2022 School Board Candidate Q&A: Seeking Outside Agency Assistance

Lowell’s First Look met individually with all 8 candidates running for a position on the School Board for Lowell Area Schools, and who will appear on the ballot on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  There are three seats up for election by voters. In addition to our interview, we sent each candidate the same set of questions. In the weeks leading up to the election, we will bring you responses to the questions we asked in addition to a candidate profile. Answers are published verbatim and have not been edited. We asked candidates to keep their responses to around 200 words.

In what circumstances would you seek out or defer to an outside agency or organization such as the Kent County Health Department, Michigan Health and Human Services, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, or Michigan State Police, in creating school policies?

Jared Blough
For a major safety concern I would advice outside council but each policy influenced by any or all these organizations should be carefully reviewed and our district should have influence in the final policy decision. The community should be present when a broad sweeping policy is implemented. For example, when the mask mandate was implemented by the KCHD last year it was followed by a Mask Mandate Workshop. Not one LAS administrator or school board member attended, we had no representation. No feedback was provided to the community after several parents inquired about details for personal choice on this subject.

Jessica Curtis
Any circumstance that requires expertise in that field I would seek input from the organization or agency.

Jennifer Dougherty
The members of the school administration and the Board of Education bring a variety of expertise to the table, but they are not experts in all fields. When there are issues regarding public health or school safety, it is important that the school board consult with the people that have the training and background to properly address a situation. Gut instinct and common sense are important, but there are some issues that require in-depth knowledge and experience to properly address.

Chris German
I would be naive to think that I know what’s best in all situations.  I would be open to listening to and even seek  help form the above mentioned entities or others to get their professional opinion on best practices for a multitude of situations.  I would then take their opinion into consideration when creating policies.  It is on the board to ultimately create policies that are good for our district specifically.   

Kyle Hoff
As a school board member, I would support seeking input and guidance from outside agencies and experts to inform us when creating policy. We need to learn as much as we can about a subject to make the best policy. However, I want to ensure we also protect the Constitutional rights and freedoms of parents and students in the process. For example, I believe parents are in the best position to decide whether their child wears a mask to school and/or opts for the Covid vaccine as they know their child the best. As a school board member, I would support parental choice for decisions around masks and vaccines and oppose any kind of mandate on them, giving that decision-making power back to the parents as they seek advice from their own physician. 

Parker Liu
I believe it is important for the Board of Education members and district administrators and staff to understand where their limits are in terms of making decisions about certain topic areas. When there is a policy or procedural question that is not easily answered with the resources within the LAS district and BOE, then it is the responsibility of those leaders to seek out resources for guidance. These resources should be diverse and evaluated for its quality and relevance to the topic at hand. The organizations listed in the prompt are a great starting point as these organizations are charged with providing guidance for the betterment of the community. While I believe these groups could provide great ideas and plans, I believe the decision ultimately falls with the BOE, LAS administrators and staff, and parents to make a collaborative decision that we feel is best for our students. The process, however, should come full circle and include appropriate follow-through, evaluation, and adjustment as needed; policies and procedures should be reviewed on a regular interval or when an issue is raised.

Pat Nugent
Outside agencies have their place according to Michigan law and according to prudent governance. State and local health departments are given authority by law to manage public health. Public health decision-making is rightly in these department’s purview, and is not the role of a local school board. A local school district is not allowed by law to overrule a health department order, and the school would face closure if it tried. The health departments’ recommendations should be taken seriously by the school district and followed to the best of our ability for the good of the general populace. 

Again, sheriff’s departments and state police have legal jurisdiction in some matters which the school cannot overrule. In other areas, such as school safety, these law enforcement agencies are crucial partners for the district. They have the expertise to help train and prepare our district to prevent and/or manage many types of dangerous situations. Lowell Schools is very fortunate to have a School Resource Officer from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and also a very close working relationship with the Lowell Police Department. These partnerships provide great support to our administrators, staff, and students.

Calvin Vander Boon (Note: Calvin Vander Boon’s name will appear on the November ballot, but he has notified us that he is withdrawing his candidacy for the LAS school board.)
The number of scenarios that I might seek information or expertise from an outside organization are too vast to list individually. As the best selling book of all time says: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” I think that it would be wise to seek out many organizations for expertise including those listed above. That being said, to defer to these organizations would be to shirk the responsibility and oath that school board members take when they swear into office. School board members need to make their own decisions, to defer to an outside organization is not a decision, it is a lack of leadership.

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