Three candidates bring different backgrounds to race for two Lincoln Consolidated School Board seats
Three candidates are vying for two spots on the Lincoln Consolidated School Board. Members of the new board will face financial challenges as the district grapples with dropping enrollment and takes on the task of improving Lincoln High School, which is listed among the state’s lowest achieving schools.
On Tuesday, voters will elect two board members.
Labadie said he sees the Lincoln Schools' area as lacking a city center and called the school system the community’s center. A desire to help the community by improving the school district is partly driving him to run for the board, he said. Though he has yet to serve in public office, he said his skill set from his professional life coupled with his passion for public education make him qualified for the position.
Labadie, who is a client executive at Kapnick Insurance Group in Ann Arbor, spent nine years as an administrator at the University of Michigan after receiving a secondary education degree and teaching certificate.
He said Lincoln High School’s ranking among the state’s lowest achieving schools is a district-wide issue, and plans to monitor student, educator and administrative performance are a positive step. But the board must play a key role in ensuring that the district’s plan is properly implemented, he said.
“The plan is only as good as the implementation, and that is where a strong school board is important,” Labadie said. “A strong board will make sure that the plan is carried out with the utmost fidelity, and that the plan targets and achieves the most important outcome; the increased achievement of our students at Lincoln Consolidated Schools.”
Labadie said he believes Lincoln must concentrate on the issues that the district can control; cost containment and keeping current students enrolled in the district to help stabilize revenue.
He said cost containment comes from obtaining bids for larger purchases, consolidating purchasing across all school buildings and looking at making the largest purchases with neighboring school districts.
The district must improve the student experience by developing systems to measure and emphasize student growth at all levels to keep its current students enrolled in the district, Labadie said. He added that Lincoln should continue to seek grant funding for further development of student programs, similar to the technology grant it was recently awarded.
McMahon has already lived through cuts at Lincoln High School - but as a student. The lifelong Lincoln-area resident grew up in the Lincoln School District and said he graduated in the top 2 percent of his 1977 class. The district eliminated all extracurricular programs and some academic programs at the time, so he said he understands what students are feeling as the district considers further cuts to deal with its budget.
Lincoln's decline in student enrollment and how that affects the district’s budget is among McMahon’s biggest concerns. He said this year's enrollment drop could translate into a $1.8 million financial hit not figured into the current budget. He suggested the district develop a short and long term-plan to address the enrollment issues as well as the declining property values and reduced state funding that are impacting its bottom line.
“If prompt actions are not taken, the cuts that will be necessary down the line will have an even greater negative impact to future students,” he said.
McMahon also wants the district to assess its current construction projects that he said appear to be running over budget and lack sound planning.
He said he can bring to the board his experience serving on other public boards, managing crisis situations and finding ‘root cause’ solutions to issues that are a part of his career as an environmental engineer.
McMahon served terms on the Washtenaw County Local Emergency Planning Committee, Augusta Township Planning Commission and recently received certification as a “professional emergency manager” by the Michigan State Police. Additionally, he has served as a HAZMAT volunteer first responder and is a volunteer coordinator for the Yankee Air Museum.
“I have a long track record of building teams that successfully respond to the need of the situation, and without singling out anyone group (to be) thrown under the bus to save the others,” he said. “This is a time where critical thinking and listening needs to happen, in addition to not being afraid to make a tough decision.”
Samuelson is the lone incumbent among the group and has served on the school board since 2003. She currently sits as the board president and her experience includes service on multiple committees throughout the last eight years.
She said she the two most important issues facing the board at what would be the start of her third term is improving student achievement and addressing declining enrollment. Many of the district’s schools are on an upward trajectory and have made AYP, but problems remain at the high school, Samuelson said.
She highlighted several measures the board and district have taken to address that issue, including the formation of the “Persistently Lowest Achieving Committee.” The district is also currently formulating a restructuring plan at the high school that touches on the goals of its strategic plan, Samuelson said, and is including staff, students and the community in that process.
She said continual improvement is contingent upon an aligned curriculum, providing instruction that meets each individual student's needs, common assessing and continuing with the current leadership in place.
Improving achievement at the high school and communicating the district’s success to the community would play a significant role in addressing the declining enrollment issues, Samuelson said.
“We will continue to emulate the successful programs we currently have in place and look for best practices that will assist us in improving achievement,” she said.