to being able to communicate and understand the needs of our residents and taxpayers. My goal as an ambassador is to make the incredible schools we have shine in the eyes of our present and potential residents.

Data reports have shown Grosse Pointe as a high-performing district; though, a somewhat large achievement gap exists between several groups of students. As board members, how would you work with administration to address the existing gaps while maintaining, even improving, current academic standards:

Broman: As a board member it is not my job to tell professional educators how to provide the necessary education to close that gap. I can offer suggestions on how to improve the academic culture within the schools, and make sure that teachers have the tools to help students succeed, but I cannot, and will not tell teachers how to do their job. Given my unique perspective as someone who has seen this gap, I can offer suggestions to faculty that my opponents cannot. The board must trust the teachers, and give them the tools they need to be effective educators.

Gafa: As a board member we need to understand the data being presented to us, so that we can approve new programs with the knowledge necessary to understand the impact it will have on all of our students. Closing the achievement gap doesn’t mean lowering the high performing students. It means lifting our struggling students up while still challenging our middle and top students. Ensuring district resources are applied equitably to close this gap is another important role the board will play.

Pangborn: While we have many remedial and mentoring programs in place for our students who need this help, we need to be equally as focused on our middle and accelerated learners so that every student reaches their full potential. We cannot allow the tradition of excellence in our schools to be diluted to satisfy unfunded mandates from Lansing.

Developing the budget is always a sensitive process. What are your top priorities when it comes to maintaining or cutting employee salaries, school programs and services, technologies, etc:

Broman: The first is being involved. Before I left for school in August, I talked with Mr. Fenton, and he suggested that there are few board members who are actively involved in the budget planning. This must change. The second is finding efficiencies. Identifying where we have too many people doing one job is an example. When looking for these efficiencies, we must not forget to look ahead 5-10 years and understand what our needs will be in the future, and if reducing funding for programs or staff to meet our needs today will hinder our growth tomorrow.

Gafa: My first priority is maintaining smaller class sizes at the elementary level and maintaining district program offerings. Technology is going to keep playing an important role in not only education but life; district technology needs to be updated as well as ensuring our staff is trained to use it. Our employees have already demonstrated their commitment to the district by overwhelmingly approving the last contract that ties their compensation to fund equity. It is in everyone’s best interest to see the district continue to succeed.

Pangborn: The challenge is not to “make do”; the challenge is to “make better.” Competitive staff salaries, school programs, services and technologies are all integrated to make up the school system. In order to use our limited funds efficiently, my top priority is to bring back the use of community/board member committees to tackle these tough issues. A broad-reaching “new era of schools brain trust” committee needs to be established to maintain the traditions we have developed in conjunction with cutting edge solutions to our 21st century challenges.

Any other thoughts or comments:

Gafa: This is going to be a long ballot. The school board candidates will be in the nonpartisan part of the ballot. Please flip the ballot over and vote for the candidate of your choice. If you would like to learn more about where I stand on issues visit my website, judygafa.com.

Pangborn: My unique strength is my 38 years experience as a resident, a school parent and a school advocate. I listen and I innovate. I’ve brought televising school board meetings to our community as well as the emergency “E” program, and worked tirelessly to create transparency in our schools. I hope when the residents choose their candidate, they realize being a board member isn’t a three hour a month job; it takes being out in the community, listening to our residents and researching best practices for public education throughout the country and working to implement these best practices in Grosse Pointe.

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