2020 Board of Education Candidates

Pam DeJong Photo

1. Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

I moved to Allendale in 1991 and immediately volunteered to work with the school district.   I have always felt the schools are one of the most important aspects of a community.  When I was in the real estate business, it was always the first question people had about moving to a community.  Understanding the district, and how it has changed over the past 29 years is paramount. We have grown many times over and have been blessed by our voters to build new school buildings, athletic fields, music programs and our Ceglarek Fine Arts Center. I have always been very active in volunteering for the schools, serving on the Allendale Community Foundation and also serving on the Allendale Public Schools Foundation. I am very proud of the fact that my husband and I were involved from the beginning in creating the Allendale Public School Foundation. The foundation has increased the balance by our fundraising efforts, to provide teacher grants, scholarships and other programs needed in the schools.

I will continue to work in the community supporting our public schools and creating an atmosphere of inclusion to inspire and support all of our students.

2. What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

Both of my sons graduated from Allendale Public Schools, giving me many opportunities to volunteer and assist in their education.

Besides my 10 years at Grand Valley, I spent a few years owning my own small business, 10 years at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce (working from sales to Vice President of Member Services), and 10 years in the real estate business, starting in office work and working up to Relocation Director. All of my positions have afforded me tremendous opportunities to develop my customer service skills. I believe any board member needs to have a very strong background in customer service. As a board member I am constantly serving my customers, who are parents, teachers, administrators and students.  Additionally, I have served as Treasurer for the APS Board of Education as well as the borad representative for the Ottawa Area School Board Association.

During my years as part of the Regional Math & Science Center at GVSU, I was able to work with teachers from districts in Ottawa, Kent, Muskegon, Newaygo and Montcalm Counties. Our department's programs provided professional development to teachers in the math and science disciplines. Our office also put on events such as the Michigan Science Olympiad Tournament, in which we hosted up to 2000 students.

During my time with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, I held a leadership role, which enabled me to work with committee chairs, volunteers and businesses from across West Michigan. Additionally, I was responsible for the annual membership renewals for over 2500 member businesses, and over $1,000,000 in membership dues. My responsibilities also included budget and revenue projection for the organization.

3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

I feel that Covid19 has created many issues for all school districts. Allendale Public Schools teachers did a fantastic job of switching to online learning when we had to shut down. They deserve a tremendous amount of praise for the work and additional hours they put in to make sure our students had what they needed to stay on track. The continuing result of offering school in different forms including in person learning, blended learning and online learning, has created financial concerns. Our district would have reached 10% of our annual operating budget in our fund balance, this year. Unfortunately, because we do not know exactly what we can expect in revenue for the coming year, we will need to dip into those funds. Cuts have been made across the board to prepare for this, but it remains challenging. School funding is always a concern as we try to keep class size down, create new opportunities for learning, and make sure that our students' mental health as well as educational needs are met. This year has made this a little bit harder for all of us.

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

Having been in a variety of leadership roles, I find one of the most important aspects of working effectively with other board members and the superintendent is the ability to listen to all of the facts and opinions of the other board members.  There have been times when I have felt strongly about a topic only to find that other members felt differently.   While listening to others give their opinions about a topic, I have been able to learn reasons for their viewpoint that I may not have considered.  It is always so important to spend time listening to all views and determining what is best for our students and district.  My personal opinion is only one of seven.  The ability to communicate and hear all sides, and come to a conclusion that best serves our students is the most important part of being a board member.  Currently we work extremely well together.  While we often have differing opinions, we all respect each other and have a common goal.

Aaron Haight

1. Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

Just a little about me and why I want to serve a second term on the Allendale School Board. I am married to WJ Haight (industrial arts teacher at Hudsonville High School) and mom to Jacek (9th grade) and Vance (6th grade), both of whom have attended Allendale Public Schools since kindergarten.

I come from a family of educators (teachers and administrators) and have made education a priority in my personal and professional life. I value education not only for myself and my family, but for everyone. I believe ALL children should have access to a great education. I believe that public education is a "public good" and has incredible, long term benefits for the community. I believe teachers and staff are valued members of our community.

2. What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

Professionally, I have over 20 years experience in education. I am currently Associate Dean of Students at Grand Valley State University. Prior to my employment at GVSU, I worked in educational consulting and at Special Olympics Michigan.

