There are 41 candidates/incumbents competing for school board seats in Shiawassee County for the Tuesday, Nov. 8 Election Day.

Corunna Public Schools Board of Education Candidate Information:

   The following is information related to the Corunna Public Schools Board. The current board of education as listed at corunna.k12.mi.us includes Jennifer Strauch, Sara Beldyga, Dennis Braid, Mark Buckley, Janice Ray, Troy Crowe and Jeff Riley.

  There are eight candidates/incumbents on the ballot for Corunna and they are David Banas, Dennis Braid, Troy Crowe, Jamie R. Nichols, Ashley Rathbun, Janice (Jan) Ray, Jennifer Strauch and Brian P. True.

   Due to having so many school board candidates in the county, a list of the same questions was emailed to each candidate with consideration given toward the Independent readership. Some candidates received a phone call if an email address was not available. Six candidates responded: Dennis Braid, Jamie R. Nichols, Ashley Rathbun, Janice (Jan) Ray, Jennifer Strauch and Brian P. True. 

   The questions asked of each candidate were: What education/qualities do you have to make you the best candidate? What do you believe are the three most critical issues facing local school boards/districts right now? Do you endorse book banning in schools/school libraries? What local organization(s) do you belong to and have you been endorsed or received campaign finances from these or other organizations? If the candidates wanted to, they submitted a photo. Not all candidates answered all of the questions. 

Dennis Braid submitted the following:

What education/qualities do you have to make you the best candidate?

   I have served 10 years as a Corunna School Board member. I have held committee positions on: policy, buildings and grounds, personnel and finance. During my tenure, I have been involved with major budget adjustments to keep up with area wide reduction in enrollment. I have been involved with three successful bond issues. I also participated in the hiring process of two very successful superintendents. I now serve as Board Secretary.

What do you believe are the three most critical issues facing local school boards/districts right now?

   The inconsistency of state and federal operating regulations including curriculum standards. The drastic reductions of school age population in our area over the past 10 years. (That seems to have leveled off for now.) The rising costs of buildings and grounds “maintenance” materials and energy costs.

Do you endorse book banning in schools/school libraries?

   I do not endorse book banning. I do endorse a rigorous book review if questioned by parent or staff. Materials in our school libraries go through a diligent review process making sure they are “age appropriate” for each library before being available to our students.

What local organization(s) do you belong to and have you been endorsed or received campaign finances from these or other organizations?

   Over the years, I have been involved in many organizations providing public service to our community.  I have no campaign financial assistance from any organization.

Jamie Nichols submitted the following:

   I am a 1998 graduate and lifetime resident of the Corunna Public School District. My husband and I of 23 years have raised our two children in the district. Our daughter is a 2020 graduate of Corunna High School and our son is currently a senior at Corunna. My roots run deep for the Corunna School system. Both my parents are graduates of Corunna and play a part in our local community. The Corunna District and students success is important to our family.

     I have an Associate of Arts Degree with a ZA Endorsement. I have worked as a bookkeeper/accounting administrator for several years. I am actively involved in our community through the Owosso-Kiwanis Morning Club, serving Shiawassee County children and an active member of our local church. I feel my current position as an administrator of New Creation Church along with my 15-plus years of accounting experience will be a great influence in the budgeting and fiscal health of the district and deciding where taxpayer dollars are to be spent. 

   I was a past teacher for the Corunna Preschool program. This age is the opening door for our future Cavaliers. Where the academic shaping and social interactions begin between staff/students. I stand for the health and wealth of students in a positively enriched atmosphere when they enter our Schools. 

   Three of the most crucial issues facing local school boards/districts right now are getting parents to become more involved in their child’s learning, creating a safe learning environment for all students – and finally to focus on the core learning principles.

   On the topic of book banning is schools, while I support our school libraries, it is important for all reading material to be age appropriate for our students.

   My campaign is not endorsed and I have not received finances from any organization. 

Ashley Rathbun submitted the following:

     My name is Ashley Rathbun and I am excited for the opportunity to run for Corunna School Board. My husband and I are both Corunna graduates that decided to move back home to raise our kids in this amazing community. We have four children in the district ranging in ages from Kindergarten to 8th-grade. I graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Child Development. I spent five years in the classroom as a kindergarten and 1st-grade teacher and then decided to stay home once our children were born to focus on our family. I believe that my perspective from being a classroom teacher will be an asset to the school board. When we moved back to Michigan, after traveling all over the country while my husband Kevin was in the Army, I went to work for our family business and help to manage the corporate office at Fast Eddie’s Car Wash and Oil Change. Currently, I am the PTO President of the Elementary Buildings and strive to be involved to help however I can within the school district to support the teachers and students at Corunna. I am a Kiwanis member and active volunteer in our children’s sports teams. I believe addressing the staffing shortage across the district is one of the most critical issues facing Corunna Public Schools. We need to find ways to retain and attract families and staff to our community. Another of my passions is parental rights and making sure all kids are represented in every decision. Parents are the most important teachers in a child’s life and it is my goal to involve the parent in every step of the education process. 

