Four candidates are running for three, six-year positions on the Grosse Ile Board of Education.
Those running in the Nov. 3 election are Frank “Scooter” DeMare, Nikki Lilje, Daniel Murphy and Nadia Tonova. DeMare and Murphy are incumbents.
Each candidate was asked to respond to the same questions related to the district and their qualifications to lead.
On a 100-point scale, grade the district you’re hoping to represent. What’s its top accomplishment and what needs improvement?
DeMare: 80, because I believe we are good, but we have quite a ways to go to become great and a top district in the state again. The top accomplishment of our district is the success of our student body. We consistently have one of the top graduation rates in the state each year. This is also attributed to the high quality of teachers and staff. What needs improvement is continuing to bring in top-talent to lead our district and our children while maintaining the current talent we have in place already. We need to bring in the best of the best year-in and year-out.
Lilje: 85. Our district’s top accomplishment is a tie between the amazing teachers recruited over the years and the sense of community the district creates in Grosse Ile. The top area for improvement is the need to invest in acquiring and robustly integrating technology into our daily learning delivery system. We should strive to be a 1:1 district so that every student has access to a computer at all times. Had we done this prior to the pandemic, the transition to distance learning would not have been as difficult. This kind of investment requires funding and funding is always a challenge.
Murphy: I give our district a 91 due to the high graduation rate, improved test scores — especially at the middle school — involved stakeholders and committed staff. Our top accomplishment coming is out of deficit spending without making cuts that impacted the students. Improvements we can make are better communication, more technology training and a renewed strategic plan. The board formed a communications committee years ago because we need to do more to ensure community understanding and transparency. We need to help teachers with this new virtual learning environment. Fortunately, we have hired an instructional technology expert to provide hands-on support in the classrooms who is helping out day-to-day.
Tonova: Overall, Grosse Ile Township Schools is an amazing district! I believe that some of our top accomplishments are improving our test scores, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels, our high graduation rates, our excellent teachers and staff, and our strong equity fund. I also believe that there is always room for growth, improvement and innovation. In particular, I believe that we can do a better job of enhancing two-way communications and engagement with families and stakeholders, as well as integrating technology into our curriculum.Why are you the best choice for this position?
DeMare: I believe I am best suited to return as a board member for many reasons. First, my passion for our community and our schools is unmatched. Being a lifelong island resident of 41 years and coming from a long line of generations who have gone through GI schools, I have a passion to give back to the district and community that gave me so much. Secondly, during my tenure on the board the past six years I have worn all hats: chair of the communication committee, chair of the policy committee, chair of the curriculum committee, secretary, vice president and president. We have accomplished many great things, while still having ample opportunity to continue to improve.
Lilje: My mom says, if you want the same result, keep doing the same thing. I offer myself as a servant-leader. I will listen to and consult with the community on ideas and challenges. I will study future trends in education to ensure our kids are not behind. I will seek to understand the benefit and risks of decisions and engage in meaningful discussion before voting. I will use the creativity, efficiency, expertise and scrappiness I have gained over the years at Ford Credit to ensure we are getting every bit of funding and cutting every bit of waste possible.
Murphy: I have over 20 years of experience on the school board, starting as a board member in 1998. I have service as president of the school board for six years and currently hold that office. Through the years on the board I have cut budgets, hired superintendents, and served on every committee. I will be able to use my deep knowledge base acquired over these years. I know this role and with the COVID-19 threat still around, funding issues and the tough decisions yet to be made, I think it’s important to have someone with my experience on the board.
Tonova: I believe that I am the best choice for the Grosse Ile Township Schools’ Board of Education because I will provide a fresh perspective and bring a unique skill set that will greatly contribute to the board. I am passionate about our schools, children and community. I have three young children in GI Schools and graduated from Grosse Ile High School in 2002. I would bring over 14 years of leadership experience with me to the board, including my experiences as a small business owner, a nonprofit leader, and a member of various nonprofit Boards of Directors.