Ferndale political action committee CLEAR recently announced its endorsement of four candidates for the Ferndale Schools Board of Education election on Nov. 6.
The group is supporting Amy Butters, Jim O’Donnell, Raylon Leaks-May and Kevin Deegan-Krause.
Kate Baker, a CLEAR founding member and former Ferndale City Council member, called the candidates "one powerful group of diverse community leaders."
"As a group, CLEAR is looking to back school board members who enthusiastically support our schools, yet aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of administration," Baker said in a press release. "We need a board that welcomes community discussion about topics like resident retention, academic performance and strategic planning. The ‘BOLD’ candidates clearly fit the bill.”
Barb Landry, a founding member of CLEAR, said voters can remember the initials "B.O.L.D." when they vote in November.
"Voters simply need to go to the polls in November and remember ‘B-O-L-D’ – Butters, O’Donnell, Leaks-May and Deegan-Krause - when casting their vote for positive change in the Ferndale Schools,” she said.
Four of the school board seats are up for election this year. The two candidates with the most votes this year will serve six-year terms and the two candidates with the next highest number of votes will serve four-year terms.
Board vice president Charles Moeser, trustee Nancy Kerr-Mueller and trustee Karen Twomey will remain on the board. Trustee Darcey McLaughlin is not seeking another term.
Deegan-Krause and O'Donnell made their public commitment to the November race in March. In July, the Ferndale political action committee Citizens for Better Education announced its support for candidates Keith Warnick, Katrina Collins, Jim Pfleger and Bradford Parks.
The last day to file as a candidate for the school board election was 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Here's more information on each of the CLEAR-endorsed candidates:
- The Pleasant Ridge mother of three Ferndale students worked on the 2012 school bond campaign.
- Butters has volunteered on the district’s fine arts programs such as Orchsupport, Art on the Town and school musicals. She is also a member of the Ferndale Education Foundation, which raises money for school grants.
- Butters is a Drake University journalism graduate and has held editing positions at various newspapers nationally, most recently at the Detroit Free Press.
- Hot topics: Community engagement and district marketing.
- Butters said her experience as a volunteer and journalist will translate well to the school board role. "I just feel like I have something to contribute to the district as a whole," she said. "I would like for our community to have a voice in what shape our school district takes in the coming years. I want to be involved with that part of it."
- She said she wants to focus on achievement - "not just standardized tests but the overall achievement" - and communication. "I think the communication between the district and the people that it serves needs to be something that we continue to focus on ... I think that's the role of the school board members to foster that communication," she said.
- Student retention is another issue she would focus on. "When we have families up and down our streets who are going somewhere else it takes away from the fabric of our community," she said.
- Though Butters says her daughters have had a very positive experience in the district, "I don't want we as parents to take it for granted that our schools will always live up to the expectations that we have," she said. "This is a way that I want to contribute by being a school board member who listens to the community ... and tries to be somebody who is there for people to turn to when it comes to school district issues."
- The Ferndale father of three serves on the school district’s Operations Committee and was a tri-chair with the school bond committee. He is also the president of the Ferndale Library Board.
- O’Donnell is director of financial planning and analysis with Gateway Foundation, Inc. – a not-for-profit providing substance abuse treatment services.
- He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a Masters of Business Administration degree from Oakland University.
- Hot topics: Academic excellence for all students and sound strategic planning.
- O'Donnell said he sees good things happening in the district now but said the district can do "much better" and needs to acknowledge areas for improvement. "You can't solve a problem until you acknowledge that there is one," he said. He also wants to see the district be "much better engaged with the community."
- "The experience that I have outside the school district is directly relevant to the problems the school district is facing right now," he said, referencing his role on the library board governing a public institution that is subject to many of the same laws as the school board, as well as experience gathering citizen input on decisions.
- "One of the aspects of my experience is my ability to work with a wide range of people and I think the people who have also been endorsed by CLEAR, we have that kind of breadth of experience, both within and outside the school district," he said. "I enjoy engaging a wide variety of people and I expect that, if elected, that we will seek out other peoples' opinions including people who maybe don't agree with us at this point in time on any given issue. I look forward to doing that."
- The Ferndale mother of five has more than 20 years experience with the Ferndale Public Schools.
- Leaks-May serves on the district’s Finance Committee and was part of the bond campaign. She is also a member of the Ferndale Education Foundation and Superintendent’s Advisory Committee.
- She is a licensed insurance agent with Farmers Insurance Group and a graduate of Oakland Community College and Madonna University.
- Hot topics: Resident retention and special education.
- Leaks-May said she has been involved in the district for years and "wanted to step it up to another level."
- "I want to give back and advocate for these kids and this wonderful community that we have," said Leaks-May, whose children's ages range between 5 and 25.
- She said one of her main focuses will be to work with the special education department to better serve children with learning challenges. She also wants to see the entire community come together to improve the district. "It's all of our children. We should be working together," she said.
- Leaks-May said she wants parents to know she will listen and advocate for them. "I want them to be able to come to a board where they can be heard, their concerns can be heard and taken seriously," she said. "I want to engage the community. Come to us and tell us what's on your mind and what you need and let us try to advocate for you."
- "I want the community to know that I will work with integrity and purpose and I'm committed to making our district the best choice in Oakland County," she said.
- The Ferndale father of two is a former president of the Ferndale Library Board, who helped plan the renovation of the library and its successful 2007 bond campaign. He also served on the recent school bond campaign.
- Deegan-Krause is a teacher in Wayne State University’s Political Science department and a recipient of the University Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Award for research on political accountability.
- He is a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame.
- Hot topics: Board transparency and administrative accountability.
- Deegan-Krause called Ferndale "the most amazing place" he's ever lived but said the school district is one area where people seem to have doubts, with many of his neighbors choosing other districts.
- "Right now we're in a situation where people really have to think twice about whether they're going to send their kids to Ferndale Schools," he said. "I want every parent to have an easy decision when they live in the Ferndale School District, the easy decision is to send our kids to these schools. I don't think we're there right now."
- He said a "better, more responsive, more accessible school district" is needed to make the community the best it can be. "I have the privilege of working with these amazing people who want the same thing. We'll do whatever we can to make it happen," he said.
- Deegan-Krause also pointed out strengths of the other CLEAR-endorsed candidates - O'Donnell's experience as a financial manager, Butters' work for the Free Press, Leaks-May's role as a business owner and 20-year resident. "There's a lot of experience there," he said.