Meet the Candidates Running for the North West School Board in November

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JACKSON, MI — Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Northwestern School Board in November, including two incumbents seeking re-election.

Incumbents Dan Griswold and Brad Wait face challenges from Tim Curran and Nathan Edwards for six-year terms on school boards in the Nov. 8 general election.

Curran, a father of five, has 25 years of management experience and is a graduate of Jackson College. He is currently a postmaster in the US Postal Service and is a veteran of the US Marine Corps.

Edwards is a Northwestern graduate, has three daughters currently enrolled in the district, and has been active in the community as a student and parent for nearly 30 years. He is currently working as the Engineering and Skilled Trades Manager for a local manufacturer.

Griswold has served on Northwest’s board of directors since 2015, after being selected to fill a seat vacated by a member’s resignation. He is a local business owner with experience in finance, organization and leadership.

Wait has been a member of Northwest’s board of directors for nearly 10 years and served as chairman for the past two years.

MLive/The Ann Arbor News has partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information to readers. Each candidate were invited to present their positions on a variety of public policy issues listed below. Information on other state, county and local primary races can be found at Vote411.org.

All answers in the voter’s guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for a necessary cut if an answer exceeded character limits. Spelling and grammar have not been corrected. Publication of candidates’ statements and opinions is in the public service interest only and should NOT be considered an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes candidates or political parties.

Please explain why you are coming to the school board.

Courran:

I run because I care about students and want to give them the tools to have the greatest potential to achieve their dreams. I would be an asset to the Board of Directors by being able to draw on my experience as a Marine where the commitment to success is to identify obstacles and removing and/or overcoming them is a way of life. On top of that, my 25 years of management experience gives me a solid foundation for how to work with others.

Edwards:

I am concerned about the low proficiency scores in math and reading. I believe that improving these figures should be our main ambition. As an observer at school board meetings, I have not seen any indication of a focus on this issue. I also believe that parents need an advocate on the school board and that students need to be protected from harmful ideologies that have no place in our schools. I hope to be that for them.

Griswold:

I have a vested interest in our community. Having myself and 3 children as alumni, as well as two grandchildren currently attending, I have seen Northwest go through some tough times. While serving on the board and navigating these unprecedented times, I have had a glimpse of what it takes for a district to succeed. Northwest has always had incredible potential and made tremendous progress as a district, but I see the job is not done yet. With proper guidance, Northwest will continue to lead.

Expect:

I am passionate about community schools in the North West. As a North West elder, I want to be someone who can celebrate the great things happening in the district, but also be able to bring up the concerns of people in our community. While there have been many accomplishments since I served on the Board, I believe we still have many more great things to accomplish. I also want to continue to have an impact not only on the Northwest Community Schools, but on the Jackson area as a whole.

How have recent trends in school staff shortages impacted our school district? What ideas do you have for attracting and retaining staff so students get the instruction and support they need to succeed?

Courran:

Staffing shortages impact the school district by increasing the teacher-student ratio, which means less time for students. Attract teachers by giving new teachers a sign-up bonus and raise the salary of current teachers to retain them. There must be discipline in schools. Teachers want to teach. They don’t want to constantly deal with unruly students.

Edwards:

Staffing shortages seem to have created a sort of revolving door for teachers. This can be destabilizing for students and the district. We should focus on retention, and that should start with talking to teachers. We need to understand their concerns and their frustration. Why would a teacher leave? We should have very detailed exit interviews when a teacher leaves. This information should be compiled, reviewed and implemented very regularly. These conversations can be difficult, but we need to have them. If we don’t understand why they would leave, how can we hope to improve the situation? Additionally, we have a duty to the students in our district, and if we do not have adequate space or staff for them, we should consider limiting “school of choice enrollment.”

Griswold:

Staffing shortages have become an issue that cuts across all verticals, not just education. The Northwest is already a district that teachers gravitate to because of our competitive compensation, district values, and the general culture that our current administration has cultivated. Our ability to further improve our culture and compensation will attract teachers from Jackson County and beyond.

Expect:

We have done a very good job of retaining our teachers by creating a positive culture between teachers, administration and especially students. We offer competitive salaries and a very dynamic work environment. All jobs must align to be a support system for our teachers and students.

If elected, what other significant issues will the school board face during your tenure as a board member, and what are the important considerations for resolving these issues?

Courran:

1. Low test scores 2. Violence/bullying 3. Steaming/drugs The best way to solve these problems is to involve parents in the school. In order to increase test scores, there must be skin in the game for students. Students must have an acceptable level of proficiency before advancing to the next class. Violence and bullying should be dealt with using an appropriate level of discipline. Students need to be educated about the harmful effects of vaping and drugs on their bodies. Many challenges face our children today. I understand that everything takes time, but I am committed to: 1. Identifying and prioritizing issues. 2. Pursue all means to find or develop a solution. 3. Confirm that the solution has the power to work either by finding other schools that have proven ability to solve our problem or by setting up a test period that can show that the plan will work.

Edwards:

Low skill scores won’t be fixed overnight, but we need to work diligently to improve them. If 88% to 90% of our students graduate, but 73% don’t master basic math, have we succeeded in our mission? We can’t treat this as if it doesn’t matter. We cannot use subjective ranking metrics to mask this issue. We must offer students the best chance of academic success and career preparation. We must create policies of full transparency and support parental rights. We must take a stand against harmful ideologies and indoctrination. It is our duty to educate and not to indoctrinate. This includes but not limited to CRT, DEI, SEL. We must oppose the “grooming” (sexualization of students) of our students. I would like to improve vocational/trades training. This is the right path for many students and they should have every opportunity to acquire the skills they will need to join the job market.

Griswold:

As a board member during one of the most challenging times our world has faced in recent times, I have seen how nimble a school system must be to ensure our children’s education and, more importantly, safety. It’s not the current issues that worry me about the future of our district. The current council already has measures in place for many of these issues. It’s the issues that crop up all the time that concern me the most. The global climate can change by a dime and we must be nimble enough to adapt in these difficult times. This means we need to have the right administration and staff in place so that we can take a measured approach to maneuvering on tough days. If elected, I will help ensure that we constantly recruit and train our staff to be nimble, but above all that we take care of our students as their own.

Expect:

With all the changes that have taken place since COVID-19, we need to make sure our goal is to keep students first. We need to foster a positive working relationship between our teachers and our students. We should also consider updating board policies and procedures to reflect these changes.

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