Prior to my first term on school board, I was very active in the community including, but not limited to: Allendale PTO (past president), Coopersville Allendale College Access Network, APS Anti-Bullying Committee, Allendale Rotary (14-15 president), AYSO (team parent), Allendale Little League (past coach and volunteer), Allendale Community Foundation (past board member).

I have taken the opportunity to serve on the following committees in my school board tenure: finance, crisis, wellness, and sex education advisory board. I have also served as a board officer since my first year including most recently Vice President. I have participated in five Michigan Association of School Boards annual conferences/delegate assemblies/workshops, three required trainings (strategic planning, superintendent search, and superintendent evaluation), and 11 CBA courses.

I am dedicated to serving the district and understand the commitment needed. I have missed only 4 meetings in my 6-year history on the board!!!!

 3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

*Decreased state funding (especially post Covid). I am so grateful that our board and administration diligently worked to increase our fund balance (4.7% to 10.1% pre Covid) to help offset these cuts. There is also a lack of public knowledge on how schools are funded. Per pupil funding, bonds, millages… they all do something different. That said, we are so fortunate to live in a community that has been supportive of schools.

*Increased state (and federal) mandates that are not always in the best interest of our kids. For example, standardized tests are no longer used to measure learning in a moment in time, but used to punish schools and teachers. Research shows that these tests have a long history of bias and do not accurately measure various learning styles. 

*Decreased public sentiment of the education and talent of teachers. We have seen this highlighted over the last six months. There was a lot of praise in the spring, but now we are hearing a lot of backlash. Our teachers are trained in so much more than content areas and we need to recognize their expertise while understanding the limits of expectations. 

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

I have learned so much in this area during my tenure on the board as well as throughout  my career in higher education. I have learned that listening is more important than speaking. I have also learned that trust is essential. As a leader, I recognize that you want to surround yourself with people who support you, but you need those that will challenge you. The ability to create and participate in respectful dialogue is essential. We also need to remember the role of the board, it’s fluence, and it’s limits.

Anna Hendricks Photo

 

1. Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

I have kids that are in Kindergarten and Pre-K along with nieces, nephews and friends in Allendale schools, and as a parent I want to be able to be a part of what is shaping my children, family and friends in the school setting.

2. What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

In the past, I worked as an administrative assistant in the kids department at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville and organized some of the events for our kids. I also used to substitute teach in Baltimore, MD for elementary age kids. Between the two, I’ve acquired a lot of administrative skills, but it also shows I have a lot of passion for kids and that passion would drive me to make sure they are getting the best education possible and that they have the safest place to be in, where everyone can co-exist peacefully with their friends and teachers with other beliefs and opinions.


3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

The national pandemic is the obvious challenge we face today. The issues of social distancing, wearing masks, etc. as mandated by our governor in our public school setting, adds a lot of difficulties in creating the best learning atmosphere, best education and safest place for staff and students.

Another challenge, I believe, is sex education. I believe there is a lot of division on that subject. Like I mentioned in the other question, our kids need to have an environment that allows everyone to peacefully co-exist with others who have different opinions and beliefs. So the challenge is how to implement a sex education that does not take away or tamper with the natural right of a parent on what they believe is right for their children to learn concerning this subject.

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

When I used to work at ResLife in the kids department, I worked in our office with 2 Pastors and 3 other administrative assistants.
During events it would require us working with other departments and Pastors within the church. I worked as a team player, which always required great communication.

Kevin Holstege Photo

1. Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

I have been a part of Allendale Public Schools for many years. First as a student and alumni, then as a parent of children in the district. I have a passion for serving the kids in this district as a football coach and in the youth wrestling program. I also have a desire to listen to the many constituents in the community and their feelings on the education of their students.

2. What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

I have been a coach in the school district for over 8 years. I have a passion for working with the kids, and helping our district seek out the best opportunities for their education, growth and development. I have a common sense approach to education, and a strong involvement with the youth in Allendale. I have held leadership roles in my church and in the workplace. I am not afraid of asking questions to make sure that we work for the best interest of our students.

3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

Specifically in Allendale rapid growth. Allendale is one of the fastest growing districts in Ottawa County. We need to manage our funds while we experience this growth. We also need to make sure that the teachers have the necessary tools in light of changing times to allow our kids to succeed. In this area the lower level of state funding received per student in comparison to other districts also places us at a disadvantage.

