Three candidates seeking two open spots on the Ypsilanti School Board
Financial challenges are the biggest issue that will face Ypsilanti school board members in the coming months. Three candidates are running for two seats on the board in the Nov. 8 election. The board must work within a state-mandated deficit elimination plan as the school district attempts address a budget shortfall and figure out how to turn around Ypsilanti High School, which was listed among the state’s poorest performing.
Trustee Andy Fanta says his experience as a trustee and the oversight he has provided while serving on the board is an asset to the district as it faces further cuts from the state and continues a “rearranging of priorities.”
Fanta, who has his own law practice in Ypsilanti, said he wants to continue providing strong oversight as the district adjusts to meet its financial goals, and protecting bus drivers, custodians and the instructional staff are among his priorities. The cuts necessitated by changes at the state level, Fanta said, need to be kept away from the classroom as much as possible.
He said there is little the board and district can do to deal with state funding cuts except continue to develop “cutting edge” programs that attract students, such as the recently established New Tech High School.
“Many of the issues that really impact (YPS) are out of the local districts’ hands,” Fanta said, adding that more districts need to consider consolidating. For that to happen, there needs to be a strong state superintendent that has the power to consolidate districts, he said.
Fanta called himself a “deep believer in multicultural education” and said he believes Ypsilanti does a good job of providing that but added he is concerned over the rate of African-American students who are suspended compared to other groups, which he said is four to one.
In an effort to save money, the district shuttered several schools in recent years, and Fanta, who serves on the board’s operations committee, said he wants the buildings utilized for community groups. He said he has pushed for that but not received any information from the district's administration on what its plans are for the buildings.
The professional development of the district’s educators is another issue Fanta called a priority. He said YPS needs a strong program in place that is monitored by a board that knows what outcomes are desired, how the outcomes are measured and if the achievement gap is being closed. He said he tries to provide a voice on the board that asks those questions.
“I take seriously my role of providing a sense of vision and oversight,” he said.
Linda Horne served on the Ypsilanti Public School Board from 2006 to 2010 and counts that experience as one of her assets. She works as an administrative assistant at an early childhood development program.
She counted the failing high school as one of the district’s most pressing issues and said the board must closely monitor the school improvement plan it implemented this year.
“Board members must be mindful that the implementation is on target or off target in a timely manner, so that any issues can be corrected right away or celebrated, if it is on target,” she said. In addressing the budget issues, Horne said she would like to see the district work more closely with the unions, staff, students and community to help solve some of the issues.
Eric Temple did not return calls from AnnArbor.com, but previously said he is an administrator with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission. He previously served on the board in 2007 and 2008 after being appointed to fill a vacant position.