November 2022 School Board Candidates

Five Candidates for Grandville Board of Education — Choose Two

As part of the statewide general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, voters in the district will choose two board members to serve a six-year term for Grandville Public Schools. Incumbent Bob Wondergem will be on the ballot, but Christy Buck has chosen to not seek reelection for her seat. There will be five candidates to choose from in the nonpartisan section. 

About the Candidates

Our administration sent the candidates a questionnaire to help you get to know them. Click on their names below to reveal their verbatim responses.
Tell us briefly about yourself. I am a third generation Grandville graduate. My grandpa, Skip Savage, was one of the founders of the Grandville Athletic Boosters. My interest in serving my community started in sixth grade here at Grandville. I am grateful that Grandville Public Schools have always offered opportunities for students to become productive citizens. 
 
I am a graduate of Huntington University, and I received my Masters of Education in literacy at Grand Valley State University. I was selected to be a fellow in Michigan State University’s Michigan Political Leadership Program. I will be graduating this November. 
 
This is my eleventh year teaching third grade at Byron Center Public Schools. I am also a teaching mentor, student council leader, and have been on the School Improvement team for several years.
 
My family and I started a small publishing business here in Grandville and I authored the first children’s book in our series "Minna and the Canine Club". I have experienced all the things start up businesses deal with, and it’s a fun adventure! I am a Christian and I try daily to live out my Christ centered values in each decision I make.
 
I am passionate about education and reaching the next generation of kids to be servant leaders. I am excited for the opportunity to further serve my community should I be elected to the Board of Education. 

What school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved in? I was elected this August as a Precinct Delegate to the County Convention (Grandville Precinct 1). I was then elected by my peers to vote at the State Convention. 
 
Through our children’s book series, "Minna and the Canine Club", we donated books to children in West Michigan to do our small part to ensure children had access to quality books during the school shut down in 2020.
 
I recently joined the Alumni Board for Huntington University. I am excited to serve in this role as I believe in giving back to the organizations that have poured so much into my life. 
 
I am most proud of my work with a refugee family. Through my church and Bethany Christian Services I became involved with helping a Congolese refugee family settle in America. For the last three years I worked with the children to provide emotional support and to help them adjust to school in America.  

What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education? The Board of Education’s primary responsibility is to ensure Grandville students receive the highest standard of education by working in cooperation with the superintendent to set the vision, goals, standards of performance and budget for schools within the district. The Board must support the superintendent in the execution of their responsibilities and hold them accountable for results.
 
Boards of Education across the nation will be challenged with financial constraints yet the need to make key investments in physical safety, emotional well-being of students and stimulating academics. Rising to this challenge will require teamwork in wisely utilizing tax dollars and all available funding.
 
I personally would like to make sure that the Board exhibits appreciation to the administration and staff for all of the work they do.

Why are you running for a Board of Education position? If elected, what will be your priorities? I am running for Grandville School Board because Grandville is a special place and I want to further service this community that I love. Abraham Lincoln said, “A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started ... He will assume control of your cities, states, and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations ... The fate of humanity is in his hands.” Children are our nation’s future. With 90% of our children attending public schools, we must do our part to focus on educating the future leaders in our community. 
 
Through the stress and turmoil of COVID restrictions, the political environment and the many social agendas, we must pave the way for our children to learn and continue to be the innovative leaders of the world. As a teacher, I have been in the trenches and I see the issues facing our education system and I want to make a difference. Our children, our parents, and our community are eager for hope today.
 
The great news is that from the academics, arts, sciences, and athletics, Grandville Public Schools is a district that offers a robust education and experience for all students. School Board members have the wonderful opportunity to manage “the noise” to ensure Grandville continues to provide the best education for our students and build our community. 
 
If elected, here are the priorities I believe in:
-Parents having a voice in their children's education
-Transparency on curriculum and activities
-Stimulating academics that focus on Education not Indoctrination
-Curriculum that follows state standards void of political ideologies
-Greater focus on school safety
-Nurturing the social and emotional well being of our children

What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? Who better to be on the Board of Education than a public school teacher?! Being in my eleventh year of teaching, I know what issues are facing our students, teachers, administrators and community. 
 