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

While at my former church I was a deacon. During this time I also became the head deacon. The focus of the deacons was to make sure the church was accountable for its finances. I was a representative for the Zeeland Classis, and also on the buildings and grounds committee. Working with a large board and members of the church you have to be able to offer different opinions respectfully and allow grace for others. As a coach you have to deal with fellow coaches, parents, children, officials and opposing teams. You have to be able to maneuver in between each group and work for the same goal. The goal of the school board is to achieve the best outcomes for our students. We are all working toward the same goal, with that perspective it is easier to approach each other with respect even if there are disagreements on methods and views. Through my work history I have been promoted to supervisory positions due to my work ethic, level head and ability to guide other coworkers. I work for a company that I interact with customers on a daily basis as well as various contacts in our parent company. I am able to focus on what needs to be done as a leader.

 

Marcie Hurlbutt photo

1.  Why are you interested in serving on the school board?
I am serving as a parent of three Allendale Public School students. I am an ambitious mom of 3 children enrolled at Allendale Public Schools across all education levels except high school to date. I am passionate about our youth's growth, development, and future as my children, friends' children, and the children within our community work toward high school graduation.
I am serving as an Allendale community member. My husband and I have established our family foundation within Allendale, which we have grown to love for its many components that mimic our roots, where we grew up. We also value the friendships and relationships we have formed over the last 14 years. Therefore, it would be an honor to actively contribute to shaping and molding our school’s future.
I am serving as a healthcare executive in Allendale and the surrounding 13 counties. Finally, as a healthcare executive, COVID-19 sparked a stronger desire to serve our community by sharing healthcare knowledge and perspective with our schools as healthcare challenges intersect the education system.


2.  What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?
My work experience successfully positions me to meaningfully contribute to Allendale Public School's strategic plan and operational goals, including budget setting and teacher, parent, and community engagement. Currently, I provide oversight and direction for 800+ team members within a $7+ billion organization. I am responsible for formulating the strategic plan and operational goals, including establishing annual budgets for a $140+ million revenue-generating business across 60 locations. To successfully lead within my organization, I have been required to effectively communicate, develop strong relationships, collaborate with stakeholders, and build a culture of empowerment where all opinions and viewpoints are valued.
My personal connection to the educational arena, having a brother who is a principal and a sister who is an English teacher, affords me an intimate understanding of teachers and administrators who are directly educating and mentoring our children.
My ongoing commitment to higher education as guest speaker for GVSU and Baker College's Physical Therapy and Leadership courses indicates our youth's education is paramount to me.


3.  What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?
Challenge #1: Funding and resources continue to be a challenge faced by schools across the state. While APS has improved the district’s financial health, we need to continue to have laser-like focus to improve and sustain a superior financial position, which will successfully position APS to overcome challenges #2-4 below.


Challenge #2: While public education faces the challenge of educating students to meet the 21st century workforce and industry demands, it also competes with schools of choice, charter and online schools, students' 24/7 access to social media, and now a pandemic. APS will need to develop a solid strategy to transform our educational model to prepare students who are collaborative, innovative, creative, critical thinkers and exceptional communicators.


Challenge #3: Allendale community is experiencing rapid growth and demographic changes. APS will need to create a clear vision and strategy to respond and redefine what will transform us into a competitive and desired district where students with thrive post-graduation.


Challenge #4: With more ways to connect than ever before, public schools are challenged with effectively communicating with our community members and partners. APS will need to create a strategy to build trustworthy relationships, engagement and partnerships with all stakeholders, including our bargaining units, local businesses, organizations, colleges and universities.
Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making.

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?
Collaboration, listening and effective communication are at the heart of decision-making and fundamental to my role as a Health Care Executive. I have spent my career cultivating a healthy culture and shared leadership, which has resulted in teams that are top performing within my organization. The success I have shared with my teams derives from my values of building relationships, establishing mutual goals and making it safe to have open, honest and sometimes hard conversations. My ability to develop high performing, thriving teams was validated when I received the Exemplary System Thinking & Collaboration Award.

Lorna Martin Photo

1. Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

The reason why I am interested in serving on the board is because the Lord has called me to take this position.  He wants me to use my experience, wisdom  and influence to take back this school for his honor and glory. After helping my grandchildren with their school work I saw firsthand what they were being taught and how they were being taught.  Over the last few years I have heard much regarding student and teacher attitudes.  I see a need for the community and the board to take back our children’s values and education.  Currently the world view has been slowly creeping into books, specials, sports, administration, teaching styles you name it is taking control of our children in a way that no longer holds the values of our community.  The community and the school board are accountable for the education and values that are being taught or not being taught and we the people of this community need to stand and be a voice for our children.

