Board of Education
School Board Candidates for November 2020 Election
Sun and News Article - Oct 10, 2020 Edition
Written by Greg Chandler
*Note by CCS - The seven candidates are listed in alphabetical order*
Seven candidates are running for two available six-year terms on the Caledonia Community Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election.
Board incumbents Chris Behm and Bill Donohue are seeking re-election, while five challengers are hoping to oust one of the incumbents – Andrew Backus, Dr. Brittany Barber Garcia, Trevor DeGroote, Katie Isic and Andrew Pastoor.
Andrew Backus, 45, has lived in the Caledonia school district for the past 10 years. He has two children who attend school in the district, one in sixth grade and one in second. He works in pharmaceutical sales for Novartis. He holds an associate degree from Lansing Community College, a bachelor of arts in business from Siena Heights University and a master of science in administration from Central Michigan University.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: Board member for church/school for two years; Junior Achievement for five years at Emmons Lake Elementary School; founded and currently run Caledonia Youth Basketball League; this will be the fifth year. Last year we had more than 550 kids enrolled. I work with the Caledonia Resource Center for this program. Volunteer coach for football, basketball and baseball.
Current and/or previous elected offices held: None besides church board member.
Why are you seeking this position? I want the people that live in this community and people from outside this community to recognize Caledonia schools as one of, if not the best, school districts in Grand Rapids. I have met so many amazing teachers, support staff and leadership in Caledonia, and want the ability to work with them to reach their own goals as well as the goals of our schools for our community. These are challenging times, with the school’s recent financial issues, and relatively new leadership. I look forward to being part of the change.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? This is extremely tough with only 100 words. I feel helping the elementary schools and middle schools make a smooth transition with all the changes taking place next year would be a top priority. Equal priority would be making sure the taxpayers’ bond money is being spent appropriately. These would be my top issues for my first year.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? Making sure administration, staff and community are all on the same page. I have heard from staff as well as many parents that more emotional service support is needed (counselors, social workers and behavior interventionists) for students and staff. Financially, we need to figure out how to spend our resources effectively as Caledonia has grown from a middle-sized school district to now one of the largest districts competing with schools in the O-K Red. Resources need to be allocated with the best return for our money for buildings, education and extra circular activity.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? The district needs to be more transparent with some of its decisions. Outreach meetings should be done live via web so everyone can watch. Community members need to have someone they can reach out to for questions and concerns. We have to figure out financially how we can implement more emotional support positions for students and staff. We need to find a better way to show the community where their tax dollars are going. I would help set up a committee that would do this, not only for parents to see, but all of Caledonia.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? I think the school board needs to not only look at what Caledonia is doing during the pandemic but also study other school districts to figure out what we can do to be successful for our students and staff academically, emotionally and financially. Every day is a new day during this pandemic, and school districts need to be prepared for as much as they can because change is fast and constant.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? If I had the ability to spend $1 million grant on the school system, I would look into dividing the money into two parts. First, I would look at what type of emotional support services I could help provide with the money, and where they would be needed the most. Children are struggling during COVID with their emotions in this very different world and they need help expressing their emotions and people to talk too. Second, I would create a fund that would allow extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, music) to request funds for opportunities to enhance themselves or their experiences.
Dr. Brittany N. Barber Garcia, 36, lives on Lydia Court. Born and raised in Caledonia, she was class salutatorian when she graduated from Caledonia High School in 2002. She has been a pediatric psychologist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children's Hospital for the past six years. She serves as chief of psychology for the hospital's medical staff, and is also an adjunct professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She has two children who attend Emmons Lake Elementary School, one in first grade and another in kindergarten. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and religious studies from DePauw University, a master of arts in counseling and doctorate in counseling psychology, both from Marquette University. She also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric pain psychology at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University Medical School.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: I have always been passionate about working with youth. I have volunteered with various local organizations serving the needs of children in our community, including advocating for support of Kent County Girls on the Run and providing consultation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids. Since then, I have gained extensive training and developed expertise in child development, psychosocial factors impacting learning and growth, brain/behavior relationships, and mental health. My passion for helping children pursue their bright futures and providing support when challenges arise gives me unique experience and perspective that will bring value to our school board.
