School Beat

November General Election Changes

Randall C. Sellhorn


On November 6th a new era of school elections begins with the combination of school board candidates on the general election ballot with other elected officials. House Bill 4005 became Public Act 233 of 2011 in November of 2011 changing the terms of school board trustees and establishing that all school elections will be conducted in the general election on even-numbered years. The trustee’s terms of office were changed to make certain trustee’s terms end on the new even year election cycle. The legislature believes that the changes will reduce the cost of school elections by sharing the polling and ballot expenses with the general election process. And they feel by having all elections on a specific date, more attention will be paid to all the candidates on the ballot. We will have to see if a reduction in cost of conducting the election really is accomplished, but I would like to share with you a few things I am certain will happen if you are not aware of the school election changes.

Our state government thinks because school boards are elected there is no difference to their selection than other elected officials. I have been a Rockford School Board trustee for 16 years and elected to that position three times. I don’t consider myself a politician and I don’t believe that anyone I have served with considered themselves politicians in the same sense that someone on the general election ballot would when running for election. As a result, running a political campaign is not at the top of my “to do” list nor do I think it is appropriate for politicians to be running for boards of education.

Rockford Public School’s Board of Education is an elected volunteer board. Our school board serves the community without pay, unlike other officials being elected on the new ballot. For as long as I have been a trustee, and as long as anyone that has served with me can remember, school board trustees volunteer their time to serve the community. The expense of a campaign to secure a community service position without pay just isn’t practical even when the school election was a separate event. Now that school elections are part of the general election ballot, the candidates for trustee are at an even larger disadvantage to create interest in the election of these important school leaders. You can only imagine a school board trustee’s advertisement in the paper or signs proclaiming their candidacy in the sea of other candidates for national, state and local offices in yards and along the roads.

The position of the school board candidates on the ballot is an equally difficult circumstance for candidates. At the end of the ballot, after the Presidential candidates, Senatorial candidates, House of Representative candidates, State Board of Education candidates, the University of Michigan Regents, the Michigan State Trustee candidates, the candidates for the Governor of Wayne State University, the county and township officials, the Judiciary candidates, and just before the ballot proposals, you will find three names of candidates for Board Member Rockford Public Schools. Randall C. Sellhorn and Lisa M. Kreager, the incumbents, and Jeffrey Steendam are the candidates of which you will be voting for two. Don’t lose your focus in the voting booth – it’s a long way down the list to get to the school portion of the ballot.

So what is my point if you have followed me to this point in the article? Randall C Sellhorn, Lisa M. Kreager and Jeffrey Steendam are on the ballot for a different purpose than the other candidates on the ballot. They are volunteers looking to serve our community, parents and students. They are not looking to serve our community for payment like the other candidates seeking to serve as their employment. Please take the time to investigate these people as candidates. Get to the bottom of the ballot and make a selection for the volunteers that use their vocational experiences, their interest in teaching and learning and their passion for the students of Rockford Public Schools to represent the Ram Nation.

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