I am currently in Michigan State University’s Michigan Political Leadership Program, which is formally preparing me for public service. Through this program, I received training in working with the media, delivering speeches and preparing public policy, as well as how to best serve elected positions in local and state organizations. 
 
Throughout the past several years, I have traveled to different Michigan elementary schools to give presentations on writing and reading through my children’s book series, "Minna and the Canine Club". 
 
I am proud to say I have the following skills and qualities that I believe are essential for serving on the Board of Education:
-Integrity: I am honest and follow my moral principles with any decisions I make.
-Vision Oriented: I believe in setting aspirational goals and accomplishing those goals through creativity and critical thinking. 
-Transparent: I believe being transparent is crucial, and throughout this election, I have provided transparent answers on critical issues, and will continue to do so if elected.
-Team Player: Being on a board means working together for the common good. In my past leadership roles I ensure I understand the issues by listening to others. 
 
If you would like to learn more about me and my platform, please visit my website at www.voteericaabel.com. I love hearing from community members and answering any questions you may have at [email protected] .
Tell us briefly about yourself. I am a 55-year-old father to 2 adult children, stepchildren and 5 grandchildren. I recently retired as a lieutenant from the Wyoming Police Department after serving that community for 29 years. I am looking to bring forward some fresh ideas to our district in regard to keeping our children safe. My family enjoys playing golf, tennis, traveling and camping. 
 
What school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved in? As a commander in Wyoming, I was in charge of the school resource officers for several years. I participated in local activities such as "Wyoming Gives Back", "Metro Cruise", "Alpha Wolf 11", and many others. I have coached boys' basketball and boy's baseball. In our Grandville school district, I have been involved in coaching for Grandville Little League, and Grandville club team hockey. My family and I enjoy attending sporting events and Grandville City events such as the 4th of July and Christmas celebrations.
 
What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education? I see the primary work of the school board is to support the parents and students of our district. This would include working with parents, students and all of our staff.
 
Why are you running for a Board of Education position? If elected, what will be your priorities? I am running for the school board because I believe I am able to bring some new safety programs to our district that worked for the community of Wyoming. My first priority is to partner with the police department and implement a couple of programs that will enhance our children's safety while at school. I will utilize common sense when providing parents with access into their child's school. I will assure that the staff provides the highest level of education to our students that is free from radical political ideals.
 
What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? I have raised 2 adult children through Grandville Schools. My wife and I currently have 2 children in our district. I have been well connected to this community my entire life. I have 29 years' experience protecting or most vulnerable citizens. I have experience in negotiating with unions and working within large and small budgets. 
Tell us briefly about yourself.
 
GRANDVILLE GRADUATE.  I am a 1989 graduate of Grandville High School.  At Grandville, I participated in AP classes, tennis, marching band, cross country, musicals, IMAGE, student council, quiz bowls and the business club.  I received my bachelor's degree in political science from Gustavus Adolphus College and my law degree from the University of Michigan.
 
GRANDVILLE HUSBAND.  My wife of 20 years, Wendy Taylor, has served as a substitute teacher for Grandville Public Schools from 2013 to the present day.  Before that, Wendy taught for Grand Rapids Public Schools in both bilingual (Spanish) and English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms.  In addition to subbing at Grandville, she is a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer and photographer.
 
GRANDVILLE PARENT.  My oldest daughter (Braylon) graduated from GHS in 2022 and is a freshman at the University of Michigan.  My middle (Erin) and youngest (Lane) daughters are in their junior and freshman years at GHS, respectively.  
 
GRANDVILLE SON.  My father, Dr. Joseph Taylor, served four terms on the Grandville School Board from 1977-1993.  Dad was a physician in the United States Air Force, then practiced pediatrics in Grand Rapids and Grandville for 45 years, founding what is now known as ABC Pediatrics.  At 85 years old, he presently serves on the City of Walker Planning Commission.
 