Current and/or previous elected offices held: I have been elected to serve on the Michigan Psychological Association Board of Directors as the chair of the Children, Youth, and Families Committee for the past five years, and continue to fulfill this roll. In addition, I have been elected chief of psychology for the Spectrum Health medical staff. In both roles, I am tasked with advocating for and protecting the mental and physical health of the youth in our state, as well as advocating for psychological services and improved access to care for children who need it.
Why are you seeking this position? First, I am seeking this position because I have a passion for supporting children and adolescents. I will advocate for children to have access not only to a top-tier education, but also the academic, social and emotional support they need to be successful. Second, I want to serve as a conduit for three-way communication between the board, teachers/staff, and the community. Third, I have unique perspective as a pediatric psychologist who works with youth every day, and I have a pulse on their thoughts and feelings about school that will benefit our community.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? One of my top priorities is to support the mental and emotional well-being of students of all ages, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. As a pediatric psychologist, my role is to identify and treat mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression and behavioral issues. As a school board member, I will lend my experience and expertise to teachers, staff, and administration already on the front lines of identifying when children are experiencing overwhelming challenges. Further, I will help our schools identify creative ways to prevent mental and behavioral health challenges from developing and create effective solutions for intervention when needed.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? Supporting the mental well-being of students during the ongoing stress related to COVID-19 and the changes this has necessitated in our schools (and in our community, and world) as a result. Evaluating and improving the virtual education delivery systems for both in-person and virtual students. Individualizing educational curriculum so that it is tailored for the learning needs of each child, every time.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? To support mental well-being, I propose identifying ways for students to connect during the school day (in-person or virtual). I would advocate for identifying and evaluating primary prevention programs aimed at reducing stress and teaching coping strategies to students. I would advocate for robust evaluation of our virtual education options, including soliciting feedback from students, parents, teachers and staff. I would support improvements to virtual options when possible and advocate for time and support for teachers using virtual platforms. I would advocate for identifying alternative learning models, including using my expertise to help evaluate feasibility for implementation.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? One important role for board members is to remain calm and listen to parents for concerns, as well as share information with them about how the school is planning to address concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. School board members should be well-versed in the state, county and district school mandates to provide knowledgeable input when considering changes that need to occur in order to ensure compliance. Finally, school board members should liaise with teachers and staff to understand their concerns and glean their ideas for solutions.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? I would advocate investing into our people – our children, our teachers and staff. Some options I would consider include hiring additional staff to help provide student support, offering teachers time and training to implement new learning methods, developing security roles and infrastructure to keep our children safe, and identifying programs benefiting the academic, mental, and physical growth of our students. Investing in people will always yield the biggest return.
Chris Behm, 43, lives on Anchorage Drive. He has been a resident of the district for nine years and is completing his first term on the board of education. He is manager of sales engineering for Comcast Business. He has a son who is a sophomore at Caledonia High School. Behm attended Grand Rapids Community College.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: 2011, Paris Ridge Elementary PTO/volunteer; 2012, South Campus Bond Committee; 2014, elected to Caledonia Board of Education; 2014-16, school board personnel committee; 2017-current school board vice president; 2018-current, school board operations/finance committee.
Current and/or previous elected offices held: Caledonia school board 2014-current.
