On the front lines
Capac School Board candidates tackle issues
April 29, 2009
CAPAC — Voters had the chance to size up six school board candidates Thursday during a forum hosted by Capac Schools and sponsored by the Tri-City Times.
Incumbent James Crane and Mike Lentz and newcomers Barry Geliske, Norm McDunnah, Mary Ransom and Larry Tullio introduced themselves to the dozens in attendance and answered questions submitted by the public through the newspaper.
Two seats are up for grabs in the May 5 election.
Issues including finances and communication were discussed and sometimes debated, but one thing all the candidates emphasized was their desire to see Capac students achieve.
Crane is the board's current vice president.
"We spend so much time discussing adult problems but we are supposed to be a student-focused school district. We need to keep our focus on our mission statement," he said.
Lentz, the board's president, said the board needs to do what's best for kids in the district. One of his specific goals is to bring art and computer classes back to elementary students.
Geliske said he seeks a seat on the board to ensure Capac students have the best tools including plenty of textbooks, more computers and better maintained school buildings to learn in.
McDunnah said the most important function of the district is to "deliver educational excellence for all kids" with whatever tools necessary.
Ransom said she wants to help ensure Capac graduates are well prepared for the competitive world after high school. She believes more electives need to be offered at the high school level.
Tullio said that to give kids the best education, a team of teachers, administrators, parents and students need "to shoot for the moon together."
When it comes to finances, the candidates agree that times are challenging, but almost all, including the newcomers, acknowledged that the current board has managed their budget well.
On the financial front McDunnah said he wants to help the district find energy cost savings; Tullio feels it's time to get creative and search for new avenues of funding, mentioning the creation of an alumni association, and Ransom said the school should consider reinvesting money in the district to attract more students.
A voter wanted to know the candidates' stance on spending general fund monies for athletics and the current 'pay-to-play' program. All spoke highly of the district's integration of curriculum and athletics.
Geliske said quality sports programs are great for motivating kids to learn and generates excitement and pride through the whole district.
Lentz praised Athletic Director Arnie Vandemark for creating the curriculum program but said athletics should not be given a blank check.
Crane said that spending caps for athletics (two percent of the general fund) have been proposed in the past but the district is already well below that figure.
Both incumbents touched on the sometimes contentious contract negotiations between the district and employees.
Lentz said he was disappointed union officials wanted to make this a single issue election but said the district should not enter into a contract at the detriment of their students. Crane said the district has great teachers who he wishes could top the area's payroll list if the financial situation was different.
Geliske and Tullio said they chose to run because it was time for change on the board, Ransom believes her fresh ideas will help things "run a little smoother," and McDunnah touted his experience as a Capac graduate and lifelong resident.
Lentz said he's the best candidate for the job because he has the education and work and school board experience necessary for the seat. Crane said he wants to keep the job he loves because he loves kids.
The candidates biographies follow:
James Crane and wife Rhonda have seven children—graduates Rachel and Rebecca; Renee, 18, Jacob, 11, Jeremiah, 10, Robin, 8 and Joshua, 6. Crane is an auto mechanic and partner with Crane Alinement, Inc. of Mount Clemens. He's served on the board of education for eight years.
Barry Geliske and wife Sandra have two sons, Nicholas and Benjamin. He works as a production controller with the Air Force.
Walter 'Mike' Lentz and wife Kathy are parents to daughter and son-in-law Laura and Brett Sivec and daughter Sarah—all Capac Schools graduates. He retired from Oxford Automotive in Lapeer as a cost accountant and materials manager. Lentz has served on the board for a total of 12 years.
Norm McDunnah and wife Dawn have four sons—Andrew, 16, Austen, 14, Cody, 13 and Dylan, 11. He works as an journeyman plumber with Detroit Plumbers Local 98. He is a 1990 Capac High School graduate.
Mary Ransom and husband Dan have five children—Aaron, Brad, Crysta, Darla and Eric. She is employed in the family business, General Contracting, and is a homemaker.
Larry Tullio and wife, Hillary have three children—Travis, 16, Trevor, 13 and Cassidy, 8. He works as a natural gas utility broker.
Be sure to check our Web site at www.tricitytimes-online.com for election results as they become available.