School board candidates appear at forum

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

The three candidates running for the school board in Onaway participated in a public forum Tuesday evening in the media center.

There are three candidates running for two expiring terms on the Onaway Area Community Schools Board of Education. They are Monica Larson, Donald Bastian and Vanessa Dean. Larson’s name will appear on the ballot, while Bastian and Dean are write-in candidates.

Lyle Dickenson of Onaway organized the event to inform voters. He led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer before commending the candidates for stepping forward.

Dickinson also provided statistics regarding the district. He said the district has a budget of nearly $6 million.

“There are 65 employees, so (board members) are responsible for a lot of money and we need to get the best candidates to be on this board,” said Dickinson. “That’s why we are here tonight to find out what they are all about.” Names were drawn from a hat and Larson was the first to speak at the podium.

Larson grew up in Onaway and attended school in Onaway, as did her husband and both their families.

“One of things I liked most about my experiences here is the small town feeling, where we were fortunate enough to know our fellow classmates, but also the faculty and staff,” said Larson. She has two children attending the high school, including a senior.

“I am very proud that they are able to experience this atmosphere as well,” she continued. “I believe we need to preserve this feeling for future generations.

“I am not only a mom to my two children, but I genuinely care for their classmates and all of the students in Onaway. I understand that some families don’t have the resources or the time to advocate for their children and that is why I would like to be a voice for those kids.”

She believes the best way to make Onaway a great place to live is investing in youth. “I see so much potential from our kids and I want to be a part of helping them reach some of the amazing goals they have by keeping them interested in learning.”

Larson said new programs need to be implemented and security issues need to be addressed to provide the best possible learning environment.

“I feel we need to explore additional methods of teaching to be sure that our students are prepared for whatever path they wish to take in the future.”

Larson has attended several board meetings in the last year and believes the current board is moving in the right direction, and “I’m looking forward to working with this group as we continue to move Onaway schools into the future.”

Bastian has been in the financial industry since 2005 and works at the Awakon Federal Credit Union. He has lived in Onaway since 1999. He married Molly Northcott and has three children attending school in the district.

“The reason I am running for the school board as a write-in candidate is our children are our future. We’ve got to make sure they are headed in the correct direction.

“Along with my wife, we teach our children that in order to be successful you have to work hard – a half-hearted effort returns a half-hearted result. Students spend many hours at a school and I feel that it is essential that this message is communicated to our students through the school staff. We want our students to understand the direct correlation between hard work and success.”

Bastian wants graduating students to have the tools needed to be successful, regardless of the path they choose, whether it is college, a vocational school or going right into the workforce.

“Teachers hold a very difficult responsibility to teach their students in an exciting and thought-provoking way,” said Bastian. “It is imperative to capture the interest of the students. We are fortunate to have many teachers like that in our school system. All teachers should be expected to communicate information to the students this way. We need to make sure that we have the best tools and not settle for anything but the best.”

Bastian also believes culture needs to be diversified into the school system. “I grew up downstate where we had cultural events. We don’t have that up here. We need to open our kids’ eyes and let them see that there is a world out there, through education. Culture is what makes the world a fascinating place to be.”

He continued, “With the advent of putting children first and doing the right thing for the kids, not necessarily to win a vote, or to be on someone’s good side, the kids are the important part. Sometimes in the mix, the kids get lost.”

Dean grew up on a farm near St. Johns, north of Lansing. She participated in many school sports and after school programs. She later attended Lake Superior State University and earned degrees in cardiac stenography and business administration.

Her husband is Caleb Dean and they have a two-year-old daughter.

“My husband was born and raised here and attended school here, as did his parents,” said Dean. “He has such pride for the school. We own a home in the Onaway area and we are both employed in Onaway. The pride that he has for the school is something that I too want to feel.

“I want to do my part to make this the most educational experience and productive experience for my daughter. I know it takes the teachers, support staff, the students and the community to make a strong school,” said Dean. “I don’t know the ins and outs of the financial situation of the school or the opportunities that face our children, but I would love to learn and hopefully I can bring some strong ideas and a strong work ethic to the board as well.”

She said a six-year term is a big commitment, “but I’m ready for the adventure and the challenge of being on the school board. I’ve decided to run for this position to better myself and to better the school for the community around us.”

There also was information presented at the end of the forum regarding write-in voting and how to ensure those votes are counted. The name of the candidate has to be printed and the circle needs to be filled in.

Both expiring terms are for six years. Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.