Why are you seeking this position? I am running for re-election to the Caledonia Community Schools Board of Education because I believe in the importance of ensuring that every child receives a quality education in order to be successful. I believe I am able to serve the district as an ethical, compassionate, accountable and fair board member in order to meet the needs of the district. I wish to continue serving the district and the people of Caledonia and see through the projects we have started or have been working on over the past few years.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? Ensuring that students can return to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so and working to make sure that transition is safe for students, educators, families and the whole Caledonia community, and done in a way that maximizes stability so that families can plan for work and child care.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? State and federal funding. Social and emotional wellbeing. A stable return-to-learn program.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? Continue to work with local and state lawmakers to advocate for the school district’s financial future. Rehire previous positions that were eliminated due to budget constraints to ensure a healthy student body. Continue to work with district leadership, teachers and our virtual learning partners to address the needs of the district swiftly and thoroughly. We need to ensure families are not overwhelmed with the responsibilities of work and at-home learning. Educators are working to find ways to deliver the best education under the circumstances.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? As hard as this can be for school board members right now, it’s critical to step back and let the educational first responders (superintendents, principals and teachers) manage the pandemic. Our school leaders are working hard to ensure a safe learning environment for students and staff. Also, the school board should be working closely with the administration to ensure virtual and face-to-face learning are being done adequately to meet the needs of all students. During the pandemic, the board needs to continue to set policy that will be aligned and advocate for the best interest of the district.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? I would put the money in the classroom where it matters most. Investing in textbooks, curricular items and technologies that enhance student learning would be a priority. Additionally, our support staff plays an integral role in providing a quality educational environment. I would like to see more staff hired to support the teaching, learning and emotional health of our students. Adding custodians, maintenance staff and bus drivers will allow us to better maintain our facilities and continue to provide a safe learning environment. Expanding extracurricular opportunities allows students to explore interests and develop essential skills and is also a priority.
Trevor DeGroote, 25, has owned a home in Alto for about a year. He is a Caledonia High School graduate and is director of operations at Joe Wash Mobile Pressure Washing. He attended Grand Rapids Community College and has an infant daughter.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: Serving in various leadership roles as well as volunteering at my church, Ada Bible Church.
Current and/or previous offices held: Zoning board of appeals.
Why are you seeking this position? To better serve our community and contribute to the mentorship and education of our students. I believe individuals with sound judgement, core values, and problem-solving skills are essential members of the board.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? Education itself. There is currently far too much emphasis on the distractions that come along with education. Politics and opinions are two topics consuming our education systems right now, and getting back to some of the basics while keeping a grasp on what needs to be done should be a top priority.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? Mask mandates. Remote learning. Dependable schedule/ what to plan for ahead.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? Adhere to government requirements and move on. I would not fixate on this. High-quality education and well-being of our students needs to be top priority. Take a deeper look at remote learning if it is to be used going forward. Current plans are not effective and need attention. Be open and transparent with the community. There is currently a lag time from when the school receives information and when it is relayed to the community. Expedite that process.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? To keep the main thing the main thing – which in a school district is school. Focus on educating our students to the best of our ability while taking the precautions recommended by medical professionals and meeting any requirements set by the health department. The role of a school board member is to best equip our students to move forward in a successful and safe manner.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? I would consult with community leaders and school leaders to see where the greatest needs are and weigh the pros and cons of each option. In my opinion, currently that area is remote learning. The quality of education our students are receiving in the classroom is far superior than that of those learning remotely. I believe investing time, research, resources and energy in that area would be extremely beneficial to the quality of education those students receive.
Bill Donohue has been a resident of Caledonia for 23 years and has served on board of education since 2008. He is a past president of the school board. He has three children who graduated from Caledonia and two grandchildren who are future Caledonia students. He is a former air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration and is currently a residential real estate agent for Greenridge Realty. Donohue did not return a questionnaire, citing family commitments and being out of town at the time that it was sent out.
Katie Isic, 32, lives on Sunnyview Road. She has lived in the district for five years. She is a real estate agent and has one daughter who will begin kindergarten next year. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and a certificate of international business from the Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: I served as a volunteer accountant for a nonprofit in Milwaukee called Journey House, as well as teaching English as a second language on a volunteer basis. I helped analyze the money and benefit of the money put into the area schools for additional programs to help the disadvantaged youth.