PRACTICING ATTORNEY.  I am a senior partner at Miller Canfield, Michigan's oldest law firm, where I have worked for the past 22 years.  I presently serve as leader of our firm's Financial Institutions and Transactions Group and previously was head of our Grand Rapids office for a decade.  I earned those positions through determination, hard work and, most of all, an ability to get along with different people and personalities.  In my daily work, I represent national, regional and local banks in commercial lending transactions ranging from $1 million to $100 million.  I have been named as a top lawyer in banking by the publications Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers in each of the past 10 years, and as the top banking attorney in West Michigan by Super Lawyers in 2022.
 
What school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved in? I am a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of Grand Rapids, where I have served as a middle school Sunday School teacher, member of the Pastor/Parish Relations Committee and on the Cuba Mission Team.  I met my wife Wendy on my first trip to Cuba in 1999 and have returned to Cuba five other times with Wendy and our girls.  Wendy continues to lead our Cuba Mission today.  
 
In addition, I have served on the Board of Directors of Family Promise of Grand Rapids and the Board of Directors of the University of Michigan Alumni Club of Grand Rapids.  I have also represented my law firm in The Right Place and the Association of Corporate Growth - West Michigan.
 
I began my Grandville community involvement by teaching tennis through Grandville Summer Rec in the summers of 1987 and 1988 while I was a captain of the GHS tennis team.  As a parent, I coached my kids' Grandville AYSO soccer teams for six years and  served as team manager for my daughter's club soccer team.  
   
What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education? I see the primary work of the Board of Education as follows:
 
1.  Hiring, firing and retention of the superintendent.  
2.  Making final decisions as to financial matters.
3.  Making final decisions as to curriculum matters.
 
The board should review the work of committees which it appoints without rubber stamping or micro-managing.   Board members should be well-educated, independent thinkers who are student-focused, openly communicative, involved and optimistic.  A board member should not attempt to "take over" the board or the district or infuse his/her political agenda into matters placed before the board.
  
Why are you running for a Board of Education position? If elected, what will be your priorities? I am running for the Board of Education for the following reasons:
 
1.  GIVE BACK.  Above all, I want to be a servant leader to the school district that provided a solid foundation for my undergraduate, law school and professional success and where my kids go to school.  Grandville Public Schools is one of the gems of our community.  We need to keep a good thing going, while at the same time seek opportunities for improvement.      
 
2.  PROVIDE SUPPORT.  Our public school students, teachers and administrators are under attack on more fronts today than at any other time in recent history.  Longstanding student concerns of bullying and peer pressure have only been exacerbated by current day issues of social media, the COVID-19 crisis, and the widening political divide in our country.  While these issues must be addressed, the time spent on them needs to be minimized so that teachers' and administrators' time is freed up to focus on the education of our children.   
 
3.  EMBRACE DIVERSITY.  Both the Grandville community and our country as a whole are far more diverse today than when I and many other taxpayers went to school.  In order to address current challenges to which we and our children are subject, we need to get to know, listen to, and respect those different from ourselves, regardless of whether those differences are based on race, gender, religion, orientation or even politics.   
 
If elected to the Board of Education, my priorities will be as follows:
 
1.  KEEP EYES ON THE BALL.  Grandville School District is currently ranked 4th by Niche among all school districts in Kent County.  We need to maintain that ranking and focus on areas for improvement.  The Board needs to spend time on matters that are relevant to the quality of education which the district provides, minimizing time spent on issues which unnecessarily distract from that goal.
 
2.  FURTHER MENTAL HEALTH.  We need to provide an abundance of mental health support to today's students, who are stressed to do well in school, stressed to balance academics, athletics, family and faith, stressed to engage in social media without letting it dominate them, stressed to fit in and make friends, and stressed to keep parents happy while forging their own paths.
 
3.  BROADEN MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAMS.  We need to broaden both the depth and the difficulty of our middle school curriculum.  Approximately 25% of middle school students presently achieve all As on their report cards.  They need to be challenged more.
 
