Flint Township View

Nine candidates seek four seats on Swartz Creek school board



SWARTZ CREEK — Four seats on the Swartz Creek Community Schools Board of Education are available this year, and the November general election has drawn a long list of hopefuls.

Nine candidates, including three of the incumbents, are vying for a seat on the board. Board member Tony Paul is not seeking re-election. Here’s what the candidates had to say:

Michael V. Ahearne, 77

Education: 61 Criminal Justice credit hours, MCC and University of Virginia; graduate FBI National Academy, MASB School Board classes

Accomplishments: I have served the public most of my life, first in the Marine Corps, then local law enforcement in all ranks from patrolman to chief. Graduate of the FBI National Academy. Parent of three Swartz Creek graduates, Cub Scout leader, Sunday School superintendent, foster parent, Twp. Zoning Board member, and member of Swartz Creek Veterans Memorial Committee since its inception. Swartz Creek school board trustee for six years, the last three as treasurer. Member of five board committees, chairman of the Finance Committee.

What are your goals for the community if elected? To continue serving on the Bond Steering Committee and seeing bond projects to their fruition and within the budgets of each building. To continue my input on the management of the district’s finances in light of expected cuts in federal, state and local funds. We need to continue keeping our fund balance at or above ten percent, while spending tax dollars wisely and for the maximum benefit of our students. In regard to the Covid-19 Pandemic, I want the board to do everything in its power to make our schools safe and secure with the goal of getting all students back in the classrooms. I feel we must provide funds and support in closing the learning gap which is now compounded by the pandemic.

Jason Bennett, 40

Education: McDonald’s Hamburger University, Eastern Michigan University.

Accomplishments: Director, U.S. and International Operations for a restaurant franchise investment group; volunteer Swartz Creek Youth Football coach (4 years); Cub Scout den leader (1 year); volunteer Swartz Creek Youth Basketball Coach (1 year).

What are your goals for the community if elected? To become the voice of the hard-working parents within the district, their students, the district staff and the community as a whole. To be a voice for those who feel like theirs won’t or can’t be heard. To not only make sure that a quality education for all students at all levels is at the top of the list of priorities but to make sure that the district is focused on improved financial performance without putting education at risk.

Justus Brown: Did not respond to our questionnaire.

Carla Cordonnier-Smith, 60

Education: ADN Mott college, Mott College Dental Assistant certificate

Accomplishments: Oboist, Twin City Symphony; host family for three German students through YFU and planning to host again; rescue dog mommy x 4; soccer coach, AYSO, 7 years; CCD/Bible school instructor; Mundy Township delegate; past state committee member

What are your goals for the community if elected? Allowing students to think for themselves, not be told what or how to think, including politically – give them accurate information and allow them to formulate their own decisions; teach real history that is historically accurate; bring back the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since we’ve removed God from schools, then we should teach no religion, for example, Muslim. I oppose teaching gender neutrality, we are all born either male or female. I believe if a person has male genitalia, he uses the men’s room regardless of how he feels. The same goes for girls. My goals are basically to try to bring back sanity into our schools.

Leah Davis, 50

Education: Graduated 1988 from Union High School, Grand Rapids. Swartz Creek resident since 1991. Licensed physical therapy assistant & certified occupational therapy assistant since 1996/97. Attended Oakland Community College, Mott & U of M Flint. Earned 3 associate degrees & participates in on-going continued education seminars.

Accomplishments: Personal trainer, geriatrics & home health care. Married 23 years. Proud mother of a senior & a graduate from SCHS. Conservative Christian attends Westside Bible Baptist Church Flint. Loves God, country, family & our president. Delegate for Mundy Township since 2016. Enjoys scripture, philosophy, ethics, musical arts, rallies, canvassing & healthy debate. Pro Constitution & 10 Commandments. Pro 1st & 2nd Amendments. Pro faith & common sense.

What are your goals for the community if elected? Teach children how to think & not what to think. Keep propaganda & indoctrination out of schools. Protect against government overreach.

Carrie Germain, 63

Education: Ferris State College B.S., Pharmacy, 1980

Accomplishments: 13 years of school board service, current board president and past treasurer, over 40 years as a registered pharmacist and business professional, involved in our four children’s school activities for over 20 years, active volunteer and board member with leadership roles for various community groups, organizations and professional associations.

What are your goals for the community if elected? I am running for re-election to the Swartz Creek School board because I believe students must be at the center of all we do. This philosophy has remained the same since I became a school board member 13 years ago and it includes supporting our administrators, staff and families who nurture our students toward success.