Current and/or previous elected offices held: None.
Why are you seeking this position? This past summer, as many teachers received notifications of possible termination, it became clear that there is a lack of transparency in our district. As a mom of a child who is about to enter school, I want to help in fostering complete transparency, add a new perspective to the board, as well as be a voice for parents, students and staff members. This is a great district, but there is always room for improvement. As a board member, I will help make those improvements happen.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? Given the situation COVID has put everyone in, it left administration with difficult decisions, and Michigan Virtual and Edgenuity were the choice they made. Moving forward, I think it’s important to remember that online formats are one-size-fits-all, which takes away from differentiation to meet the needs of all students. We need to provide staff with resources to continue to meet the needs of our students, not pay for an outside online company. We should also work toward developing our own online format for Caledonia virtual students moving forward. I don’t see the need for online education going away anytime soon.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? Lack of transparency/communication between the administration/board and the community. Growth in the district keeping up with staffing/programs/buildings. Students' mental health.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? A lack of transparency has caused frustration and distrust. I want to be the fresh eyes and ears for the community and get questions answered by administration prior to voting. We have a lot of construction happening, and with that, a growth in school enrollment. We need to be prepared and continue to provide high-quality education, enriched with many opportunities for individual success and growth. We need to plan for this growth and be prepared with staff and programming. As a district, we must remain vigilant in providing students with the support and appropriate resources required to ease their anxieties.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? COVID-19 has added a lot of extra uncertainty in everyday life and routines that we’ve never had to consider before. Everyone is unsure what will happen next, and tough decisions have to be made. The school board is supposed to be the voice for the parents and students, and I’m willing to ask the questions of administration so that all decisions are visible or at the very least easily explained to the parents. It should be a place for answers, not more questions.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? Having my degree in accounting, I find one of the most important things in the district is going to be focusing on fiscal responsibility. Backpedaling on terminations when funding improves is positive, however we need to figure out how we got to this point in the first place. An endless supply of funds is not realistic, and to ensure the highest rankings possible, our staff must be confident in not only job security but also competitive compensation. Until we focus on our district's finances and analyze them deeply we can’t be sure where the money needs to go.
Andrew Pastoor, 31, lives on Green Meadow Court. An educational consultant with the Michigan Department of Education, he has lived in the district for 2 1/2 years. He does not have children who attend school in the district. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Calvin University and a master of science in administration with an emphasis in public administration from Central Michigan University.
Experience and community activities relevant to school board service: I am a former teacher and work as a consultant for the Department of Education. I am also a board member of the Michigan AfterSchool Association and currently serve as the secretary. I taught middle school math and science for one year before moving to a position with the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. During my time with the YMCA, I oversaw Out-of-School-Time programs in Grand Rapids and Caledonia and developed relationships with students, families, principals, and communities. In my current position, I oversee grant budgets and programming for OST programs that receive 21st Century Community Learning Center funding.
Current and/or previous elected offices held: None.
Why are you seeking this position? I believe that my experiences in education and government can provide unique views and solutions to issues that may face the Caledonia Community School District. Up until two years ago, I had worked locally with schools and families, and although my work with the department of education has been fulfilling, I miss being involved with local schools. I feel that serving on the school board would benefit the district while providing an opportunity for me to reconnect at the local level.
If elected, what educational issue will be your top priority? Why? Providing adequate, quality resources for teachers and staff, including day to day resources, curriculum and personnel. Access to quality resources and support for school staff plays a major role in providing quality education for students.
What are the top three concerns facing the school district? COVID-19. Retaining quality professional staff. Meeting the needs of the community.
What do you propose to do about each of those challenges? Continue working with the state government and the district to provide quality education while being safe. Creating stable opportunities for education professionals while listening to and addressing their requests and needs. The purpose of any school board is to ensure that the educational needs of the community are being met. This begins with listening to the community and continues in the development of programs and policies.