   I am running my own school board campaign and have not been endorsed by any organizations.

Janice (Jan) Ray submitted the following:

   My education includes a B.A. in English and History and an M.A. in Reading Instruction. I retired from St. Charles Community Schools. Although I mainly taught 6th- through 8th-grades, I have also had experience in high school, parochial school and adult education. My experience on the Corunna School Board has shown me the beauty of teamwork, consensus-building and a positive school climate to help the district run like a well-oiled machine. I am a good listener, I do my homework and I want Corunna Public Schools to continue to provide an excellent education as they did for my children.

  Critical issues facing school boards/districts right now include returning schools and students to a more normal routine following COVID interruptions without forgetting lessons learned from that experience. Younger students may have never had a school year without COVID; older ones don’t want to experience that isolation again. Schools always need to keep an eye on the finances. Keeping all areas fully staffed is another area to watch. Right now, both of those things look pretty good. We have to return our expectations to academic goals and work as a team to achieve them. Parents and community members need to be involved and able to ask questions; however, they also need to understand that there is a chain of command and there are procedures to follow. Facebook is not part of that. 

   I do not endorse book banning in schools or school libraries. I spent my entire teaching career encouraging students to read a variety of materials and I will continue to do so. A parent may forbid their own child to read a certain book, but they should not be able to remove it for everyone. If there is a specific book that you object to after reading it yourself, speak with the school librarian to request it be reviewed. 

   I have been a member of the Corunna Athletic Club since 2010, currently I am a Trustee. I have worked in the concession stand since 2010 for football games, basketball, volleyball, track, wrestling and more. It can take up to a dozen people to run the stand for a football game. The CAC provides funds for new uniforms and equipment requested by coaches. I have been a member of the Corunna Education Foundation since 2012, first as a school board representative, then as a trustee. I currently serve as secretary. The Foundation manages funds for scholarships, student and teacher mini-grants and special projects such as e-sports. I have not asked either of these groups to endorse my candidacy, nor do I intend to. It would not be appropriate. I have not received campaign financing from anyone.

Jennifer Strauch submitted the following:

   Being a board member since November 2012, gives me the experience I need to be a great board member. I am always available to take the time to meet with anyone to hear what they have to say, help them get the answers they want or just simply to hear another perspective.  I have taken board member classes through the Michigan Association of School Boards to help better my understanding of being a board member. I’m currently an instructional aide for the Shiawassee RESD so I have experience in education. My husband and I have three children, one is a graduate of Corunna and two are currently students in Corunna, so I evaluate how decisions will not only impact my own children, but every student in the district. Having a family has given me budgeting experience that I carry over into our school budgeting and being financially responsible. I am also currently active in our schools, attending and volunteering at many events, which I believe is important.

    The critical issues facing districts currently is maintaining the budget with the funds we receive. This, of course, is an on-going issue that unfortunately will never go away. Teacher and employee retention is another challenge, which I feel by offering enrollment into our on-site Health Clinic has helped with that. Also, supporting students academically and more recently, emotionally and mentally. Our goal is to have all students be college and/or career ready and giving them all the support they need to achieve this is a must.

    In order for students to be well-rounded and well-read, I do not endorse book banning in schools/school libraries. With parent involvement, I feel this will lead to great conversations at home between students and parents.

    I do not receive funding from any organization.

Brian P. True submitted the following:

   I want your vote, so I may serve and assist our community’s most vital asset, its children. As a member of the school board, it will be my honor to support and protect the rights of all our community’s children, parents and professional educators. Schools are a place for the community to come together in support of each child’s basic right to self-determination, as our Founding Fathers intended.

   We are fortunate to live in a country where each family, in the privacy of their own home, promotes their own individual beliefs and values. Our professional educators are there to be open to the many ideas and curiosities each student brings. Professional educators have a hard job, respecting the rights of the individual while meeting the educational needs of all students. It is the school board’s job therefore to support our professionals and provide the tools they need to educate all students, while supporting each as an individual.

   One of America’s greatest and most fruitful traditions is that of school librarians. They act as a bulwark, protecting our freedom of speech and by extension our freedom of individual thought. As the proud son of a reference librarian, I know the seriousness with which each librarian curates their collection. School libraries are not there to direct a child’s way of thinking, but rather broaden access to knowledge about their world, while promoting critical thinking. Throughout history, restricting access to knowledge in an attempt to control a society’s way of thinking has always ended badly. 

   With a career of more than 25 years representing client needs and years of nonprofit work supporting better healthcare, I hope you will consider me capable to represent you on the school board. We may not always agree, but I promise to represent you in a way that is rational and considerate of the community as a whole.

Corunna School Board Candidate Information was last modified: September 20th, 2022 by Karen Elford