4.  EXPAND INTERNSHIPS RECEIVING HIGH SCHOOL CREDIT.  For students looking to enter the workforce directly after high school, we need to identify internships appropriate for their desired trade and seek to provide high school credit for time spent on those internships.   
 
5.  BE NICE.  The personal freedoms which we enjoy as Americans should be accompanied by the duty to look out for our neighbors.  That starts with setting an example for our kids by acting as socially responsible adults.
   
What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?

1.  FINANCE.  With over 20 years of experience focusing on commercial lending transactions, I have deep experience and understanding of financial matters.  My daily work requires great organizational skills, communication skills, patience, endurance, grace under fire and politeness.
 
2.  LAW.  I have been a practicing attorney for over 25 years, spending time as a real estate attorney, corporate attorney and litigator before specializing in commercial lending.
 
3.  NEGOTIATION.  Each transaction I handle involves working with adverse parties (e.g., lenders and borrowers) to navigate issues and points of disagreement in order to achieve their common goal of closing the transaction.
 
4.  POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE.  I am not a member of any political party and am accepting no PAC money for this campaign other than a donation from my law firm's non-partisan PAC.  Given my political neutrality, a non-partisan office such as the school board suits me very well.  My duty will be to the district, not to any person or group who voted for me.
 
5.  PEACEMAKER.  I have a reputation as a peacemaker.  I will seek ways to bridge differences in backgrounds, opinions and beliefs in order to find common ground.
 
6.  WORK ETHIC.  I am an extremely hard worker.  I take my personal, professional and community responsibilities seriously.  I will come to board meetings prepared. 
Tell us briefly about yourself. I am currently serving my 21st year as a school board member. I have lived in the district with my wife Vicki for all of the 34 years we have been married. We have two sons who both graduated from Grandville. Jeff is 31 and John is 28. Jeff currently lives at home as he has cerebral palsy and is cognitively impaired. He attends Hope Network and works at Beyond26 Document Shredding. He is a friendly, loving and kind young man. John graduated with honors from Michigan State University. John is a teacher and is married to Kaley (Waalkes) and they are expecting their first child in early 2023.  
I enjoy spending time with my family, home improvement projects, being outdoors, and spending time at our cottage. I am looking forward to our first grandchild.
I have had an extensive career spanning multiple industries (government, wholesale, retail, marketing, and manufacturing) with a core skillset: project management, business development, marketing and commercial print. 

What school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved in? My family has a deep level of commitment for serving Individuals with Special Needs. We want to provide our son Jeff and others with developmental disabilities the opportunity to live as full and happy a life as possible. We are heavily involved with growing their community circle and striving to improve their lives with community activities, recreational sports, employment, and volunteer opportunities. 
Organization Involvement:
1.    Grandville Little League: 10 years as Director of the Challenger Division (Individuals with Special Needs); 20 years overall volunteering for the Challenger Division 
2.    KISD Parent Advisory Committee (PAC/PASE): 6 years representing Grandville Schools; (2 of those years as Committee Chairman)
3.    Special Education Advisory Commission (SEAC) for the Michigan Dept of Education: 1 year 
4.    Beyond26: Faith-Based West Michigan non-profit with our core mission to provide life-long employment & volunteer opportunities for Disabled Adults with Cognitive Impairments: Serving 5 years as Board President

What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education? I have the best interest of students as my first priority when making decisions. Along with the administration, board members need to be a voice for parents. We should guide the superintendent to empower our staff and administration to build trust and a strong partnership with parents using curriculum transparency along with frequent and effective communication. In addition, two core responsibilities for every school board are to set district policies and hire & manage the school superintendent.  

Why are you running for a Board of Education position? If elected, what will be your priorities? As a current board member, my hope is that our school community realizes my commitment to our schools. I strive for our district to provide a strong core educational experience for students. Now that we are past Covid, we as a board need to work with the superintendent to make adjustments and improvements with our curriculum that will facilitate a rebound in learning growth and test scores. Virtual learning and face mask restrictions created a negative impact on student learning where districts across the state experienced lower test scores (especially with our K-6 students). I fully support our superintendent (Roger Bearup). Roger will always follow his mantra: Do What’s Best for Kids.