What is the role of a school board member during the COVID-19 pandemic? The role of the school board member during the pandemic should be one of support and guidance for the board and the district. This support and guidance come in the form of actively participating on the board and listening to the needs and concerns of the stakeholders of the district. The role of the school board should be to provide the same support and guidance to the schools/district.
If the school district received a $1 million grant for any purpose, what would you want to use it for and why? Developing and implementing new curricula options that allow for greater differentiated learning. I believe some of the schools in the district have implemented project-based learning curriculum into their school days. This money would go toward creating a districtwide project-based curriculum as well as other styles of curriculum to support a variety of student needs.
Scheduled Board Meetings / Agendas & Minutes
Board Of Education Meetings
The Caledonia Community Schools Board of Education meets monthly on the third Monday at 6:00 p.m. in the administration office located at 9753 Duncan Lake Ave., unless noted differently below.
The board of education schedules workshops as needed. Those dates will be posted as the workshops become scheduled.
Minutes of Caledonia Community School board meetings are posted following board approval which occurs at the next scheduled board meeting. Below you will find minutes of the current academic year. In addition, the district archives the most recent two (2) academic years on our web page.
*School board meeting location for Monday Oct 19, 2020, will be moved to the Duncan Lake Middle School Performing Arts Center to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Facial coverings (masks) are expected to be worn and 6ft of social distance to comply with the current emergency order from the MDHHS.
Regular Monthly Meetings
|Regular Monthly Meeting Dates||Minutes|
|December 14, 2020 *second Monday|
|November 16, 2020|
|October 19, 2020 - location will be moved to the Duncan Lake Middle School Performing Arts Center to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Facial coverings (masks) are expected to be worn and 6ft of social distance kept to comply with the current emergency order from the MDHHS.|
|September 21, 2020 - location will be moved to the Duncan Lake Middle School Performing Arts Center to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Facial coverings (masks) are expected to be worn to comply with EO 153.||Sept 19,2020|
|August 17, 2020 - location will be moved to auxiliary gym adjacent the administration office board room if needed for social distancing standards. Facial coverings (masks) are expected to be worn to comply with EO 153.||August 17, 2020|
|July 27, 2020 * Date change Virtual meeting *access links have expired||July 27, 2020|
|June 22, 2020 * Date change Virtual meeting *access links have expired||June 22, 2020|
|May 18, 2020 - Virtual Meeting||May 18, 2020|
|April 20, 2020 - Virtual Meeting||April 20, 2020|
|March 16, 2020 - Canceled||meeting was canceled|
|February 17, 2020||February 17, 2020|
January 20, 2020 - Will be held at CHS - Lower Forum Room
|January 20, 2020|
|December 16, 2019||December 16, 2019|
|November 18, 2019||November 18, 2019|
|November 11, 2019||November 11, 2019|
|October 21, 2019||October 21, 2019|
|September 16, 2019||September 16, 2019|
|August 19, 2019||August 19, 2019|
|July 22, 2019||July 22, 2019|
|Board Workshops Meeting Dates & Agenda||Minutes|
|February 10, 2020||February 10, 2020|
|January 13, 2020||January 13, 2020|
Curriculum and Learning Committee
Curriculum and Learning Committee Meeting
Meeting dates for the 2020 calendar year are listed below.
March 26 - Canceled
April 23 - Canceled
May 28 - Rescheduled to May 29
June 25 - Rescheduled to June 12
August 14 - Canceled
Finance and Operations Committee
Finance and Operations Committee
Meeting dates for the 2020 calendar year are listed below.
January 15 - Canceled
April 15 - Canceled
May 13 - Rescheduled to May 14
July 15 @ 7:30am - Meeting Link has expired
Board of Education Presentations
Please note budget/fiscal presentations to the board are located on the business services page .