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Six candidates vying for three seats on the Muskegon Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election

MUSKEGON, MI – Six candidates are vying for three open seats on the Muskegon Board of Education in the Nov. 3 general election.

Muskegon Public Schools is one of the largest districts in the county with 3,514 registered students this fall.

School board trustees serve six-year terms and are tasked with a variety of jobs including, approving an annual budget, hire and evaluate the superintendent, and adopting policies that give the district administration direction to set priorities and achieve its goals.

Three of the candidates – Zachary Anderson, Billie Bruce and Louis Churchwell – are incumbents seeking reelection.

The other three candidate are new challengers – Kwame Kamau James, Nicholas Sima and Jonathan Witmer.

Here is some background information provided by each of the candidates:

  • Anderson, 27, attended Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and now works as a consultant. He has served on the Muskegon school board for the past six years and has pushed for transparency and accountability from the administration, he said.
  • Bruce, 77, is a Muskegon Public Schools graduate and earned her degrees from Muskegon Community College and GVSU. She has served as secretary on the Muskegon school board for six years. She is a pediatric Registered Nurse and earned a certificate for Elementary Drug Free School Zones from Concordia University.
  • Churchwell, 62, is a clinician and Group Coordinator with HealthWest Muskegon. He graduated from Muskegon Public Schools in 1977 and currently serves as the school board’s Vice President. He studied at Grand Canyon University and earned two master’s degrees: a Masters of Science in Professional Counseling, and a Masters in the field of Substance Abuse/Addictions. He is a former CEO of West Michigan Therapy, Inc. and founder of Transitional Living Center in Muskegon Heights.
  • James, 45, is self-employed and earned his associate’s degree from Muskegon Community College. He has two sons who attended and graduated from Muskegon Public Schools and was a Big Red Marching Band parent volunteer. He has worked as a youth mentor at Every Woman’s Place, which provides help for victims of domestic violence, a site worker at Site Worker, LA’s BEST After School Program, and a garden facilitator at Growing Goods Summer School Program.
  • Sima, 34, is a Technical Support Technician and has earned his associate’s degree.
  • Witmer, 41, is a real estate appraiser with two students in the Muskegon Public Schools system. He is a graduate of Muskegon Public Schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in geography at GVSU. He also completed graduate coursework in Urban Regeneration at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Witmer is president of the governing board at First Congregational Church UCC in Muskegon, secretary of the Nelson Neighborhood Improvement Association and youth soccer coach for Muskegon Soccer Club.

MLive Media Group has partnered with the League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information for readers. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues.

Information on all state and federal races and many of Michigan’s county and local races

Ohio state school board has 6 of 11 elected seats up for grabs

Catherine Candisky
| The Columbus Dispatch

Voters are electing six members of the state Board of Education this year, including three representing the central Ohio area.

The half-dozen seats are among the 11 elected positions on the board. Another eight members are appointed by the governor.

The 19-member panel creates policy and makes recommendations for K-12 education, and hires the state superintendent.

More: Election 2020: The Columbus Dispatch Voter Guide

While members are elected in nonpartisan races, the board has been political at times. Most recently, the board sparred over a resolution ultimately approved 12-5 in July condemning hate speech and racism in schools, directing the Department of Education to review curriculum models and tests for racial bias, and requiring bias training for employees.

The resolution followed the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police, triggering protests across the nation. Conservatives on the board said the resolution was a rush to judgment and questioned the extent of racism in schools.

In central Ohio’s 6th district, incumbent Antoinette Miranda of Columbus is seeking a second four-year term against challenger Alice Nicks of Galena. The district covers most of Franklin County and all of Delaware and Knox counties.

Miranda is a professor of school psychology and interim chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University. She has more than 35 years of experience in K-12 and post-secondary education, including six years as a school psychologist.

Miranda said her priorities on the board include improving state report cards for schools and districts to make them more understandable for parents, educators and stakeholders and better reflect progress in schools. She also wants to advocate for districts as lawmakers tackle school-funding issues.

“The board doesn’t really vote on state funding, but it is an issue,” she said. “Looking at equity, and COVID-19 sort of exposed that (there are inequities across districts like) lack of internet and broadband services and the lack of computers that school districts have, especially in urban and rural districts.”

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled repeatedly, but not since 2002, that the way the state funds public education is unconstitutional, she said, “but we really don’t have a solution for that.”

Miranda also wants the board to look at how the pandemic has affected students and how the state can help deal with issues, including learning loss, mental health issues and special education students.

Nicks is founder of Childcare Unlimited Inc., and is a licensed clinical counselor. She did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In the 9th district, Ron Hood and Michelle Newman are squaring off for a seat being vacated by Stephanie Dodd, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. The district includes the eastern portions of Franklin and Pickaway counties and stretches east to Guernsey County.

Newman is a marketing consultant and director of the Canal Market District, a farmers’ market and community events space in Newark, where she lives with her 7-year-old