What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? I serve with a stewardship heart which is what I have done since I started my service on the board. I have served in every board leadership position during my tenure. I contribute a deep historical perspective regarding past decisions, should the need for such detail help during board discussions. I have an inquisitive mind where I ask relevant questions to gain information on a topic which also assists other board members to understand the subject matter. This allows us as a board to make more informed decisions that affect our students, families, community and staff. I provide mentorship to fellow board members if they request support. I am proud of my service as a member of the Grandville Board of Education.
Tell us briefly about yourself. I am a 2004 Grandville graduate.  Following my graduation with Grandville Public Schools I served 8+ years in the United States Navy as a Personnel Specialist.  I moved back to West Michigan after my military service to finish my education.  I returned to the district following completion of my Undergrad, and once my lease was completed.  I have worked in the district for over 3 years as a Substitute Teacher.  I have a BBA in Human Resources Management from Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a Diploma of Business from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, and am currently studying my Masters in Public Administration at GVSU.  I currently work for Student Veterans of America as a Program Coordinator.
 
I am a board member of the GVSU Seidman College of Business - Alumni Network.  I am the Vice President of Special Events for the GVSU Veteran Alumni Network.  I have been actively engaged in community service and charity fundraising events my entire life, and everywhere I have lived, been stationed, or studied!  
 
A former Guardian Ad Litem for the State of Florida, I was responsible for being the court advocate for youth in the Foster Program while living in Key West, Florida.
 
I care about our students, and I want to see them succeed and receive the best education possible in order to become the best citizens possible.

What school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved in? I have been involved in Grandville Public Schools over the last several years as a district, long term, and day to day substitute teacher.  I have also volunteered as the Middle School Athletics Event Management Assistant where I managed multiple athletic events simultaneously. This included setting up for athletic events, escorting visiting teams and officials, and working with the Athletic Director to ensure that events ran smoothly.

What do you see as the primary work of the Board of Education? The primary work of the Board of Education is to set policy, make financial decisions, and set curriculum standards.  All three of these decisions should work in harmony toward ensuring that our students and the teachers who work in the district have the resources they need to be successful in the classroom.

Why are you running for a Board of Education position? If elected, what will be your priorities? I am running because, I want to ensure: 
 
-  The district is fully funded and that we are making sure our classrooms have the tools and resources our students and educators need to be successful.
 
-  That I serve the entire community as an active listener and work together with all interested parties to make decisions that are in the best interest of our district – students, parents, educators, and administrators.
 
-  To improve processes within our district to reduce bullying and to improve mental health services for our students.
 
-  To collectively work with both educators and administrators to increase educator retention by building up community trust in our educators.
 
By focusing on these 4 pillars, we can improve safety, mental health and wellbeing, and the overall Academic Climate so that our students can focus on what's most important, their education and the material that they are expected to learn.

What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? I grew up in this district and care deeply about my community because I am from this community.
 
I have two bills that were introduced to the U.S. Congress aimed at improving the Department of Veterans Affairs' Patient Advocacy Program.  HR 5754 was passed in the House of Representatives 411-1 and was passed in the Senate under Unanimous Consent.  This bill was just signed into Public Law.  The second bill HR 5755 is currently with the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  My ability to be an active listener, to see opposing view points, and to make decisions that find a common path forward is demonstrated by my legislative success in the 117th U.S. Congress (one of the most partisan in modern history). 
 
Additionally, my work as a Substitute Teacher over the last 3 years gives me actual experience in the classroom and an in depth understanding of what is needed by our students, teachers, and administrators in order for them to be successful.
 
My experiences and skills particularly as an advocate for veterans, easily translates to my care and concern for both our student's education and my community.  I know that these skills and experiences will benefit all key stakeholders in Grandville Public Schools.

Where do I vote?

Visit the Michigan Voter Information Center to find your voter information and polling place. The polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.