Opportunities for the district, students and community include:

• Continued collaboration between administrators and educators to align curriculum across all grade levels, enhancing students’ academic and future growth

• Investment in technology, a focus on literacy and integration of STEAM* education into the curriculum K-12 *Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math

• Support for district teams as they continue proactive planning during and following the pandemic, providing flexible, effective learning modalities in a safe environment for students and staff

• Equitable access for all students to educational, social and mental health services, food, technology & Wi-Fi/ internet access

• Student learning and growth demonstrated across all learning modalities

• Development of a longterm strategic plan supported by a solid administrative budget with specific fund balance goals

• Completion of bond projects that support curriculum enhancements, student safety and facility upgrades

• Completion the state-of-the art multi-use athletic facility that will serve students and the community for generations to come

I am committed to working together to focus on students and families, celebrate and communicate successes, recognize challenges and encourage collaboration between all stakeholders.

Jessica Lanave, 46

Education: Some college; Experience: Board member, Consultant, Community Outreach Director, Volunteer Coordinator

Accomplishments: 12+ years of participation with the schools/district as a parent and community member in varying capacities along with my other community involvements. I have served on multiple boards in various leadership roles for 20+ years, grown a business that teaches and inspires people to help others for 15+ years, and volunteer.

What are your goals for the community if elected? Serve the SC community with integrity, being kind, loving, honest, respectful and self-appraising. I am valuesdriven and solution-focused. My priorities are all our kids, staff and community. Be a responsible, effective, collaborative board/team member. We, as a board and district, have to function in cooperation and understanding (resolving differences) as a team to be truly successful in helping our students (and families) have a quality education in a safe, secure environment and succeed in life. Provide oversight and accountability to our district administration by asking questions, listening, discerning, and understanding while participating in committee and board meetings, talking with individuals and community members. Communicate with our community and engage as already described. My continued vision for the Swartz Creek Community Schools is to be a thriving school system and community rich in diversity of thoughts, experiences, people cohesively working together providing an education and sets of skills that allow people to go out into the world and be useful, productive, and open to the world and those they encounter because they had a safe, supportive, engaging education and community that they are/were part of in Swartz Creek.

Michael Ovsenik, 38

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Central Michigan University, information technology and political science

Accomplishments: Married for 10 years to Marie, who works at Elms Road Elementary, and proud dad of a kindergartner and 3rd grader in Swartz Creek Schools; board member, Swartz Creek AYSO 512; AYSO coach, 4 years; senior strategic planning analyst, Covenant HealthCare; member, Swartz Creek Schools Bond Oversight Committee

What are your goals for the community if elected? To make sure parents and students have a voice in school board decisions. As a working parent of two elementary students – my children will be in SCCS for the next 13 years – I understand what working families are going through. Too often in the past, board decisions have been made that ignored the will of the constituents – making life a lot harder (and sometimes more expensive) for parents and students in the district. While the administration staff are well-qualified and experienced, we need board members that will ask for data, trends, and examples. Every board vote should be backed up with data-driven decisions. Board members should be prepared to explain why they make any decision. We understand that workgroup meetings happen, but most citizens do not have time to spend watching or attending daytime meetings while they are working. If elected, I would make sure to explain decisions where possible – either during the meeting or in a public blog / Facebook page. Transparency is important. Along with transparency, parents and constituents expect twoway communication. Countless times I have heard from other parents that board members ignored their email or other attempts for contact. I would maintain a commitment to responding to communication within 24 hours during regular business days. I will ask for comments on very important issues on Facebook and a blog. Social media is useful and should not be ignored. The COVID19 pandemic has put our schools in an unprecedented situation. They are charged with the safety of children and staff when they are at school or extracurricular activities. With the Michigan legislature asking school boards to review their plans every month, we need people on the board who will ask questions and have current experience with children in our schools. The millage that was passed was a historic moment for Swartz Creek as a community. Voters chose to invest in our schools, staff, and students. I would work hard to make sure our bond investment is well-spent and finished to ensure a great future for our students and staff.

John M. Sayer, 19

Education: High school diploma, in 2nd year of college

Accomplishments: Successfully organized and ran a dodgeball tournament which raised money for the Make A Wish Foundation, graduates from Swartz Creek, “Most Improved” lacrosse player 2016, Lost over 40 pounds in 8 months.

What are your goals for the community if elected? Better provide a student’s voice and perspective on the board, provide firsthand insight on how different policies have affected and will affect students, improve budget balancing, give a better learning experience to the students, bring more pride to Swartz Creek Community Schools!