Three seeking one seat on Edwardsburg boardPublished 5:24pm Thursday, November 1, 2012
Two challengers, Amy Anderson and Daniel Brown, and incumbent Eric Coles seek one four-year term on the Edwardsburg Board of Education Tuesday.
As a lifelong learner and teacher, Anderson, who directs Educational Talent Search at Southwestern Michigan College, wants to promote education in the community.
Sitting on various boards in Cass County, in the region and in the state, “There have been times when every school is represented except Edwardsburg. I listen and think, ‘I could represent Edwardsburg in this meeting.”
Anderson said the school system from which she graduated top 10 in 1994 “does not always have a positive image in the eyes of other programs, and I would like to help change that. I am already attending these meetings; let me go as part of the school board, too.
“I also believe that choice is a good thing. Having a slate of more than one person is good for the community in that it allows people to choose a candidate who reflects their views and concerns. I work diligently to teach those around me to stand up for what they believe and to accept a challenge when presented.”
ETS helps 700 students in the county from Brandywine, Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Marcellus and Volinia progress through middle and high school, graduate and go on to post-secondary education by furthering their knowledge about career and college choices. ETS runs seven summer camps.
In Edwardsburg, Anderson’s Leo service club is the largest of its kind in Michigan.
Anderson, married to Mark, also coaches U6 soccer and teaches Sunday school.
Brown, a chemist for Bayer in Mishawaka, grew up in Muncie, Ind., although he has Cass County roots, with a great-grandfather and grandfather who farmed in Union.
Twenty years ago, his parents retired to Edwardsburg, followed by a sister.
Brown and his wife of 24 years, Paula, have three children — two in middle school and one in high school.
“I’m running because of three concerns in particular,” he said.
Brown sees a downward trend on Edwardsburg’s report card and “want to make sure there is someone on the school board whispering ‘academic excellence’ in the superintendent’s ear.”
Brown, who through his work has had personal responsibility for multi-million-dollar budgets, said there is an insufficient amount of financial and expenditure information available online, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain what he wanted — then had to pay for copies.
Brown also believes the district needs to do a better job of “expanding our perspective” globally. For example, a student interested in computer science will graduate to compete with an information technology sector of $100 billion in India alone. Monsanto has a feed plant in Constantine, but it has even larger facilities from Hungary to South America.
With 20 percent of students coming from outside through schools of choice, the district sees itself competing against Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Niles and Brandywine rather than foreign countries. “Perhaps we sat on our laurels and got complacent,” Brown said, adding that Edwardsburg is well-positioned with strong parent involvement to “get on the same page” and move a culture of excellence forward.
Coles is secretary of the school board, on which he succeeded attorney Dale Blunier in 2008. He also became a Southwestern Michigan College trustee after Jan Kairis died in February. He lives in Milton Township, home to SMC’s south campus.
He operates Coles Farms, growing corn and soybeans.
Coles graduated from EHS as salutatorian in 1988 and obtained a bachelor’s degree in financial administration from Michigan State University with high honors in 1992.
He and his wife, Anne, have three children, a 7-year-old at Eagle Lake, a 10-year-old at Edwardsburg Intermediate School and an 11-year-old at the middle school.
Coles served on the Milton Township Planning Commission from 1999 to 2002 and on the Cass County Farm Bureau board from 1995 to 1999. He was named 1995 and 2006 Cass County Conservation District Farmer of the Year and a Centennial Farmer in 2005 by the Michigan Historical Commission.
Supt. Sherman Ostrander was Coles’ high school principal. Board colleagues Della Holdread and Doug Stickney were board members when he received his diploma.
When Coles graduated in a class of 92, Edwardsburg was small and rural and “just starting to change. (Ostrander) transformed the school district. I know how the district struggled when I was a kid. He lives and breathes school,” which he wants to maintain and build upon.
The board must avoid micromanaging the district and stay fiscally conservative to keep local control and avoid state takeover like Benton Harbor.
Especially in Edwardsburg, where town life revolves around award-winning schools.