2. What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

The skills that I would bring to this position would be business and finance, critical thinking and leadership. I would also bring my ability to work in harmony with people. This special skill will be beneficial in bringing the school board members to be in line with the community and the school administration.

3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

I would say the top issues facing this school district is slashed funding per student, oversized classrooms, student attitudes and the need for local control over the curriculum and values. In addition to the top issues there is a need to create an environment where the pride in the community’s schools’ achievements whether it be academic, sports, specials, safety, or with services done for the community are valued once again. I would encourage parental involvement, would listen to concerns of parents, and would work with community, parents and administration to address each issue.

4. Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

I currently work in the tax department for Herman Miller, Inc.  Due to all the different responsibilities’ of my job with our federal and state income tax returns I work with many different individuals within the company.  To accomplish all the compliance work I need to interact with co-workers, my own manager, managers from other departments, the global tax director, treasurer, and other state officials.   Besides all this I have volunteered my time and have worked in different capacities for the Allendale Public School.  I ran the concession stand for the senior all-nighter and managed the senior all-nighter committee, I was in charge of the Fun Fair for the elementary, and  I also was a member of the Allendale PTO in which I was responsible for coordinating fund raisers for the school.  The Fun Fair was a big event for Allendale’s Elementary and it required me to work with the Elementary Principal, teachers, community, volunteers, and janitorial staff.  I had to recruit volunteers, encourage people involvement during schools open house, call upon businesses within our township and the surrounding area for supplies or prizes, and I had to schedule and run the meetings for this big event.  This event required a lot of coordination, perseverance and follow-up with the schools administration,  and all the different committees which I had set up to make this a fun and special day for our children.

Lukas Schoenborn

1.  Why are you interested in serving on the school board?

I want to be more involved.  I also feel that I have what it takes to be a board member.  If elected I will come to the school board being respectful, fiscally responsible, transparent, and open minded.  I know our community values our schools and can tell by seeing how in August Allendale had the highest percentage of votes in favor of the renewal of the operating millage in Ottawa County.  Also,the percentage of candidates to open positions for school board is significantly higher in Allendale.  Some of the other districts just have enough to fill the open seats.

2.  What qualities, skills and experience would you bring to the board, and what contributions can you make to this school district?

I have an Associate’s Degree from Muskegon Community College in Criminal Justice-Corrections.  Over the years I have been involved on committees and boards such as FFA, Zoning Board of Appeals, and many committees at my employer.  I was in FFA during high school as a member and was elected to officer positions as high as president.  I was also involved at the regional level as a district VP and post high school was in the alumni.  In FFA I learned leadership skills, Parliamentary Procedure, and how to run a meeting.  On the Zoning Board of Appeals I went to training put on at Ottawa County because I strive to be better in things that I am involved in.  I do not come to this candidacy with an agenda and I feel it is important to listen to all sides and make the best possible decision I can for the community, parents, and staff.  I am familiar working with large budgets and firmly believe in a learning and working environment that is safe and inclusive. 

3.  What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public education today?

I feel the biggest challenge is budget cuts and added expenses put in place to prevent the spread of Covid 19.  With changing set up in classrooms, extra cleaning, and having an online option for students it has taken a strain on the finances in the district.  On top of all the added costs, schools also have had to take a cut in state funding.  In order to address this I will listen to all the options and vote in a way that I feel is our biggest bang for our buck.  I manage several large budgets in my role at Tyson Foods and understand balancing finances.  The board needs to work together and make difficult decisions to keep budgets in line and allow the school to continue moving forward.  

4.  Working effectively with other school board members and the superintendent requires skills in communication and decision-making. Describe your experience working with other members of a leadership team?

I feel a board member not only needs to have great communication skills but also needs to be able to collaborate as they are regularly working with the other board members and the superintendent. 

At Tyson I work daily with other members of a leadership team and am involved in many committees.  On the committees I have roles anywhere from the leader to a contributing member.  I have worked effectively with diverse teams that come from different backgrounds.  I know that in meetings during discussion it is important to express why I feel the way I do about something.  If not when it gets time to vote the other board members may vote against me as they may not have thought of things that I did.  I have also learned it is important to be open minded and listen to other board members during discussion as they may bring up things that I have not thought of.